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Cardinals Top Plays Of 2023: Defense

White's game-sealing INT gives Gannon first win and is top defensive play of season

Defensive coordinator Nick Rallis made it clear that he wants his squad play a "high-motor, violent, and physical" brand of football. Looking back at the top 10 defensive plays of the year, the unit delivered and made some important stops. Last week we covered the team's top offensive plays of 2023 and in two weeks it'll be the special teams plays of the season.

For now, here are the Cardinals 2023 Top 10 defensive plays of the year.

The Week 3 regular season game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sep 24, 2023 in Glendale, AZ.

1. Kyzir White Game-Sealing interception vs Dallas

The situation: Threatening to score and make it a one-possession game with three minutes left on the clock, the Cowboys, down 28-16, were faced with a third-and-goal from the 6-yard line.

The play: Sitting in the pocket with the game on the line, Dak Prescott saw Brandin Cooks trying to find space towards the back of the end zone. Once Prescott released the ball, linebacker Kyzir White jumped in front and sealed the deal with an interception.

The aftermath: This was Jonathan Gannon's first win as the Cardinals coach. With Budda Baker sidelined for a handful of games, this game also helped White solidify himself as one of the leaders on the Cardinals defense.

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Dennis Gardeck (45) during the Week 1 regular season game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Washington Commanders on Sunday, Sep 10, 2023 in Landover, MD.

2. Dennis Gardeck Strip-Sack, Cameron Thomas Touchdown at Washington

The situation: Down by a point, the Commanders had the ball on their 26-yard line with a little more than a minute to go in the first half.

The play: Sam Howell, the Commanders quarterback, was chased all the way back to the 11-yard line by linebacker Dennis Gardeck. Howell wasn't able to get by Gardeck, and Gardeck punched the ball loose. Linebacker Cam Thomas scooped it up at the 5 and dove into the end zone for the touchdown.

The aftermath: The TD was the Cardinals' first of the season. The Cardinals would fall to the Commanders but the high-motor and violent play was clear.

Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Kevin Strong (92) and Arizona Cardinals linebacker Josh Woods (10) during the Week 13 regular season game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Dec 3, 2023 in Pittsburgh, PA.

3. Goal-Line Stand at Pittsburgh

The situation: With five minutes on the game clock in the second quarter, the Steelers were on the 1-yard line trying to gain the lead.

The play: After getting stuffed near the line of scrimmage on the play prior, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin decided to take a gamble and go for it on fourth down. Najee Harris took the handoff and was met by the entire Cardinals defensive front, unable to get in for the touchdown. Kevin Strong and Jesse Luketa were credited with the tackle.

The aftermath: Every Cardinal defender ran off the field excited. The jolt of energy assisted the Cardinals' defense in playing one of their best games all season, limiting the Steelers to only 10 points.

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Krys Barnes (51) during the Week 11 regular season game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Houston Texans on Sunday, Nov 19, 2023 in Houston, TX.

4. Krys Barnes Interception And 46-yard Return at Houston

The situation: Inside the red zone with 9:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Texans had an opportunity to extend their five-point lead.

The play: Within striking distance of the end zone, QB C.J. Stroud tried connecting with a receiver up the middle, but Antonio Hamilton's deflection was directed towards Krys Barnes for the interception. Barnes took the return 46 yards and his downfield dash clocked in at 20.64 miles per hour. Barnes was already pressed into extra duty following White's bicep tear earlier in the game.

The aftermath: The Cardinals weren't able to come away with the victory but forced Stroud to have his first multi-interception game of his career.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws the ball against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

5. Holding On In The Deep Red Zone vs Cowboys

The situation: On fourth-and-4 from the 5-yard line, the Cowboys were a touchdown away from tying the game at 21.

The play: The pocket collapsed on Dak Prescott quickly, forcing the Cowboys quarterback to scramble away from pressure. Safety K'Von Wallace moved out of coverage to blitz Prescott, leading him to throwing an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs.

