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Anatomy of a Game Changing Turnover

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Some NFL fans are wondering why and how the Arizona Cardinals are 8-1 and why they are so much improved from years past.

The 2021 Arizona Cardinals are a brotherhood of ballers —- in all three phases.

Today, let’s take a close look at one key improvement the Cardinals have been making on defense. The improvement is manifested in this momentum swinging turnover that the Cardinals forced on their first series at Santa Clara. Here, have a look:

In pass coverage the Cardinals, on the whole, are playing a clever mixture of man-to-man, zones and combos (man to one side, zone on the other, with occasionally a double team assignment).

On this play, they are playing man-to-man under with a single high safety over the top in Budda Baker.

As seen on the great hustle play by the Cardinals’ secondary, when opponents complete passes anywhere on the field and especially over the middle, the Cardinals’ defenders —- all 11 of them —- do everything they can to converge on the ball, much the way a school of piranhas converge on a slab of chub.

For years, not every Cardinals’ defender heeded the memo. Some Cardinals defenders never quite embraced the notion of “help” defense.

That was then, but this is now.

What we see in this outstanding hustle play by four Cardinals’ defenders.

What opposing WRs, TEs and RBs are aware of more than ever, is the Cardinals’ school of piranhas, fiercely captained by Budda Baker.

Budda Baker is the main reason why All Pro TE George Kittle elected to leap on this play, because, for the past couple of years, Kittle has learned the hard way why Budda Baker is an All Pro heat seeking piranha who has repeatedly taken him out at the shins and ankles —- which, if you watch Budda’s pad level on this play is precisely what Kittle was trying to avoid.

Isaiah Simmons began his coverage with outside leverage on Kittle, knowing that he had Budda’s help on Kittle over the middle. While Kittle makes an excellent burst over the middle to gain a step on Simmons, Simmons chases Kittle as hard as he can and winds up in a position to help make the tackle.

After administering blanket man coverage on WR Brandon Aiyuk, as soon as Byron Murphy saw Kittle catch the ball over the middle, Byron leaves Aiyuk to chase the play from behind as quickly as he can to where he is able to perfectly time his ball punch.

Kudos to Jordan Hicks for hopping on the loose ball as quickly as he did. Hicks was chasing the play the way Vance Joseph has coached him to do.

The Cardinals had 4 “Johnnies on the spot” on this play: Budda Baker, Isaiah Simmons, Byron Murphy and Jordan Hicks.

Notice too how quickly Marco Wilson and Tanner Vallejo arrive on the scene when the fumble is recovered by Hicks.

This Cardinals’ defense plays full bore from the snap to the whistle.

Eso fue un “robo de balón —- that was a “steal” of the ball!