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Justin Houston’s pick swung momentum back in Chiefs’ favor in win

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Without the returning linebacker’s interception, it could have been a different Cardinals-Chiefs game on Sunday.

Arizona Cardinals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Quarterback Josh Rosen and the Arizona Cardinals were at their own 40-yard line in the fourth quarter, trailing by six points on first-and-10 and a little more than 12 minutes left with an opportunity to shock the world.

Rosen intended to find running back David Johnson on a screen to his left, but Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, back for his first game in five weeks, snatched the ball out of the air.

Houston said after the game he felt a little out of shape from the missed time due to a hamstring injury, but he was comfortable enough to make the game’s key play.

“I was bullying the tackle,” Houston said. “I saw the guard and running back pull inside. I pushed out the tackle and saw the ball in the air. I think that helped us as a whole. That was big time because the confidence for Arizona was in it. They were down by a touchdown. It was 20-14, they were driving down to score, you can tie the game or take the lead. To get that interception and then go down and score, that’s big.”

Rosen knew at that moment he had made a critical mistake.

“It should have been a pretty big play,” Rosen said. “I just needed to put a little more air on it. [Houston] made a great play, but I should not have let him be in the position to make that play.”

Houston, who also had a quarterback hit in the game, returned the ball four yards to the Arizona 31-yard line.

“We were up 20-14 and one score and we could be down,” Chiefs defensive end Jarvis Jenkins said. “We are getting in crunch and when you get a turnover like that, that changes the momentum of the game. He definitely did that and put us in a position to score.”

Four plays later, RB Spencer Ware ran for a three-yard touchdown, giving the Chiefs a 26-14 lead in what would be the eventual final score.

On a day the Chiefs offense didn’t have its typical output, the defense held the Cardinals to 260 net yards and 14 points—a certain step in the right direction.

“We take a lot of pride,” Houston said. “As a defense, we haven’t been playing well all season. So, we’re trying to turn this around and are trying to get this thing in the right direction because we’ve got goals. As a whole, we know that if we want to win this whole thing, the defense has got to play better, week-in and week-out.

“I think it’s a great start, we just got to continue to build on it.”

Houston and the Chiefs will have the chance next week against the 9-1 Los Angeles Rams.