The past several years in football have supposedly been all about the return of the passing game. Both in the fantasy world and real-world, even top-tier running backs just aren’t the commodity they used to be when you have quarterbacks regularly passing for 300 yards and slot receivers catching a dozen balls a game. NFL GM’s know it too, often willing to rotate running backs in platoons.
But this year, Arizona’s David Johnson is trying to bring back the days of LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk by giving the Cardinals the best of both worlds as a running and receiving threat.
Johnson tallied 84 yards on the ground, 91 yards in the air and two scores in the Cardinals 31-23 victory over Washington on Sunday to continue his streak of totaling 100+ yards in all 12 games this season. You want consistency? It’s hard to get more consistent than that, especially from a former third-round pick out of Northern Iowa.
The only down side for Johnson is that his Cardinals aren’t doing more around him this season. At only 24 years old and in his second season, Johnson is well on his way to earning that all-so-important second contract, but in the meantime, Arizona is wasting away the opportunity to have a running back like him on a rookie deal.
After making the NFC Championship just last year and being picked by many as a Super Bowl favorite before this season, Arizona has struggled to a 5-6-1 record. They’re scoring a touchdown less per game this season, due in large part to offensive line struggles and the ongoing health issues of John Brown, who was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2015.
Plenty has gone wrong for the Cardinals this year, but Johnson sure ain’t one of them. And despite their losing record, they’re firming in the Wild Card mix, so if they can keep riding Johnson through their final four games, Arizona could still sneak into the postseason. It’ll be tough sledding though, with three road games including matchups against the Seahawks in Seattle and a trip to Miami against the resurgent Dolphins.
Other Week 12 Winners
Jordan Howard: Speaking of running backs exceeding their rookie deals, Jordan Howard has taken the injury to Jeremy Langford and, well, run with it. In a game that you would be totally excused from watching between the 2-9 Bears and the 1-10 San Francisco 49ers, Howard took advantage of the weather (snow football!) and the opponent (49ers!) and ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns:
Howard had only two touchdowns entering the game, but has surpassed 75 yards in every game since Halloween and is averaging five yards a carry. The Bears have a lot of problems, sure, but apparently they’ve done quite well drafting running backs the past two years.
Joe Flacco: Is Joe Flacco an elite QB? I don’t know, does 381 yards and four touchdowns answer your question? While the Miami Dolphins’ defense isn’t particularly known for their secondary, the front four are supposed to get enough pressure to rattle and scramble opposing QBs. But Flacco had a clean pocket all afternoon and the Phins paid dearly.
Dallas Cowboys: America’s Team became the first to clinch their playoff spot with their win against the Vikings on Thursday (their 11th in a row!) and the Redskins’ loss to the Cardinals, meaning the team you love-to-hate-but-love-to-watch is right on schedule for a playoff injury to Dak Prescott culminating in a Tony Romo appearance in which he screws up a hol–you know what? This is about winning the NFL weekend, not losing it, so let’s just give the Cowboys their congratulations and say we’ll see you in January.
The NFL: Yes, it is probably a bit cliche to say the NFL “won the NFL.” But for once, for once, the league allowed their players to express themselves through the “My Cause, My Cleats” promotion, and you have to agree it did a lot of good on the PR front. By allowing the players to express themselves both in design and promote charitable causes, the Shield was really turning an edge from their normal no-fun-league attitude, and I hope they took some notes on how well received it was. Some of the better ones we saw:
If Goodell was a smart man, he’d realize that letting players express themselves makes things a lot more fun and tell the refs to stop throwing so many flags on end zone celebrations, but he’s not. So we’ll just have to enjoy days like this one when we can.