Tuesday, we looked at the top five defensive plays of the 2015 season for the Arizona Cardinals.
Now, it’s a look back at the top five plays on offense — and there were a lot to choose from. The Cardinals set a franchise record and led the NFL with 6,533 yards and their 489 points ranked second in the league, behind only the Carolina Panthers.
Here’s what I thought were the top five offensive plays of the season for the Arizona Cardinals:
5. Jaron Brown’s pinball catch vs. Seattle (Week 10, Nov. 15)
The Cardinals had what you would call an up-and-down game against the division rival Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. They dominated play early and led 25-10 midway through the third quarter after a 43-yard field goal from Chandler Catanzaro. That’s when the momentum shifted. Seattle’s defense fueled a stretch where the Seahawks scored three touchdowns in a 6:52 span to take a 29-25 lead. Arizona faced a 2nd-and-7 from the Seattle 49-yard line when Carson Palmer dropped to pass and threw right to a well-covered Jaron Brown. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman undercut the route and deflected the ball with his right hand, but Brown aggressively went up and caught the ball off the deflection for a huge 10 yard gain that moved the chains. Four plays later, Palmer hit Jermaine Gresham on a 14-yard touchdown pass to give the Cardinals a lead they would not relinquish. They’d go on to win 32-29 to push their record to 7-2 on the season.
The Quote: “That’s the thing about J.B., he is tough as nails, that’s why he’s such a great special teams player. He just went up and took it away — and then he made two more big plays. You know, he’s a starter on most teams. ” — Head coach Bruce Arians
4. Chris Johnson’s 62-yard scamper vs. Baltimore (Week 7 – Oct. 26)
Leading 17-10 in the the third quarter of a Monday night affair with the Baltimore Ravens, the Cardinals faced a 1st-and-10 from their own 30-yard line. Carson Palmer handed off to Chris Johnson, who tried the left side of the line. He was pulled down after a 4-yard gain by Baltimore defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Or was he? Johnson came down on top of Williams at the 34, but never hit the ground. After pausing, Johnson got up and sprinted downfield, only to get caught by safety Will Hill at the Ravens’ 8. Four plays later, Arizona would get a field goal from Chandler Catanzaro to push their lead to 20-10. They’d hang on for a 26-18 win — their first of six wins on primetime television in 2015.
The Quote: “Basically, you just keep playing until the whistle. That is something (Coach) Arians teaches us: We always have to play to the whistle and have to finish. That is something you learn coming up from little league: Keep playing until the whistle blows.” — Chris Johnson
3. Michael Floyd’s spectacular one-handed catch vs. Philadelphia (Week 15 – Dec. 20)
One of the areas where Michael Floyd made strides during the 2015 season was in the highlight department. The fourth-year receiver out of Notre Dame had several ridiculous catches during the campaign, but none better than his one-handed snag in a 40-17 Sunday night win over the Eagles in Philly. On a 3rd-and-2 from the Philadelphia 30 and the Cardinals leading 17-10, Carson Palmer took a shot down the right sideline to Floyd, who was well covered by Eagles cornerback Jaylen Watkins. Floyd shielded Watkins with his left side, while laying out to make the catch with his right hand at the 1-yard line. One play later, David Johnson punched it in to extend the Cardinals’ lead.
The Quote: “Unbelievable!” — NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth
2. David Johnson’s “Beast Mode” TD run vs. Philadelphia (Week 15 – Dec. 20)
Rookie running back David Johnson got his chance to shine late in the season, but he shined brightest at Lincoln Financial Field on national television. Johnson ran for 187 yards and three touchdowns in the Cardinals’ division-clinching 40-17 win over the Eagles, but his second score of the night was one of the best runs in the NFL in 2015. On a 2nd-and-5 from the Philly 47-yard line, Johnson took a handoff from Carson Palmer, ran right and was met by a mass of humanity at the 45. He kept his legs churning though, breaking six or seven tackles and finished it off with a rugged stiff-arm of Philadelphia corner E.J. Biggers at the 10-yard line. The score gave the Cardinals a 17-10 lead and led to a collective “wow” from the millions watching at home.
The Quote: “He’s a grown man. He does not play like a rookie. He runs powerfully, he runs smart. He protects the football, he catches the football extremely well, he blocks extremely well. He’s 225 pounds, I mean that’s not who you want to tackle, especially in the fourth quarter.” — Carson Palmer
1. Larry Fitzgerald’s 75-yard playoff reception vs. Green Bay (NFC Divisional Playoffs – Jan. 16)
Larry Fitzgerald has had countless highlight plays in his storied career, but this play has to rank in the top five on that list. After Aaron Rodgers had engineered an unbelievable 86-yard touchdown drive that included a 61-yard completion on 4th-and-20 and a Hail Mary touchdown pass to Jeff Janis on the last play of regulation to force overtime, the crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium was stunned silent. It wouldn’t take them long to explode once again. On the first play of overtime, Carson Palmer dropped to pass, felt pressure and spun away from it, rolling to his right. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Fitzgerald standing all alone at the 35-yard line on the left side of the field. Fitzgerald started upfield, cut right at the 50 and split two Packers defenders. He stiff-armed Morgan Burnett at the 30 and kept weaving toward the goal line. Casey Hayward made a great ankle tackle at the 5-yard line, setting up the Cardinals with a 1st-and-goal and nearly blowing the roof off the stadium. Two plays later, fittingly, Fitzgerald took a shovel pass from Palmer and scored, giving the Cardinals the win and advancing them to the NFC Championship Game.
The Quote: “I saw a couple of my guys come running through and I saw a little area to push through when I saw Darren (Fells) picking up a block for me on the way. I saw Mike (Floyd) and Smoke (John Brown) doing the same thing — those guys really led the way for me to get down that far.” — Larry Fitzgerald
Honorable mention: J.J. Nelson’s catch at Cleveland, Chris Johnson’s 26-yard TD run vs. Baltimore, Andre Ellington’s game-sealing TD run at Seattle, J.J. Nelson’s TD catch vs. Cincinnati, Carson Palmer’s TD run (and spike) at San Francisco, Larry Fitzgerald’s 1,000th career catch at St. Louis, John Brown’s TD catch and run vs. Minnesota, Carson Palmer’s shovel pass to Larry Fitzgerald vs. Green Bay in the playoffs
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