Safety Rashad Johnson gets to the end zone while returning an interception for a touchdown Sunday against the Redskins.
On the list of fire and brimstone coaches likely to rip into the Cardinals for lackluster play, Todd Bowles would seemingly rank toward the bottom.
But after he watched the defense give up 13 first-half points by way of some haphazard effort Sunday afternoon, the team's defensive coordinator didn't hold back. Bowles eschewed any strategic talk during halftime, instead using the time to loudly question the effort of his players.
"That's probably as passionate as I've ever seen Todd Bowles since I've been here the past two years," safety Rashad Johnson said. "He challenged us and called us out."
As is the case when a normally laid-back coach flips the switch, it got the attention of the defense, and the message worked. It looked like a new group after intermission, forcing four turnovers, giving up one touchdown and scoring one itself in the 30-20 victory over the Redskins.
"I know it doesn't seem like it with Todd," coach Bruce Arians said, "but his voice can get real loud."
The Redskins didn't make it to midfield on two third quarter possessions, but that was just the appetizer before the feast. The Cardinals had three interceptions and a forced fumble recovery in the fourth quarter, helping save an offense which had trouble putting the game away.
Cornerback Jerraud Powers started the fun with a strip of Washington wide receiver Andre Roberts, which safety Tyrann Mathieu recovered. The play was reviewed, but the controversial call stood.
"When I first saw the replay I started to walk back on the field," Powers said. "Then when they slowed it down I was kind of like, 'I'm not sure.' Usually when it's like that, as a defender, you never get those calls. In our heads we were like, 'We're going back on the field.' I didn't even hear what the ref said. I just heard the crowd cheering. I just walked back off."
Then came the pick party. Johnson hauled in an overthrown pass from Kirk Cousins to start it off and Powers followed by slicing
in on an attempted screen pass. The Redskins put together a nice drive and cut the gap to 23-20 on a touchdown to Pierre Garcon with 2:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Johnson sealed the win by intercepting Cousins with 18 seconds left, returning it 28 yards for the score.
Since Washington was out of timeouts, Johnson could have gone down to end the game, but Johnson said he saw nothing but daylight, and eventually Arians got on board.
"I'm hollering, 'Get down!' Arians said. "'Nah, go ahead and score.'"
The secondary shined brightest, but the pass rush looked better after struggling regularly this season. Linebacker Alex Okafor started for the first time and had two sacks in place of the injured Matt Shaughnessy. On the first, he fought off a blocker and pulled down Cousins with one hand.
Okafor had shown flashes of his potential during the offseason, but missed the first three games with a thigh injury.
"I knew I could do it," Okafor said. "I have confidence in myself. The players and coaches on this team have confidence in me. It wasn't a surprise. When they come my way, I have to make the play."
The run defense was solid without Shaughnessy and defensive line stalwart Calais Campbell, allowing 72 yards.
The Cardinals allowed 41 points last week in Denver, and even though the damage was only 13 points after two quarters, Bowles was obviously displeased.
The last 30 minutes of game action more closely resembled the first three games when the Cardinals jumped out to an undefeated start, and it helped push them to 4-1.
"On defense everything comes in bunches," Okafor said. "Once you start having a little bit of success, it breaks the levees and everything starts overflowing. That's what we felt once we started getting out there and once we started getting comfortable."