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Cardinals' Top Five Plays Of 2016: Defense

A look back at the standout individual plays from the season

The Cardinals finished No. 2 in the NFL in total defense, allowing 305.2 yards per game. There were numerous standout individual plays, and narrowed it down to the best of the best. Here are our Top Five Defensive Plays of 2016:


The situation: The Cardinals and Seahawks were locked in an epic defensive slugfest in Week 7, as the Cards held a 3-0 lead with under nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Seattle had a second-and-9 from its 21, aiming to drive down the field to tie the game or take the lead.

The play:Unlike in past years, the Cardinals could send four after the quarterback in 2016 and still get pressure. Outside linebacker Chandler Jones played a large role in that, and showed why here. He faked a bull rush on left tackle Bradley Sowell and then slid past him for a critical strip-sack of Russell Wilson.

The aftermath: The Seahawks recovered the fumble at their own 1-yard-line and then quickly punted. Seattle eventually got a field goal in the fourth quarter and the game ended in a bizarre 6-6 tie, but the play of Jones and the defensive front was a bright spot.


The situation: The Cardinals had an eight-point lead on the Redskins as time dwindled down in Week 13, and needed to make one last stop to clinch a victory. Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins had a pretty nice day, but his final pass was off target, and cornerback Patrick Peterson made him pay.

The play:On a third-and-4 with 48 seconds left and the Cardinals ahead, 31-23, defensive coordinator James Bettcher sent an all-out blitz after Cousins. He threw off his back foot, and the ball was behind Jamison Crowder. Peterson dove to pick it off, clinching the win.

The aftermath: The aggressive defensive play-calling has become a hallmark of the Cardinals in late-game situations, and it worked out well in this instance. The interception was Peterson's third of the season and helped keep the Cardinals' faint playoff hopes alive.


The situation: The Cardinals jumped out to a big lead in Week 2 against the Buccaneers and never let up. The clincher came in the third quarter, when a little-known cornerback joined the defensive fray and left with a career game.

The play:Cornerback Marcus Cooper already had one interception of Jameis Winston when he darted forward on a wide receiver screen and picked off a twice-tipped pass. Cooper didn't stop there, returning the interception 60 yards for a touchdown to push the Cardinals' lead to 33-7.

The aftermath: The Cardinals cruised to a 40-7 win, and Cooper cemented himself as the starting cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson for the rest of the season. Cooper, a trade acquisition late in the preseason, finished the year with a team-leading four interceptions and was named a Pro Bowl alternate.


The situation: Defense was rare in the shootout between the Cardinals and Saints in Week 14. While Drew Brees was fantastic throughout the game, the Cardinals did get to him in a memorable second-quarter play.

The play:Linebacker Markus Golden led the Cardinals with 12½ sacks in 2016, and one of his bigger ones came here. Golden screamed around the edge and dislodged the ball from Brees' grasp. Defensive tackle Calais Campbell caught the fumble and rumbled 53 yards for the touchdown.

The aftermath: It was Campbell's first career touchdown and it gave the Cardinals a 13-10 lead. Both he and Golden starred throughout the season, as the Cardinals went from having a below-average pass rush in 2015 to leading the NFL in sacks in 2016.


The situation: The Cardinals got off to a slow start against the Bills in Week 3 and needed a spark. Cornerback Patrick Peterson delivered in arguably the most athletic play of the Cardinals' season.

The play:Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor took a deep shot for Marquise Goodwin down the right sideline, but it was overthrown. The pass seemed destined to fall incomplete, but Peterson turned on the jets to track it down. He made an incredible one-handed grab and had the presence of mind to tap both feet in bounds.

The aftermath: The momentum swing didn't last as Buffalo ended up going ahead 17-0 later in the second quarter, and the Cardinals lost, 33-18. However, Peterson's ridiculous physical gifts were on full display in this one, from his blinding speed to his soft hands to his footwork. This was a microcosm of why Peterson is tested so rarely by opposing quarterbacks.

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