During the week ahead of Arizona's critical Week 14 matchup against the New York Giants, Haason Reddick knew.
In conversations with fellow outside linebacker Markus Golden, Reddick spoke of the type of performance he would have in the week's upcoming game. Yet, speaking the type of performance he would inevitably have into existence could not have been anticipated at the onset of those discussions.
"It means a lot," Reddick said following the team's 26-7 win. "Right now I'm still processing it. I'm still taking it in. I cried at the end of the game. Filled with joy. Felt blessed. This whole year has just been important to me and to see things going the way that I want them to go and to see today happen is just amazing. I'm still processing it and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it."
The reason for his tears was a franchise record-setting performance in which he tallied six quarterback hits, five sacks, five tackles, three forced fumbles and two tackles for loss.
"Haason, he came Wednesday when we got back together, he came in and said he's going to get after the quarterback this week," Golden said. "And with the look he had in his eyes this week, rushing all week, I knew he was going to have a big one. I didn't know it was going to be that big, but it was a huge game for him. I got a lot of respect for Haason. He's been putting in work. I was with him his rookie year, so he's been putting a lot of work to get to this moment. I got a lot of respect and I'm super happy for him.
"He came in Wednesday and said he was going to have a big game, so it might have been Wednesday that he was going to come out and do this because I promise you he came in and said he was going to do this. And he got out there and did it. I got a lot of respect for him. I'm proud of him. That's big-time for Haason and I'm proud of him. Let's keep it going so we can finish strong, finish the season strong."
The five-sack effort set a Cardinals record for the most in a game, with the previous being set by defensive end Curtis Greer—who had 4.5 in a Dec. 18, 1983, contest against the Philadelphia Eagles. Additionally, the last NFL player to have five sacks and three forced fumbles in a single game was Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday on Dec. 22, 2002, against the Buffalo Bills.
Ironically, all three of those performances came in December games. Speaks to the importance of football this late in the season.
Reddick's performance paced a defensive effort that held the Giants to just seven points and sacked the duo of quarterbacks Daniel Jones and Colt McCoy a combined eight times. Plus, four total fumbles were forced, including two recoveries.
"I had worked with [outside linebackers coach] Charlie [Bullen] and Buck [defensive line coach Brentson Buckner]. We had looked at the film and looked at what could I do to make my pass rushes work," Reddick said. "At the end of the day, the game plan worked, which is amazing. As far as what's got me going, the energy today from the team, from the coaches, it was crazy out there. After I got my first one, then the second one, they just kept telling me, 'Keep going, keep going.' And the energy was amazing. It was a mixture of that and just the want-to."
The veteran outside linebacker did not have the fifth-year option on his contract picked up by the Cardinals in the offseason and he has seemingly used that as motivation for the campaign he has put forth.
"The last few years has been what they have been," Reddick said. "I never really look back on the past few years. The only thing that I tried was to continue to work hard and continue to push forward and continue to be the best player that I could be. Other than that, it is what it is. The only thing that matters now is today or next week, next game."
After Reddick joined the Cardinals as a first-round draft pick, Arizona tried to convert him to inside linebacker, which did not pay dividends. Now in his more natural role outside, he has shown plenty of flashes of being an impactful player.
"He just continues to get better and better," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "I've said it all along how much respect I have for him, the perseverance he's shown. We tried to make him a stand-up linebacker for the past three years and it just wasn't his deal. It was not what he was phenomenal at in college. And he's getting more and more comfortable back to that outside rush. A guy like that who stuck with it, who didn't let the noise get him down, didn't let any sort of frustration get him down and just kept working — and now has a game like that — you couldn't be happier for him and he'll keep progressing."
During training camp, Reddick said he had a conversation with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph about his aspirations for the season. After hitting the double-digit sack mark with 10 for the year Sunday, Reddick alluded to his goal being met.
"He was like, 'You made it happen,'" Reddick said of his conversation with Joseph after the game. "'You did what you said you were going to do in the beginning of the year and you kept true to everything.' Me and him had a talk in the beginning of the year during training camp, as far as what was a goal and what I wanted to accomplish. And he was just proud of me because I made it happen. Thanks to him, it's really been a good day and a good year so far."
With three games remaining on the schedule and the Cardinals in an improved position to make a playoff push, Reddick is hoping to use the record performance as a springboard for the rest of the season and toward a new contract.
"This is my first time ever having a game like this," he said. "In college, I have had games where I have had two sacks. This year, earlier in the season, was my first time in the NFL having two sacks in a game. But today, this is the first time I've ever had a game like this where everything was just working for me and hitting all cylinders."