Without David Johnson, Cardinals’ offense goes pass-heavy vs. the Colts

Sep 17, 2017, 11:45 AM | Updated: 2:05 pm
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) is sacked by Indianapolis Colts' John Simon (51) du...
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) is sacked by Indianapolis Colts' John Simon (51) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

The Arizona Cardinals’ offense needed a new identity now that it is without David Johnson for the foreseeable future.

Through the first half of Arizona’s Week 2 game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Cardinals trailed 10-3 before they rallied past missed opportunities — including a missed 42-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation — to win on a Phil Dawson 30-yard field goal in overtime.

Here’s how coach Bruce Arians compensated for not having the All-Pro back due to a wrist injury.

— Chris Johnson took over for Kerwynn Williams as the starting running back in the second half, rushing for 22 yards on eight carries. Added to his three rushes for 22 yards in the first half, he finished with 11 carries for 44 yards. Williams only took one carry in the second half and finished with nine totes for 22 yards.

— The pass-to-run breakdown went like so: 36 pass attempts to 25 carries with half of those pass targets to Jaron Brown (11 targets, four receptions for 73 yards) and J.J. Nelson (seven targets with five receptions for 120 yards).

— Carson Palmer went 11-of-21 for 162 yards and an interception in the first half and earned criticism from his coach before finishing off the game looking improved.

By the end of the game, Palmer completed 19-of-36 attempts for 332 yards, a touchdown strike of 45 yards to Nelson, and an interception.

— Williams, listed as the starting running back, got the first five carries, while Andre Ellington saw opportunities on third-down passing situations. Early in the second quarter, veteran Chris Johnson made his debut. He took three carries for 22 yards before Williams checked back in to finish the half with eight carries for 19 yards (2.4 yards per touch).

Ellington took the most snaps in the first half, but he only had one catch for negative-6 yards and no rushing touches. He finished with 12 receiving yards and 11 rushing yards on the day.

— The most odd tweak off the bat: Offensive lineman and 2017 fifth-round pick Will Holden played as a pass-eligible tight end at 6-foot-7, 315 pounds.

— Max-protection looks on the Cardinals’ third series got Arizona’s regular tight ends involved after the Colts put up a 10-0 lead with 1:27 to go in the first quarter. With Jermaine Greshman not dressed due to a rib injury, that put the pressure on Ifeanyi Momah and Troy Niklas. They came through early, making 46- and 16-yard receptions, respectively, during the possession that reached the 1-yard line. But on fourth down in a run formation, quarterback Carson Palmer couldn’t connect with Larry Fitzgerald on a fade route with a one-on-one matchup, and Arizona gave the ball up on downs after going 74 yards on seven plays.

— Momah dropped a catch on 2nd-and-7 with 7:49 to play in the second quarter that would have given Arizona a touchdown. Instead, the Cardinals ended up settling for a 27-yard field goal to make it 10-3.

— A 46-yard drive by Arizona had the ball at the Colts’ 26-yard line when Palmer threw a lofting pass to Nelson, who was covered by the corner. Additionally, Indianapolis safety Malik Hooker read the quarterback’s eyes and picked off the pass coming from over the top.


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