The aftermath: The Cowboys would tack on a field goal the following drive, but it wasn't enough as the Cardinals picked up the Week 3 victory.

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Garrett Williams (21) during the Week 7 regular season game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Oct 22, 2023 in Seattle, WA.

6. Garrett Williams Interception In Debut at Seahawks

The situation: With the ball at the Arizona 16-yard line in the third quarter, the Seahawks, leading at the time, wanted to make it a two-possession game against the Cardinals.

The play: Geno Smith received the snap and stepped towards the left side of the line looking for options down the field. After a pump fake, Smith lobbed one towards Jake Bobo but was intercepted by cornerback Garrett Williams in his Cardinals debut. Williams secured the pick at the 1-yard line.

The aftermath: Williams, a rookie coming off an ACL injury, stepped right into the lineup upon his return. The Cardinals did not win the game, but it was the first chance the coaching staff got to see what it had in the third-round selection.

Arizona Cardinals safety Joey Blount (32) during the Week 17 regular season game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Dec 31, 2023 in Philadelphia, PA.

7. Joey Blount Picks Off Jalen Hurts On Final Play in Philadelphia

The situation: With only a few seconds remaining in the game, the Cardinals were one stop away from beating the Eagles.

The play: Jalen Hurts needed more than just his arm strength to try and get to the end zone -- he needed a prayer too. On the Hail Mary, Hurts chucked the football in the air from the Eagles logo at midfield. The ball sailed right into the arms of safety Joey Blount, who was essentially imitating a baseball outfielder.

The aftermath: Blount's interception sealed the win for the Cardinals mere minutes after James Conner barged into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. After the game, Blount was beyond pumped and wouldn’t let go of the football.

Arizona Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson (34) during the Week 11 regular season game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Houston Texans on Sunday, Nov 19, 2023 in Houston, TX.

8. Jalen Thompson End-Zone Interception at Texans

The situation: The Cardinals were down by four with 6:14 to go in the second quarter.

The play: On play action, C.J. Stroud attempted to thread the needle towards the back of the end zone, but a leaping Jalen Thompson came away with the interception.

The aftermath: The pick, one of three the Cardinals made on Stroud in the game, kept the Cards in it, but eventually the offense couldn't cash in enough in a five-point loss.

Arizona Cardinals linebacker BJ Ojulari (18) during the Week 10 regular season game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Nov 12, 2023 in Glendale, AZ.

9. BJ Ojulari 10-yard Sack vs Falcons

The situation: On second-and-14 with 7:57 left in the second quarter, the Falcons were trailing by one in Kyler Murray's return.

The play: Linebacker BJ Ojulari sniffed right through the Falcons play-action call and got by their right tackle. QB Taylor Heinicke stepped back a few yards before the rookie wrapped him up to complete the 10-yard sack.

The aftermath: The defense continued to play solid, stopping Desmond Ridder's fourth-and-1 sneak in the fourth. The Cardinals wound up winning on the game's final play.

Arizona Cardinals' Antonio Hamilton Sr., center holding ball, is assisted by Garrett Williams (21), Budda Baker, second from left, and team staff after Hamilton Sr. was injured on a play where he intercepted a pass thrown by Houston Texans' C.J. Stroud in the second half of an NFL football game in Houston, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

10. Antonio Hamilton Toe-Drag Interception at Houston

The situation: With a little more than five minutes remaining and the Texans leading, 21-16, Houston was just outside the red zone looking to score.

The play: Stroud threw his third interception of the gam, slinging it from shotgun formation off of his back foot. Cornerback Antonio Hamilton stepped in front of wideout Tank Dell to intercept the ball. The pick was impressive, with Hamilton managing to just get both feet inbounds while securing the football.

The aftermath: Hamilton injured his groin on the play and needed to be assisted off of the field, sidelining him for a few games.

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