Cardinals vs. Titans: Injury replacements come up with big plays

Wesley Hitt

The refrain "next man up" aptly applied on Sunday.

The Arizona Cardinals have been bitten by the injury bug the past couple of games, most notably on defense. However, the players that came in to replace the injured players made their impact on the game against the Tennessee Titans.

Rookie starting free safety Tyrann Mathieu is out for the rest of the season, and he was clearly missed, as the defense allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for over 400 yards. However, the player who is now in Mathieu's place as nickel corner -- Antoine Cason -- had two of the biggest plays. Cason intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter, returning it for a touchdown and also intercepted a pass in overtime to stop Tennessee's drive in the extra period.

Mathieu's replacement at free safety, Rashad Johnson, suffered a high ankle sprain and had to miss the final five defensive snaps. Tony Jefferson came in to replace him and also made an impact. He had two quarterback pressures in those five snaps he played, and it was his hit on Fitzpatrick in overtime that led to the errant throw that Cason picked off.

While Mathieu's absence was very evident, if he had been playing, Cason does not make either of those plays.

Cason and Jefferson both came up with plays that ultimately helped win the game, but they only saw playing time because of injuries.

This defensive depth is something to be pleased about. It will be tested again in Seattle, as Jefferson will likely get the start in place of Johnson and Cason will once again get significant playing time.

Against the Titans, "next man up" was more than just a saying. It was the crucial reality. Two players were ready when their number was called. They made plays and helped their team get the victory.

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