Get Arizona's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!

Become a smarter Arizona sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from PHNX's writers and podcasters!

Just drop your email below!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate PHNX Sports Community!

Cardinals defenders overcome obstacles; make big plays against Saints

Howard Balzer Avatar
October 25, 2022

It was a strange summer and beginning of the season for three players that had a huge impact in the Cardinals 42-34 victory over the New Orleans Saints last Thursday night.

All had the first interceptions of their career and the end zone was either the starting or end point for all three.

Cornerback Antonio Hamilton, who had been scheduled to start instead of Marco Wilson prior to suffering severe burns in an August cooking incident, had the first pick of the night when he intercepted New Orleans quarterback Andy Dalton in the end zone on a third-and-8 play on the Saints’ second possession of the game from the 12-yard line with the Saints leading 7-3.

Then, late in the first half with the score tied at 14, Wilson intercepted a pass that bounced off the hands of receiver Marquez Callaway and dashed 38 yards for the score while doing a flip into the end zone.

Five plays later it was linebacker Isaiah Simmons’ turn after he one-handed a Dalton pass and bolted 56 yards for a touchdown while running past defenders.

“It was a great way to finish off the half and I think it gave us great momentum to come out and finish the game in the second half,” Wilson said.

Wilson and Simmons had been challenged by the coaches at different times. Wilson’s came in training camp as Hamilton was outplaying him. For Simmons, it was after the season-opening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Asked about both players coming up big after some strtggles, coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “It tells you everything you need to know about them as competitors. They got challenged and both answered the bell. Their practice habits, intentionality in everything they do. Intensity, focus, it’s just been tremendous, particularly Isaiah.

“What he’s done since Week 1 has been fabulous. Cover nickel, whoever’s in the slot. He’s so long, so big, so fast even if there is some separation it doesn’t look like it to the quarterback, so he’s done a tremendous job and just continues to make big plays.”

Kingsbury has consistently mentioned how Wilson improves each week.

Meanwhile, after his big play, Simmons said, “I feel like I just came out a little rusty. Didn’t play the way I would like to. I just continued to stay true to myself. Do what I needed to do as a pro athlete and everything was going to fall into place from there.

“I never really had any worries from the first game. Everybody thought what they wanted. Count me out, whatever. I wasn’t about any of that. I knew everything was going to come back and fall into place. It was only a matter of time.”

In the last four games, after playing sparingly in Weeks 2 and 3, Simmons has been in the slot for 103 snaps and 79 in the box.

Simmons was eager to talk about Wilson’s play.

“I’m happy he caught it,” Simmons said. “I didn’t see it, my back was turned and I was in coverage. I turned around then I saw him skipping and flipping. If you didn’t know, he has a parkour video on YouTube, so I think that was parkour Marco out there doing what he was doing. He definitely got up there on that flip. He was hanging up there for a minute; it was very impressive.”

Said Hamilton, “That thing was amazing. Just to show how athletic he was; I think he jumped from the 4-yard line and landed halfway through the end zone. He was in the air like a lemur. It was crazy. That just shows you how athletic he is. It was dope to say the least.”

Wilson’s play made up for being beat on a 53-yard touchdown by wide receiver Rashid Shaheed on the fourth play of the game.

“It was a great interception, but he also gave up a touchdown and I’m sure he’s not happy with that,” wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “I push everybody like how I want to be pushed as well. When I go out and do something, I want the other guys to be like, ‘Hop, come on we need you’ and I think that’s what a great team needs, everybody pushing everybody and taking criticism.”

Simmons, who is 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds, credits work in track with his father, Victor Sr., while growing up for much of his speed.

“My dad was one of my track coaches growing up my whole life,” he said. “At a young age, I think everybody should do track regardless of what you want because I think it really helped me out in this sport with the frame I have. My position, my weight typically guys don’t run this fast and I grew up with my dad on me. And all my coaches were Jamaican.

“They used to make me cry. When I didn’t make my times in practice, they would say, ‘Stop crying, run it again, run it again.’ Big kudos to them for all of my speed and agility that I’ve got, but I think honestly, it’s made a world of difference. I was a long jumper. I long-jumped at Clemson and I feel like that just helps with my explosiveness and just what I’m able to do with my legs.”

For Hamilton, it was the first interception in 77 career games with the Cardinals (20), Giants (29), Chiefs (16) and Raiders (12). He has only two starts, two with the Cardinals last season and two with the Giants. He hasn’t yet scored a touchdown.

While thrilled with his own play, Hamilton said, “You get a pick, you get a pick, but like I said on the sideline, it ain’t no fun unless the homies can get some, too. So, I was just glad everybody got to get their picks. Isaiah got his first touchdown. Marco got his first pick and touchdown.”

Hamilton’s recovery was well-chronicled here, especially how his pregnant wife, Tiara, was with him every step of the way. After the interception, he found his wife and gave her the ball.

Asked if he knew he wanted to give her the ball, Hamilton said, “Yes, ASAP. As soon as I caught it, I was looking around in the stadium and was like, ‘Damn, there’s a lot of people in here.’ Then she finally came down and (safety Chris) Banjo saw her and I said here you go. That was for everybody; it wasn’t just for me.

“Of course, it’s only one, but that was for everything I’ve been through. I was a walk-on in college, undrafted and everything and I’ve always had to fight my way to get everything and I finally got it. So that was for my small town of Johnston (S.C). and everybody that’s poured into me throughout my career.”

Hamilton said he believed Tiara was the person most ecstatic about the pick.

He said, “She knows how hard I’ve worked. She knows the time that I’ve put in. She knows the things that I’ve battled with throughout my career. She’s been with me since I’ve been in college and since I started playing in college, because I had to sit out a year. She knew how much work I put in to get to where I am. To finally get that one little piece of hardware is just … I’m just thankful and I know she is.

“I know she’s loving it up right now. She’s ready for me to come on out there so she can love me up and that’s for my (soon to be born) baby boy too and my daughters. They’re at home. I know they’re going to be proud of daddy and they’re going to be playing with the football. They’re going to beat it up real nice. That was for them for sure.”

Hamilton never ceases appreciating what he had to go through to come back and play again and now have his first interception.

“Nobody wants to have to wait that long,” he said. “I’ve been in the league for seven years and finally got it. But I have a lot of gratitude.”

He concluded, “God is good. God is really, really good. He humbled me, he sat me down and allowed me to just sit back and see what could’ve been. Of course, I missed a lot of the periods of time that I missed and then he gave it back to me. He gave it back to me, allowing for a little bit of redemption for the time that I missed. I’m extremely thankful for it. I have a lot of gratitude.”

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me: howard@gophnx.com

Get Arizona's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!

Become a smarter Arizona sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from PHNX's writers and podcasters!

Just drop your email below!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?