Tag Archives: Seattle Seahawks

Arizona Cardinals: No Evidence that David Johnson is a Cyborg

Dec 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) carries the ball after a catch in the first half against the Green Bay Packers at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

One can be forgiven for thinking that Arizona Cardinals third-year running back David Johnson was created in a covert Midwestern lab by some mad genius. Johnson is a chiseled, 6’1”, 225 pound cyborg who rose from the corn fields of Northern Iowa to take his place among the NFL elite.

I have no evidence that Johnson’s a cyborg. It’s just a hunch, and even Cardinals GM Steve Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7 this week, “You wonder if he’s real.” Johnson has the power to run over you, the speed to run around you, and an instinct to burst through just the right crack in the line and then jump-cut to the outside, buckling the knees of would be tacklers and leaving them strewn all over the field. In 2015, Johnson became just the fourth player in NFL history to post 500+ rushing yards, 400+ receiving yards, 500+ kickoff return yards and 13+ TDs in a season, joining greats like Maurice Jones-Drew and Gale Sayers.

Oh, and he only started five games all season.

Johnson is averaging five yards per carry this year and a hefty 13.3 as a receiver. He has rushed for an NFL-high eight TDs in the first six games. He is one of the most elusive backs in the league and even if you can get your hands on him, he’s averaging three yards per carry after first contact.

Scouts didn’t see this coming. Johnson was selected 86th in the 2015 draft out of the University of Northern Iowa. The school enjoys a strong liberal arts tradition, and publishes The North American Review, a celebrated literary magazine whose past contributors include Mark Twain, Henry James, Joseph Conrad and Walt Whitman. The university is not, however, known for producing pro athletes; one could pen the complete list before Usain Bolt breaks the tape in the 100-meter dash.

The well-spoken Johnson made the dean’s list twice, and since being drafted he’s acquired a wife, a house and a dog, and the couple is expecting their first child in late January. He’s doing it all, on and off the field.

The franchise has piled heavy expectations on Johnson this season, and he’s shouldered them with an easy grace. He’s lifted the spirits of Cardinals fans who are still drifting on memories of last year’s aerial circus, with ringleader Carson Palmer spinning floaters and bombs to a skilled and speedy receiving corps that lit up scoreboards all over the league. This season Palmer’s numbers have dipped across the board, and with the exception of Larry Fitzgerald the pass catchers have been hobbled by injuries and under-performance. As a result, Arizona is leaning more heavily on the ground game. Johnson’s out front, carrying the ball and the banner.

Patrick Peterson is one of the toughest shutdown corners in the NFL, and seems to be part man, part beast. Now there’s proof: https://twitter.com/AZCardinals/status/788139269256654848/video/1

The defense swarmed over the NY Jets last Monday night with barbaric urgency. The Cards held the Jets to only 33 yards rushing and a single field goal. That performance and Johnson’s three TDs were more than enough for a solid 28-3 victory. Arizona has won two straight to pull even at 3-3 on the season, righting a foundering ship after a 1-3 start. Arizona is now 10-3 in prime time games under coach Bruce Arians.

Buoyed by their Monday night performance, the Cardinals will play under the lights again tonight when they host rival Seattle in a pivotal division matchup. A Cardinals victory would pull them within a half game of the division lead and extend their winning streak to three. A Seahawks win would give them a 2.5 game margin in the division. The Seahawks boast the league’s #1 defense, and QB Russell Wilson has found his footing after suffering ankle and knee injuries early in the year. He’s hitting on 66% of his passes and Seattle has averaged 30 points in its last three games. Arizona has to find a way to shut down the Seahawks and gut out a win in what may be a low scoring game.

The Cardinals have been a cordial host to Seattle in recent years, allowing the Seahawks to win their last three games in University of Phoenix Stadium. Frustrated cornerback Patrick Peterson was at a loss for words when asked why this week. “Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that question,” he said. Coach Arians offered an explanation: “They beat the s— out of us.”

The players are hell-bent on halting the recent home slide against Seattle, and they’ve drawn a line in the desert sand. The biggest challenge will be to get the running game going, which has been thoroughly squelched in the recent home losses to Seattle.

