Big Red Recap: Cardinals stay alive with win over Washington

Dec 4, 2016, 7:02 PM
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) scores a touchdown against the Washington Redskin...

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) scores a touchdown against the Washington Redskins during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Just win one game.

That was the Arizona Cardinals’ focus all week, and it paid off Sunday with a 31-23 win over visiting Washington in front of another sold out crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The stars shined, fittingly perhaps with the game played with the roof open.

Carson Palmer passed for 300 yards and three touchdowns, David Johnson totaled 175 yards and two touchdowns, while Larry Fitzgerald had 10 catches for 78 yards.

Defensively, Calais Campbell forced a fumble and Patrick Peterson picked off Kirk Cousins, who was held under 300 passing yards (271) for only the sixth time this season.

The interception sealed the win, just the Cardinals’ second in their past six games, keeping alive their playoff hopes, as slim as they may be with a 5-6-1 record after Week 13.

The 123rd all-time meeting between the former NFC East rivals saw four second-half lead changes.

The Redskins (6-5-1) led 20-17 entering the fourth quarter, but Palmer twice threw touchdowns, including a 42-yard deepball to J.J. Nelson, a play that wouldn’t have happened if not for Johnson’s 14-yard run on 4th-and-1 at the Arizona 34 with 3:47 left in the game.

Johnson rushed for 84 yards, going over 1,000 yards on the season for the first time in his career.


After not scoring on their opening drive through the first 10 games, the Cardinals have now gone back-to-back games with a first-possession touchdown. Johnson scored from a yard out, capping a 15-play, 75-yard drive—in which the Cardinals twice converted on 3rd-and-11—in 8:17. Johnson, who missed a handful of snaps while trainers looked at his right arm/hand, accounted for 39 total yards, including 29 rushing yards, while the touchdown was his 14th of the season, the most by and Arizona player since Roy Green had 14 in 1983 and tied for the fourth-most in franchise history.

Even with the roof open, it got loud inside the stadium. Just ask the Redskins, who in the first half were flagged four times for false start penalties. Tight end Vernon Davis was the first victim, followed by left guard Shawn Lauvao and right guard Brandon Scherff. Lauvao, the former Arizona State product, was guilty twice, once in each of the first and second quarters. With those calls, Cardinals opponents have accumulated 146 accepted false start penalties in the regular season, the most for any home team in the NFL since 2006, the inaugural year of the stadium.

Looking for someone to step up and make a play, Calais Campbell did just that in the third quarter. He overpowered Lauvao and sacked Cousins, stripping him of the football in the process. Markus Golden picked up the football and returned the fumble 20 yards to the Washington 10-yard line. Three plays later, Palmer fired a six-yard bullet to Michael Floyd for the go-ahead score, 17-13, at the 4:10 mark of the period. By the way, that was the Cardinals’ second sack of the game, and Campbell’s fourth of the season. Kevin Minter dropped Cousins in the first quarter.

All Johnson does is score touchdowns. He found the end zone a second time early in the fourth quarter to once again give the Cardinals the lead, 24-20, at the 11:09 mark. Johnson, this time, caught a screen pass and went 26 yards for the score, dodging several would-be tackles. For Johnson, his 15 total touchdowns are tied for the most in franchise history through 12 games, and just two shy of the franchise record for a season. Also, Johnson has now scored 28 touchdowns in 28 career games, the most in a Cardinals’ players first two seasons.


Though they held the Redskins out of the end zone in the first half, the Cardinals defense did allow a pair of second-quarter field goals (yeah, we’re nit-picking a bit here). Dustin Hopkins hit from 47 and 20 yards; the latter of which pulled them to within one, 7-6, at the 1:52 mark of the period, a quarter where the Redskins outgained the Cardinals, 101-87. Washington had just 29 total first-quarter yards.

Not a great sequence to begin the second half for Cardinals safety Tyvon Branch. Activated off injured reserve earlier in the week and seeing more playing time with Tyrann Mathieu inactive (shoulder), Branch missed a sack and then got beat by DeSean Jackson on a deep ball down the middle of the field for 59 yards. Three plays later, Cousins rushed one yard for a touchdown, giving Washington a 13-10 lead.

After converting once on third down in the first half, the Redskins moved the chains on each of their three third-down opportunities in the third quarter, including twice on what was their second scoring drive of the period. A 3rd-and-5 as well as a 3rd-and-10 were converted, the latter of which was a 26-yard touchdown catch by Jamison Crowder to put Washington back in front, 20-17, at the 1:06 mark.


10-of-16: The Cardinals converted a season-best 62.5 percent of their third down opportunities. The 10 conversions, five in each half, matched a season-high.


“You can’t put your defense back out there. You have to trust your guys,” head coach Bruce Arians said, referring to the fourth-down call with 3:47 left at Arizona’s 34-yard line. “It was a great team effort.”


– Palmer moved ahead of Dan Fouts (43,040) and into 14th place on the NFL’s all-time passing yardage list.

– Johnson ran his streak of consecutive games with 100+ scrimmage yards to 12 games, a franchise record.

– Fitzgerald ran his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 191 games, the third-longest in NFL history.

– Fitzgerald (33 years, 95 days old) became the youngest player in NFL history to gain 1,100 career catches.

– Fitzgerald moved past Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison into third place on the NFL’s all-time receptions list.

– Fitzgerald moved past Andre Johnson (14,185) into 10th place on the NFL’s all-time receiving yardage list.

– Fitzgerald appeared in the 198th game of his career, the third-most in the history of the Cardinals franchise.

– With the victory, the Cardinals have won two straight games against Washington for the first time since ’98.

– With the victory, the Cardinals improved to 6-1 against teams from the NFC East since the arrival of Arians.

– With the victory, the Cardinals improved to 28-9 against teams outside the NFC West division under Arians.

– With the victory, the Cardinals earned their 23rd home win dating back to the beginning of the 2013 season.

– With the victory, Arians earned his 39th win as Cardinals head coach, tied for the third-most in team history.

– The game was played with the stadium roof open for the first time this season and just the 25th time overall.

– Among the Cardinals’ inactives included defensive tackles Olsen Pierre, Robert Nkemdiche and Ed Stinson.


It’s back on the road, where the Cardinals will play three of their final four games of the season.

They’re in Miami—only their sixth-ever road game against the Dolphins—on Sunday, Dec. 11. Kickoff from Hard Rock Stadium is scheduled for 11 a.m. with pregame coverage beginning four hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

This is just the 12th meeting between the two teams.

The Cardinals have won three straight over the Dolphins, including the most recent matchup in 2012, a 24-21 overtime victory at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Cardinals’ last visit to Miami came in 2004.

Overall, the Dolphins lead 8-3 in the all-time series, which dates back to 1972.

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