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In the span of about a minute, two maligned Cardinals may have saved the season

In a game the Cardinals had to have, two previously maligned players stepped up big time.

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Isaiah Simmons hasn’t yet lived up to his potential, but his pick-six last night put the game away for the Cardinals.
Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Before last night, the Cardinals had lost five straight on Thursday night football. That includes the brutal 45-10 beatdown from the Broncos that got Mike McCoy fired in 2018, as well as the A.J. Green “Where’s the ball?” game last year that knocked us from the unbeaten ranks.

Last night, it was looking like we’d lose our sixth straight on Thursday night. The Saints’ offense was marching up and down the field, and our offense was settling for field goals. (Which we were actually able to make now that Matt Ammendola was no longer on the roster.)

About 5 minutes into the second quarter, it was 14-6 New Orleans. They had had two easy touchdown drives, and they could have had another if not for Antonio Hamilton’s first career interception.

Then after their second TD, Kyler led us on a 13-play, 75-yard TD drive, which tied the game after a 2-point conversion. The drive took 8 minutes off the clock, and it was looking like we’d go into the half with the game tied. Not exactly what the Cardinals were hoping for at home with D-Hop back in the fold and the Saints missing so many key players. It was looking like anyone’s game.

And then two heretofore maligned Cardinals came through with the biggest plays of their careers.

Marco Wilson

First up was former 4th-round pick Marco Wilson. He was thrust into starting duties in his rookie season last year after the Malcolm Butler fiasco. He did about as well as expected, struggling mightily throughout the campaign.

Yet GM Steve Keim made no real effort to replace him in the offseason and he entered this season as the starting CB2 opposite Byron Murphy. He again struggled during the first few weeks of the season, grading as one of the worst CBs in the league despite albeit making a few highlight reel–worthy plays here and there.

And then Marquez Calloway bobbled a simple in route and the ball went right into Wilson’s hands. From there it was only a matter of outrunning a few O-linemen—and then flipping his way into the end zone for the tiebreaking TD. What a play.

But the Cardinals defense was only getting started.

Isaiah Simmons

Simmons’s story is much different than Wilson’s. Wilson had next to no pedigree as a mere 4th-round pick; on the other hand, Simmons was THE most heralded defender of his draft class, a playmaking freak from Clemson with a national championship under his belt. Many Cardinals fans, including yours truly, were hoping he would fall to us at #8.

Of course, he did… only for him to largely fail to live up to the hype during his first two seasons. He struggled to see the field at times, and even when he did he failed to make the impact fans had hoped for. In fact, he totaled just 31 snaps combined in Weeks 2 and 3 of this season, causing many to start using the “B” word (bust).

And then, just about a minute after Wilson’s pick-six, he made a one-handed snag on an errant Andy Dalton pass and easily knifed his way to the end zone, showing off the athleticism and speed that made him worthy of a top-10 pick. Again—what a play.

Final Thoughts

Before the game, if you had told me the Cardinals were going to win and asked me who the heroes would have been, it probably would have taken me a bit before I got to Marco Wilson and Isaiah Simmons. I’m definitely on the record as a Wilson critic, and Simmons has been an easy punching bag for Keim’s draft mistakes in recent years.

Do yesterday’s big plays immediately shield them from further criticism? Of course not. Wilson needs to become a lot more consistent, and Simmons still has a ways to go to live up to his pre-draft hype. But they both made incredible plays in a game we absolutely needed to have.

Without those two pick-sixes, we’d likely be 2-5 with a massive hill to climb to get back into the NFC playoff picture, even in this season of almost unprecedented parity. Instead, we’re 3-4 in a season when 10 wins might be enough to win the NFC West (even considering the 49ers’ CMC trade).

There’s still a long way to go in the season—10 games, in fact—but for now, these two maligned Cardinals have stepped up when we absolutely needed them to and saved our season.

For now. Let’s hope they—and the team as a whole—can capitalize on this huge win and turn this frustrating season around.