The Arizona Cardinals said they wanted to experience a close game — one that they wanted to finish.
Monday night, they got their wish.
The Cardinals closed out the Baltimore Ravens late — very late, in fact — when Tony Jefferson intercepted a Joe Flacco pass in the end zone with six seconds left in a 24-18 win.
The victory pushed the Cardinals’ record to 5-2 on the season, and kept their lead in the NFC West at one-and-a-half games over the St. Louis Rams as we approach the midway point of the 2015 season.
Every week on ArizonaSports.com, we take a look at where the Cardinals stand in ten different power rankings.
#9 (holding steady)
What appeared to be a game in control evolved — or devolved — into a furious ending in the desert. Furious pass rush from Dwight Freeney, too — the 35-year-old was bringing the heat on that final drive. Freeney, Chris Johnson (who stunningly ranks second in the NFL in rushing) and Larry Fitzgerald: Three veterans written off by many who are now key pieces of a 5-2 first-place puzzle. Quietly efficient game from Carson Palmer on Monday night, as well. In other MNF news, Jon Gruden has a large man crush on Tyrann Mathieu.
#6 (down 2 spots)
Age is just a number for the Cardinals. Carson Palmer (35) is third in Total QBR, Chris Johnson (30) is second in rushing and Larry Fitzgerald (32) is fifth in receiving yards.
#8 (holding steady)
The popular NFL theory goes that running backs hit a wall once they turn 30. And then along came ol’ Benjamin Button Chris Johnson, 30 as of Sept. 23, rediscovering his game in the desert. Monday night’s showing vs. Baltimore was as close to CJ2K as we’ve seen in a long time.
#6 (up 4 spots)
With one of the NFL’s best coaching staffs, the Cardinals are equipped to win games even when a few big plays don’t go their way. Carson Palmer has made an early bid for both Comeback Player of the Year and MVP and he’s tied for the league lead with 16 touchdown passes.
#6 (up 3 spots)
The Arizona Cardinals came close to blowing what should have been a cakewalk game Monday night. They held a 26-10 lead over the Baltimore Ravens with just over eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Then two special teams blunders—a missed extra-point attempt and a blocked punt—gave Baltimore an opening.
But they held on, and if we set aside the glaring special teams gaffes, the other 52-ish minutes of gametime featured another domination of an inferior opponent. And the Cardinals did it with an offensive dimension that was missing in 2014.
They have a rushing attack that’s beyond just reliable now, which was the low bar set a year ago. Running back Chris Johnson is acting like it’s 2009 again, and he’s the driving force behind his offense.
After 122 more rushing yards Monday night he’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season. This is when I remind you the Cardinals averaged only 3.3 YPC as a team in 2015.
#7 (up 2 spots)
#7 (up 1 spot)
They have to tighten up that defense again. They made it interesting late against the Ravens.
#8 (up 1 spots)
Chris Johnson being the second-leading rusher in the NFL right now is one of the strangest stories we’ve seen in a long time. They signed him on Aug. 17. Any team had all spring and summer to sign him, and they all passed. And nobody really thought twice about it.
#8 (up 1 spot)
The Cards continue to pile up wins over bad teams.
#6 (up 2 spots)
He may only be CJ1K these days, but RB Chris Johnson still has some juice in those 30-year-old legs.
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