Dealing Cards: Offense looking to click, Chris Johnson waiting his turn
Sep 18, 2017, 8:21 PM | Updated: Sep 19, 2017, 12:11 pm
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
TEMPE, Ariz. – For three quarters in Indianapolis on Sunday, and all four quarters the week prior, the Arizona Cardinals offense looked like a shell of its former self.
Then something clicked.
Trailing by 10, and staring a 0-2 start straight in the eyes, the Cardinals faced a 3rd-and-20 at their own 18-yard line. Quarterback Carson Palmer dropped back to pass, moved up in the pocket and found wide receiver Jaron Brown open up the right sideline for a 22-yard gain.
The Cardinals had just converted their sixth, and final, third down of the game.
“Not how you usually want do it but Carson made a great throw and I was luckily able to come down with that one,” Brown said.
On the very next play, the Cardinals took a shot, as head coach Bruce Arians likes to do each game.
Given a clean pocket, Palmer went deep, throwing into double coverage. The ball sailed just beyond the defenders’ hands and into the waiting arms of J.J. Nelson for a 45-yard touchdown.
Those two plays were a catalyst to a 10-point fourth-quarter in a game the Cardinals would eventually win in overtime, 16-13.
“Us as a team no matter, all the years that I’ve been here, if we stay out there long enough, we get to clicking and we start making things happen,” running back Chris Johnson said on Monday.
The key now is not having to wait until the fourth quarter.
“A whole lot better,” Nelson said, when asked how much better the offense can be. “Y’all guys always talk about 2015. I feel like that we got the pieces to do it and get back to that high level, explosive offense. It’s two games down, we got a lot more to go so we’re just going to continue to get better.”
In 2015, the Cardinals set multiple franchise records with their offense.
After watching the film from the Colts game, Brown called the offense sloppy.
“Me, personally, I had some plays out there that I left out there that I should’ve made,” he said, pointing to a lack of execution and too many mental errors.
In eight quarters, the Cardinals offense has scored three touchdowns, all in the second half. And before the Nelson touchdown and subsequent Phil Dawson game-tying field goal, that unit had not scored on back-to-back possessions, albeit only two games into the season.
“We just got to get better, get to clicking on all angles, from the running game to the passing game and everything and then once we go to clicking, we’ll be pretty hard to stop,” Johnson said. “We had a long camp and we practiced a lot of scenarios, lot of things. We just got all get used to each other and continue to work and get better and day-by-day we’ll be alright.”
A new role for CJ2K
Without David Johnson, the Cardinals need someone to step up and take the reigns of the running back position. That someone may be Chris Johnson.
Entering the game in the second quarter, Johnson finished with a team-best 44 yards on 11 carries.
“I just went out there and was just trying to control what I can control and make the most of my opportunities. That’s all I can do,” he said, before adding about a possible starter’s role, “Anything else besides that is out of my control. That’s really something I really don’t worry about.”
Arians was noncommittal when asked whether Johnson had done enough to supplant Kerwynn Williams as the team’s No. 1 running back.
Johnson did start the second half.
“Just continue to prepare the same way I’ve been preparing,” he said, if indeed it is him who gets the first opportunity against Dallas on Monday Night Football. “I’ve always prepared like a starter, so just make sure my conditioning is up, my wind is up and stuff and just take full advantage.”
A scary moment
Late in the fourth quarter, Brown was knocked out of the game momentarily when it appeared he had hurt his left knee.
“I hyperextended it a little bit,” he said. “Fortunate it wasn’t nothing any more serious than that, but, yeah, I was pretty sore after that.”
What happened was a defender fell squarely on Brown’s knee, the same knee he suffered a torn ACL just last season. As it turned out, though, the play looked much worse than the actual outcome.
Brown only missed a handful of snaps.
“It was kind of a scary moment,” he said. “I was able to get back up and I walked around on it and I knew I was going to be OK.”
A home game, finally
After two straight road games to begin the season, the Cardinals will play their home opener next Monday night.
It’s been awhile since the fans have seen the Cardinals inside University of Phoenix Stadium. Remember, their final two preseason games were on the road. So there figures to be a lot of energy and excitement next week, the opponent and national stage notwithstanding.
Among those in attendance will be several of Nelson’s family and friends.
“Honestly, I haven’t got a count because I really don’t want to know. But as soon as I leave (the facility) I’m going to call and ask how many tickets do I need,” he said. “I’m looking at around 15-to-18 tickets.”
Maybe some of Nelson’s teammates will come to his aid in that department.
“Possibly, but we’ll see how that goes,” he said, smiling.