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Arizona Cardinals needed Antonio Hamilton against Rams, might need him again vs. 49ers

Arizona Republic 11/18/2022 Bob McManaman, Arizona Republic

The Cardinals didn’t miss a beat when Colt McCoy stepped in for an injured Kyler Murray this past Sunday against the Rams. Just as importantly, they didn’t flinch when Antonio Hamilton stepped in for injured star cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., either.

All Hamilton did during Arizona’s 27-17 victory was make a team-high 10 tackles, break up two passes, nearly snag an interception and help keep Cooper Kupp off the stat sheet. Kupp, one of the most difficult wide receivers to defend in the NFL, finished with three receptions for minus-1 yard.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had 10 tackles in a game, not even in college,” said Hamilton, a seven-year veteran out of South Carolina State. “It all happened so fast. Like, I didn’t even know it until they said something. I’m like, ‘Dang, that’s a lot of tackles.’ ”

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Report Card: Arizona Cardinals overcome injuries to defeat Los Angeles Rams

Usually, it’s not a good sign when a cornerback gets that many tackles in a game. Typically, it means the receiver he is covering is catching a lot of passes against him.

“That’s right, for sure,” Hamilton said. “If you see a corner with 10 and 12 tackles, it might have been a long day for him. Not in my instance. I think I played a really, really solid game. Of course, I missed an interception. Wish I could get that back, but I know more opportunities will come.

“I didn’t give up any catches, I was pretty sticky, and it felt good.”

That’s because after missing the first four weeks of the season on injured reserve after a cooking accident at home left him with severe burns to his legs and feet, Hamilton finally is starting to feel like himself again.

It was a painful recovery, but after building back up his reps in practice and by playing on special teams, Hamilton is now the same player coach Kliff Kingsbury often praised during training camp. It was evident in his play against the Rams when, in his first start of the season, he was all over the field. Half of his tackles came on running plays.

“He’s getting his fuel for the game back,” Kingsbury said. “It hurt him missing the first month or five weeks. There’s no doubt he was in really fine form throughout camp, (then) had that unfortunate accident, but I’ve been really impressed with the last couple weeks. The game is slowing down for him. He's playing aggressive, playing physical and it’s been fun to watch.”

There’s a chance Hamilton will find himself on center stage again when the Cardinals (4-6) meet the 49ers (5-4) in Mexico City on “Monday Night Football.”

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Nov 6, 2022; Phoenix, Ariz., United States; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) breaks up a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) during the second quarter at State Farm Stadium. © Michael Chow/The Republic Nov 6, 2022; Phoenix, Ariz., United States; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) breaks up a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) during the second quarter at State Farm Stadium.

Murphy has been dealing with a back issue for the past few weeks and after playing through the injury in Week 9 against the Seahawks, he wasn’t able to play against the Rams, and his status is uncertain after not being a full participant in practice on Thursday.

“I’m still getting treatment and rehab, trying to get better,” Murphy said Thursday. “Right now, still doing treatment, trying to figure things out so I’m not going to say yes and I’m not going to say no.”

Even if Murray is available Monday night, expect to see a lot of Hamilton at Estadio Azteca. Whether he’s defending wideouts Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk or do-everything running back Christian McCaffrey, he’ll be active.

“Just doing as I have been, what I’ve been doing since camp, showing that I was consistent, and I can play ball,” Hamilton said. “It don’t matter who goes down. If I’ve got to step up, there ain’t going to be no drop-off. I’m going to do what I’ve got to do and I’m going to represent the team and the defense well.”

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph noted that Hamilton earned the starting outside cornerback job opposite Murphy during training camp and would have already been playing a ton if not for his unfortunate accident.

“He’s getting back to what he was in the summer,” Joseph said. “To watch him play, not only as a cover guy Sunday but as a run defender, I mean he made some plays in the running game that hadn’t been made in a while – in the ‘C’ and ‘B’ gaps. That’s a testament to his toughness and his size. He’s a big corner and he played his butt off.”

Related: Cardinals say Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy are both day to day

A victory over the 49ers in Mexico City will be paramount to the Cardinals if they hope to rebound from a 4-6 start and make a possible run to the playoffs. They can still reach the postseason with a win. A loss, however, and things might be too insurmountable, especially with a 1-4 record within the NFC West.

That’s why Sunday’s win at the Rams was so gravely important. Without it, this game wouldn’t hold the significance that it does.

“Yeah, Vitamin ‘W’ is always good,” Hamilton said. “It makes it easier to go to work. It makes it easy to deal with the knicks, knacks, bruises and pains. We need that. We still have a great opportunity in hand. We don’t know how the rest of the season will shake out. We don’t know if this was the turn of the tide as we did last year when we started out 7-0 and then we dropped off tremendously.

“Maybe the tide is shifting where we started off rough and maybe this is where we hit our streak and climb. The Super Bowl is in Arizona, so we’re fighting. We have nothing to lose. We’re going out there and just laying it all out and I think we’re playing better ball now that we’re doing that.”

“Whatever happens, happens. Let’s roll the dice."

Related: 'Hard Knocks' recap: Beachum, McCoy, Watt featured in Episode 2

Injury update

Five players did not practice for the Cardinals on Thursday, including tight end Zach Ertz, who is lost for the season with a knee injury. Also not practicing were safety Budda Baker (ankle), wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring), left tackle D.J. Humphries (back) and Murphy.

Listed as limited were quarterbacks Kyler Murray (hamstring) and Colt McCoy (knee), guard Max Garcia (shoulder) and outside linebacker Markus Golden (illness).

Six players did not practice for the 49ers: defensive ends Nick Bosa (rest) and Samson Ebukam (quadriceps/Achilles), defensive tackles Arik Armstead (foot/ankle) and Javon Kinlaw (knee), tackle Trent Williams (rest) and cornerback Charvarius Ward (personal). Wide receiver Danny Grey (ankle) was limited.

Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at bob.mcmanaman@arizonarepublic.com and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live on Fox Sports 910-AM every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch. 

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Cardinals needed Antonio Hamilton against Rams, might need him again vs. 49ers

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