ARIZONA CARDINALS

Keim Time: Big-time players stepped up and made plays in win over Redskins

Dec 5, 2016, 10:23 AM | Updated: 3:44 pm
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) is hit by Washington Redskins defensive end T...
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) is hit by Washington Redskins defensive end Trent Murphy (93) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (26) 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)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Cardinals general manager

On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals kept their slim playoff hopes a live with a 31-23 victory over the Washington Redskins.

The win was reminiscent of last year’s Cardinals, with Arizona forcing a couple of turnovers (including a Patrick Peterson pick that sealed the game) while using aggressive play-calling to pile up some points.

As he does every Monday, Cardinals GM Steve Keim joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM to talk about the game and his team going forward.

What do you think of when you think of Sunday’s game?

“I think that in general, what we’ve talked about the last several weeks in losses is your big-time players stepping up and making plays, and yesterday I thought Carson (Palmer) played exceptional; I thought our offensive line played well — collectively as a unit, maybe one of the better games they’ve played — and then guys like Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell, J.J. Nelson; guys stepped up and made the plays when they had to. And David Johnson continues to be a player that just, every time he does things, it’s amazing to me, just the way he catches the ball out of the backfield, the ability to make cuts in space, make players miss — he’s just, the sky’s the limit for that young man.”

What were you thinking on the 4th and 1 play in the fourth quarter where Bruce Arians decided to go for it?

“Give a lot of credit to our head coach, because the one thing about him is he’s willing to take risks, and I think he showed the confidence in our team and I think they rewarded him. It was a play that D.J. Humphries, who played exceptional yesterday, and Jermaine Gresham, came off the ball, created movement, gave David a lane, and if it wasn’t for getting tripped up, David could have certainly taken it to the house.”

Are you saying nobody in your booth questioned that decision?

“I don’t think so. Between Michael (Bidwill) and myself, we have a tremendous amount of confidence in Bruce and the decisions he makes, and that’s why we’ve had the success we’ve had the last several years is his ability to take risks and have confidence in them. The way we were running the football and the way our offensive line was blocking, I think it was the right call. It’s easy to second-guess things the day after, especially when it doesn’t work, but he certainly looked like a genius in that situation.”

Why are you not afraid of placing high expectations on David Johnson?

“I think it’s because I know the player and the person. The one thing about the person is he’s an unbelievable young man. His work ethic, his humility, and then I’ve been doing this long enough to know players and their skill set, and just I haven’t seen a whole lot of backs that can do what he does from an athleticism standpoint. The mismatches he creates in the passing game — he continues to grow and get better as a natural runner with his patience, his lateral cut ability, the way he sets up blocks. He continues to grow — Stump Mitchell has done a fantastic job with him — and there’s no question in my mind that he’s one of the better running backs in the NFL.”

Do you think Johnson is in a class by himself?

“I think when you take that ability to be a three-down back, I think so. Again, there’s a lot of talented backs in the National Football League, I don’t want to take anything away from them, but what David does down in and down out, again, putting pressure on defenses in the passing game like he does and the way he catches the ball so smoothly out of the backfield. He makes tough catches look routine. I think to some degree we’re getting spoiled because every week he does something that wows you.

What were you thinking when you heard your players held a meeting?

“I like it because it shows me they care and there’s an accountability factor. That’s the one thing, we’re all disappointed with the way the season has gone so far and our expectations were high, and that’s the way they should be, that’s the way that we want them here. So to show that it means something to these players, the fact that we haven’t played well as a team, for the most part, this season, and to come out when you face adversity to fight and to not give up — the way we played yesterday, I thought we played extremely physical on both sides of the ball. Again, I thought Carson was exceptional — some of the throws he made were fantastic — his arm to me looked as live as it looked yesterday in a long time. And again, our playmakers stepped up and made plays. That’s all you can ask for. After watching the Redskins all week, they have an explosive offense, I think that they’re a pretty good football team and Jay Gruden’s done a nice job, I have a lot of respect for Sean McVay, their offensive coordinator and crew, and there’s no doubt Kirk Cousins has played good football this year.”

You said Palmer’s arm looked great, has that ever been a concern this year?

“I wouldn’t say it’s as much a concern, but just again, some of the balls that he threw yesterday, the velocity and the placement that he had on them, and some of the things he did in the pocket where he escaped pressure was excellent. Again, I give a lot of credit to our offensive line. D.J. was, again, I thought he played excellent, playing very well on the left side. A guy that we haven’t talked much about, Ulrick John, who we signed from Miami’s practice squad — he has some strength deficiencies right now because he’s a young player, but what he does athletically with his sets and his feet and his movement, he jumped out at me as a guy who’s really doing some good things and I give a lot of credit to Terry McDonough and Quentin Harris and all of our pro scouts for finding him.”

How big was it that Michael Floyd came through with a touchdown catch the way that he did?

“I think that a play like that not only energized the sideline, the crowd, and hopefully it gave Mike a little confidence for a guy who has went through some struggles this year. Hopefully we can depend on him the last four games of the season.”

Where do you stand with regards to Drew Butler at punter?

“Not satisfied at all. Like any other position, there are expectations and that spot right now, we’re not living up to expectations. It’s a results-based business and if you’re not getting the job done, we’ll look and see if there’s somebody who can, and that’s the tough part of it. You’re in some critical situations and it’s not like we have a backup punter that you can put in if a guy’s having a rough day. We’ll certainly talk about that today and see where it goes moving forward.”

What did you think of how the secondary played without Tyrann Mathieu?

“I thought they played solid. A tough task because they do have some weapons with DeSean (Jackson) and Pierre Garcon and those guys, Jamison Crowder’s become a very good player in the slot. Just on that touchdown where they had Crowder, it was a pressure and we just didn’t get there. A team like that will make you pay. For the most part, I thought we played well enough to win. And again, physical. Those guys are communicating much better than they have earlier in the season, so we’re starting to mesh and come together and get excited for the challenges ahead.”

Are you a scoreboard watcher or do you remain focused on your team only?

“Just focused on our team, really. People talk about playoffs or controlling destiny — we just wanted a win. That’s where we are as an organization moving forward this week. Miami’s next up, so hopefully we can go on the road and put another W on the board.”

Health-wise, how did you come out of Sunday’s win?

“Actually really good. I think a few bumps and bruises, as always, but there’s nothing to report at this time. John Brown made it through with limited action and it just seems like, for the most part, based on last night’s information, we made it through pretty clean.”

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Keim Time: Big-time players stepped up and made plays in win over Redskins