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The 5: Arizona Cardinals’ top five plays of the first half

Arizona Cardinals running back (23) Chris Johnson runs for a touchdown in the first half of a game against the Baltimore Ravens played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/John Cordes)

At their bye week, the Arizona Cardinals are in good shape.

They’re sitting at 6-2, they’re in first place in the NFC West and they’re relatively healthy (knock on wood).

There have been plenty of memorable plays in the first half of the season as well. Here’s a look back at the top five Cardinals’ plays so far in 2015.

5. Cory Redding’s one-handed interception vs. Detroit – The Cardinals intercepted a league-high 13 passes in the season’s first eight games. Twelve of them were by members of Arizona’s opportunistic secondary. The only one that wasn’t was arguably the most memorable. Veteran defensive lineman Cory Redding, who had only one interception in his long career prior, made a tremendous one-handed deflection and snag on a screen pass by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was the only thing between Redding and his first career touchdown. Redding attempted to hurdle Stafford at the 10-yard line, but didn’t have the elevation to clear the obstacle. The pick set up a 4-yard touchdown run by David Johnson on the very next play and the Cardinals were on their way to an easy 42-17 win at Ford Field.

4. J.J. Nelson’s first NFL catch – With John Brown slowed by a hamstring injury, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians turned to rookie J.J. Nelson to play a bigger role in the passing game in a Week 8 showdown with the Cleveland Browns. Nelson delivered. His first NFL reception was a beautiful one-handed grab on a throw from Carson Palmer. Nelson was matched up with Browns cornerback Tramon Williams, who actually had good coverage, but the former UAB Blazer reached out and pulled it in for a 38-yard gain that set up Arizona’s first touchdown. The Cardinals would go on to win 34-20 to push their record to 6-2.

3. Justin Bethel’s pick-6 – Fans were still settling into their seats at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 3 when cornerback Justin Bethel pretty much showed everyone how the rest of the day would go. Playing his first defensive snap of the season, Bethel read San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s eyes, stepped in front of Vernon Davis and took a pick back 21 yards for a touchdown just 3:54 into the contest. Two minutes later, teammate Tyrann Mathieu did the same thing — this one from 33 yards out — and the rout was on. Arizona intercepted Kaepernick four times in a 47-7 trouncing.

2. David Johnson gets things started with a bang – Talk about setting the tone. Rookie David Johnson took Robbie Gould’s opening kickoff from eight yards deep in the end zone in a Week 2 game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Popular thinking in such a situation would be to just take a knee and have your team start a drive at the 20-yard line. Nope. Johnson took it out, started to the right, got a few blocks, cut to the left at about the 25 and easily streaked down the sideline past Gould for a 108-yard touchdown. Johnson’s return established a new franchise record and tied the league record for longest kickoff return in history. And it paved the way for a 48-23 Cardinals’ win.

T-1. Tony Jefferson’s game-clinching interception vs. Baltimore – In terms of importance, this was undoubtedly the biggest play of the first half for the Cardinals. The Cardinals led by eight with seconds left and Baltimore facing a 2nd-and-9 at the Cardinals’ 9-yard line. A touchdown and a two-point conversion would have sent the game into overtime. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco dropped back to pass, and under pressure from rookie Markus Golden, lofted the ball toward tight end Crockett Gillmore in the end zone. The ball sailed, and safety Tony Jefferson made a great, over-the-shoulder catch and slid down with the interception to preserve a 26-18 win. T-1. Chris Johnson’s 26-yard touchdown run – Chris Johnson has been a godsend for the Cardinals. Picked up in training camp, Johnson was supposed to provide depth at the running back position. He’s done so much more than that. The veteran out of East Carolina is the league’s second-leading rusher at the midway point of the season. He’s scored three touchdowns, but none was prettier than the 26-yard effort he uncorked in a Week 7 Monday night win over the Baltimore Ravens. Johnson took the give from Carson Palmer, started right, cut back to the left, broke a tackle from Elvis Dumervil at the 22, bounced off another big-time hit at the 20, did a full 360-degree turn and broke it outside down the left side. He picked up a great block from receiver Michael Floyd at the 13-yard line and did the rest himself. The touchdown put the Cardinals up 7-3 in the first quarter. Later, he would add another highlight 63-yard run to set up an important touchdown in a 26-18 win.

Honorable mention:

Carson Palmer’s 55-yard touchdown pass to David Johnson vs. New Orleans

Larry Fitzgerald’s flea-flicker touchdown catch vs. Chicago

Tony Jefferson’s pick-6 vs. Chicago

Andre Ellington’s 63-yard touchdown run vs. Detroit

John Brown’s 45-yard reception on the first play from scrimmage against Pittsburgh

Michael Floyd’s 60-yard touchdown catch vs. Cleveland

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