GLENDALE, Ariz. — Have yourself a day, Rashad Johnson.
The Arizona Cardinals’ safety finished Sunday’s 30-20 win over the Washington Redskins with seven total tackles (five solo), two passes defensed and two interceptions, the last of which he returned 28 yards for the game-clinching score.
“The coaching tip is to get down, but all I saw was green grass in the end zone,” he said after the game. “I assumed I could beat the offensive tackle to the end zone so I took that opportunity to put the game away.”
You won’t find anyone complaining about his decision.
It was a big performance from Johnson, a six-year pro who is one of the least heralded members of the team’s secondary. Last season he posted a career-best 58 total tackles along with three interceptions, which was also a career high.
Already this year, he has 33 total tackles, two interceptions and one sack.
“He’s been doing this for two years now,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, before turning his attention to Johnson’s pick-six. “I’m hollering to get down, nah, go ahead and score! It was a great play, great play, and again, well coached, put him in the right spot and all he had to do was catch it and run with it.”
Johnson’s big game was part of an even bigger effort from the Cardinals’ secondary, which accounted for four turnovers — all of which came in the fourth quarter. Johnson had a pair of picks, safety Tyrann Mathieu recovered a fumble, and corner Jerraud Powers also came up with an interception in the frame.
“That felt great,” Mathieu said of the fumble recovery, his first big play since returning from the knee injury that ended his 2013 season.
“That’s what they expect and that’s what we need to do more of,” Powers said of creating turnovers. “We’ve been getting turnovers, but I think we’ve got so many good players on this defense and in the secondary that we can get more.
“They always say turnovers come in bunches, interceptions come in bunches, so hopefully it will be the start of something big going on these next few stretches.”
Last season, the Cardinals finished tied for sixth in the NFL with 30 takeaways; five games into this campaign they are tied for eighth with 11.
Arians said Powers and Johnson have been the team’s most valuable players on defense this season, so it’s probably no coincidence both came up big in Sunday’s win. Powers’ three picks in 2014 have him tied for first in the NFL, while Johnson’s two place him even with many others for eighth.
Though neither would be considered stars, each is making a name for himself in what was supposed to be a loaded secondary.
“Rashad and Jerraud have been making those plays all year,” Mathieu said. “As a group, we expect to go out there and be the backbone of the defense and make the plays.”