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Chandler Jones Joins Defensive Player Of The Year Conversation

Outside linebacker amasses four sacks and a pair of forced fumbles against Seahawks

OLB Chandler Jones registers his 18th sack of the season, setting the franchise record.
OLB Chandler Jones registers his 18th sack of the season, setting the franchise record.

SEATTLE – Chandler Jones is better at evading questions than quarterbacks are at slipping from his grasp.

The Cardinals' outside linebacker had another monster performance on Sunday, amassing six tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles, two tackles for loss and six quarterback hits in a 27-13 victory over the Seahawks.

Jones now leads the NFL with 19 sacks and eight forced fumbles on the year. He is on track to be the seventh player in league history to finish first in both categories and needs three-and-a-half sacks in the season finale against the Rams to tie Michael Strahan's single-season sack record.

The accumulation of such numbers must put him squarely in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year. Right, Mr. Jones?

"Who me?" Jones said. "Defensive Player of the Year? That's a good question. My biggest thing is to just do my job."

While Jones doesn't like to talk about himself, plenty of others will do so for him. As Jones got dressed following the victory, his fellow defensive stars couldn't help but gloat.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson forecasted an NFC Defensive Player of the Week award for Jones. Safety Budda Baker reveled at the pressure Jones constantly put on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Jones broke his own franchise single-season sack record of 17 and became only the third player in recorded history to amass four sacks in a game twice in one season.

"Aw, man," Baker said. "That (expletive) was crazy."

Jones quickly registered two sacks in the game, but linebackers coach Bill Davis was one person not wholly impressed. He told Jones that in order to really make an impact, he needed to force some fumbles.

Jones acquiesced, punching the ball from Seattle wide receiver David Moore in the third quarter and then getting a strip-sack on Wilson later in the game.

"Those sacks aren't good, because you're not getting the ball," Jones said Davis told him. "He said, 'Get me the ball.' I was like, 'Oh, OK.'"

Coach Kliff Kingsbury wishes the Cardinals (5-9-1) had a better win total so Jones could be in the Defensive Player of the Year race. Asked if Jones knocked down that door, anyway, with his performance against the Seahawks, Kingsbury said "he gets my vote. I'm all for it."

While Jones was the headliner, the Cardinals' entire defense showed up in a big way. It gave up a touchdown on the Seahawks' opening drive and then put the clamps down.

The Seahawks only registered one first down in the second and third quarters combined as the Cardinals built a lead, and then held tough late to wrap a victory in a game that quarterback Kyler Murray left early due to injury.

Baker was named a Pro Bowl safety for the first time this week, and looked every bit one of the NFL's best young defensive backs back in his home state of Washington.

Baker finished with nine tackles and a tackle for loss, although the box score didn't do justice to the way he attacked the Seahawks skill players from start to finish.

"Budda was a missile out there," Kingsbury said. "He was on one for the opportunity. He was flying around and made a ton of plays."

Baker admitted he doesn't have much regard for his own body.

"That's a problem," he said with a hearty laugh, "but I'm good."

The Cardinals defense has been among the worst in the NFL for much of this season, but put together a second straight strong performance in this one.

"We're finally starting to develop an identity as a defense," Baker said.

Kingsbury has heard the criticism of the group and is proud of it for battling through by showing tangible progress down the stretch.

"It's just the fight, the constant effort to keep going through it, through a tough year at times," Kingsbury said. "The last couple of weeks, these guys have been playing at a high level, creating turnovers. They've had great juice, and it's just exciting to see those guys are that locked in. Week 16, not going to make the playoffs, and they're still playing with that type of effort."

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