Maybe David Johnson will somehow run wild against the Seahawks’ punishing defense. If he does and Arizona wins, as far as Johnson’s devotees are concerned he may as well just keep on running to Canton, OH and install himself as the first living exhibit in the NFL Hall of Fame.

He has the talent to get there someday. Why wait?

–  Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Arizona Cardinals: Dancing Under the Stars

The roof will be open Sunday evening at University of Phoenix Stadium. As the desert light dims and the stars wheel forth, Arizona fans will settle in for the premier clash on the NFL schedule as the 7-2 Cardinals host the 8-1 Cincinnati Bengals. It will be the second straight Sunday night contest for Arizona and it’s an opportunity for another prime time statement after the Cards trekked north to dispatch rival Seattle last week.

Arizona led 19-0 at one point and jogged to the locker room up 22-7 at the half. But despite the team underperforming of late Seattle is hostile ground, and the Seahawks have appeared in the last two Super Bowls. They clawed back after intermission and 69,000 fans howled when linebacker Bobby Wagner returned a fumble 22 yards early in the fourth quarter to give Seattle a 29-25 lead. But a cool Carson Palmer promptly led the Cardinals on an 83 yard TD drive, hushing the crowd, and Arizona went on to claim a 39-32 victory and a three game division lead.

Dance Party USA

Seattle enjoys a rich musical history (think Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana), and it seems the Cardinals felt this fertile region was the perfect venue in which to bust out some premium dance moves. Andre Ellington’s game-clinching 48 yard run served as the catalyst.

Backup QB Drew Stanton followed Ellington down the sidelines doing the windmill and some Frank the Tank Rock ’em Sock ’em Robot punches, and he completed the routine with a high-kicking Rockette flourish. It was trending on social media before he hit the showers. Watching the same play and not to be outdone, Carson Palmer broke out some fist pumps and then the camera caught him throwing a pelvic thrust toward the crowd, resulting in an $11,576 fine. Palmer said after the game his reaction was aimed at three friends of his in the stands. Three very special friends, presumably. YouTube viewers can reasonably argue whether Stanton’s or Palmer’s moves were more fine-worthy.

And don’t forget Cardinals receiver John “Smokey” Brown. After a 48 yard touchdown catch last season Brown unleashed an adrenaline-fueled, arm-flailing Harlem Shake maneuver, which appears at the end of a current NFL promo.

Current Matters

With a 7-2 record and a victory grip on the NFC West, the Cardinals and their fans have reason to dance. But coach Bruce Arians is the sort who won’t stop pushing his team to achieve until the Lombardi trophy is locked securely in a case and he’s taken it out and polished it a couple of times. Next up? 8-1 Cincinnati.

The Bengals stumbled last week in a surprising loss to visiting Houston, giving Cincinnati its first blemish of the year. Was Cincinnati exposed or was it a one-off? The evidence points more to an anomaly than a trend. As dynamic as Andy Dalton and the offense have been all year, the defense has held the last three opponents to exactly 10 points each. If it weren’t for the mighty New England Patriots, Cincinnati would be the class of the AFC.

35-year-old Carson Palmer has a history with the Bengals of course, having presided over years of mediocre squads. After suffering through a 4-12 campaign in 2010 and disagreeing with the direction the team was going, Palmer threatened to retire rather than take another snap with the team. This is a little like a two-year-old falling limp at the mall, refusing to walk another step, and swinging like a bag of potatoes when his mom tries to pull him to his feet. But anyone who endured those Bengals teams would find his position right and proper, and it seems Palmer knew his fortunes would improve if he headed west. After a stint with the Raiders, Palmer has found a home in Arizona and he’s leading a team with a shot at the title if everything falls into place.

These are high times for both Cincinnati and Arizona. Cardinals detractors will rightfully point to the alarming fact that Arizona has yet to beat a team with a winning record. But a Cardinals victory tonight would make a statement loud enough to sweep through the Valley of the Sun and perhaps all the way to New England.

Coach Arians might even do the Dougie.

– Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation