The J.J. Watt watch in terms of the amount he plays was always going to be a storyline once Vance Joseph noted the Cardinals' desire to dial him back just a bit. Some games it'll happen, other games the Cardinals are going to need him more often. But the Cards got the best of both worlds Sunday with Watt -- he played 49 snaps (72 percent), and ended up with the team's highest defensive grade -- 84.0 -- according to Pro Football Focus.
(Watt was so close to getting his first sack too on Sunday; he barged in on one rush and Matthew Stafford just managed to slip up in the pocket and away from Watt.)
The snap counts for Sunday weren't too crazy. Defensively, it was interesting to note that Zaven Collins only had four snaps as Jordan Hicks and Isaiah Simmons basically played the whole way. Backup linebacker Tanner Vallejo had two defensive snaps but one was that crucial pass coverage on the fourth-down-at-the-goal-line stop in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Byron Murphy only played 48 snaps (71 percent) after banging up his ribs, although Murphy said after the game when asked about his health, "I'm straight."
Offensively, running backs Chase Edmonds (52 snaps, 67 percent) and James Conner (33/42), at the center of the Cardinals' 216 yards rushing, each got a little more time than usual. Rondale Moore was in for 33 snaps too, and even though Christian Kirk only had one catch, he still played 56 snaps -- 72 percent, the most playing time he's had in a game this season.
Behind Watt, the second-highest PFF-graded defender was Markus Golden (80.7), who had the big forced fumble early in the game that Budda Baker recovered. Cornerback Antonio Hamilton had a 76.1 grade before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury; the Cardinals could use him healthy. Hicks was at 68.7 and Baker 65.2 as the other top defenders.
Offensively, tight end Maxx Williams continues to have a wonderful season, earning a 88.9 grade on a day where he scored his first touchdown of the year, although I don't believe he gets any extra credit for absorbing the hit that he did. Kyler Murray was an 82.6, DeAndre Hopkins at 71.9, Moore at 70, D.J. Humphries at 69.4, Justin Pugh at 68.6 and Edmonds at 67.5 to round out the "green" grades for that side of the ball.