Cardinals cornerback Tramon Williams hauls in his interception in the fourth quarter.
Few knew it at the time, but the Cardinals needed every one of their five touchdowns on Sunday to hold off a furious Buccaneers rally.
It was an unlikely player who helped set up the last one in the 38-33 win. After only seeing spot duty through five weeks, cornerback Tramon Williams was pressed into action in the second half after star cover man Patrick Peterson left with a quadriceps injury.
Williams came up with a pivotal turnover in the fourth quarter, intercepting Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick near the goal-line to set up Adrian Peterson's 1-yard touchdown run for a 38-20 lead.
"Thank God Tramon Williams jumped that play," coach Bruce Arians said. "That's what he does. He's a smart, smart player. We have to get him on the field more."
Even though he hasn't played much this season, Williams is a former Pro Bowler with more than a decade of NFL experience, and that helped him read the situation.
"You've got a team backed up, empty formation," Williams said. "The quarterback is not looking to hold the ball at all. So once I read the quarterback's eyes, I knew it was going to be something quick. I got the ball. It was a routine play."
While the Cardinals held on, the absence of Peterson was noticeable. After a quiet start when Peterson was guarding him, Mike Evans finished the game with three catches for 95 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown grab over Justin Bethel to scare the Cardinals late. DeSean Jackson added three catches for 31 yards and a score as the Buccaneers found a rhythm passing the ball.
Peterson said he aggravated an injury he suffered last week. The Cardinals had a huge lead when he left in the third quarter, and he could do little but watch in the fourth because the muscle had tightened up by that point.
"I was very nervous," Peterson said. "Honestly, I was getting ready to get back in the game."
Peterson said he will definitely play next week in London against the Rams.
MARKED IMPROVEMENT ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE
The Cardinals' biggest deficiency through five games was an offensive line which had trouble blocking. Adrian Peterson's determined running played a big role in his success, but the line play was also better than at any point this season.
The Cardinals finally shook the injury bug, as left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) and left guard Alex Boone (chest) returned to the lineup. Earl Watford started at right guard in place of the ineffective Evan Boehm and did what he could to slow down Tampa Bay star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
The Cardinals entered the game last in the NFL in rushing and yards per carry, but finished with 35 rushes for 160 yards – more than 100 yards better than their average – for 4.6 yards per carry. Quarterback Carson Palmer was sacked twice but had a clean pocket the majority of the time.
"I am just excited to be back fighting with my boys," Humphries said. "It has been hard these last couple of weeks."
Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston left the game early with a shoulder injury, but backup Ryan Fitzpatrick filled in nicely. The veteran Fitzpatrick, a Gilbert native who played for Highland High School, helped lead the comeback, finishing 22-of-32 for 290 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
"I remember a game a couple years back in Tennessee where, I think, 28-0, and he brought (the Titans) back and went into overtime," Arians said. "When he gets hot, he's really tough, and we let him get hot."
Winston was 5-of-10 for 61 yards. He doesn't think the injury will keep him out of any games.
Images from the Week 6 matchup at University of Phoenix Stadium