Cardinals thwart late rally by Ravens
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Chris Johnson rolled to victory. His Arizona Cardinals had to hold on to win.
Johnson rushed for 122 yards, 62 on a play where he rolled over the belly of a big defender and kept on running to set up a field goal, and the Cardinals held on to beat the luckless Baltimore Ravens 26-18 on Monday night.
Baltimore (1-6) drove to the 4 in the final seconds before Tony Jefferson’s interception deep in the end zone clinched the victory for NFC West-leading Arizona (5-2).
”A lot of things happened during the game,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. ”Good, bad and one ugly one, but we finished and made a great play at the end.”
Arizona led 26-10 before Asa Jackson’s blocked a punt to set up Joe Flacco’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Juszczyk. The 2-point conversion pass to Nick Boyle made it an eight-point game with 4:26 to play.
Baltimore got the ball back and Flacco quickly moved the team downfield before the final ill-fated throw.
”The punt block and all of a sudden you let them in,” Arizona’s Carson Palmer said, ”but that’s what you want on `Monday Night Football.’ We made it a game at the end.”
Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens had trouble with the communications system throughout the game, particularly in the final drive.
”The phones were going out so he couldn’t hear (offensive coordinator) Marc (Trestman),” Harbaugh said. ”I don’t know why the phones were going out on that drive but they went out on that drive. Mark had to yell, we couldn’t get the personnel groups, all those things are really challenging when the phones are out.”
Baltimore moved the ball just fine despite those issues, just not enough. The eight-point loss was the most one-sided of the season for the Ravens.
”Any time you lose it hits you in the gut,” Baltimore’s Justin Forsett said. ”But we’ve been fighting. We just have to keep fighting.”
Johnson also ran 26 yards for a touchdown. The 30-year-old running back, signed late in training camp after recovering from a gunshot wound during the offseason, topped 100 yards for the third time this season and didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. The last Arizona player to do that was Edgerrin James in 2007.
Palmer completed 20 of 29 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco was 26 for 40 for 252 yards, with a touchdown and that one interception. Forsett had a 14-yard touchdown run, but finished with only 36 yards in 12 carries.
A 26-10 lead seemed comfortable before Bryant burst up the middle to block Drew Butler’s punt to set up the final Ravens touchdown.
The play of the night came in the third quarter, when Johnson hit the line and was pulled down, but he came to rest on the belly of 6-foot-1, 335-pound Brandon Williams. Johnson’s knee or elbow didn’t touch, so he alertly got up and kept running to the 4. Johnson said he’d never been part of a play like that.
”Basically, you just keep playing until the whistle,” Johnson said. ”That is something Arians teaches us, we always have to play to the whistle and have to finish. That is something you learn coming up from little league: Keep playing until the whistle blows.”
The play set up Chandler Catanzaro’s second 21-yard field goal, making it a two-possession game at 20-10.
After Arizona scored again, Catanzaro’s try for the conversion bounced off the right upright and was no good, setting the stage for the tight finish.
The only turnover of night, before Jefferson’s interception, led to a touchdown that put the Cardinals up 14-10 at the half and Arizona never trailed again.
Justin Bethel, a Pro Bowl player on special teams the last two years, stripped the ball from punt returner Jeremy Ross’ hands and recovered at the Ravens 25. Penalties gave Arizona a series of chances inside the 5 and, finally, Palmer threw 3 yards to Michael Floyd for the score to put Arizona up 10-7 with 1:01 left in the half.
Notes: Dwight Freeney got his first sack as a Cardinal. … Arizona cornerback Jerraud Powers left the game with a hamstring injury in the first half. … Baltimore players who left the game: cornerback Tray Walker (concussion), guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele (knee) and wide receiver Marlon Brown (shoulder). … Arizona’s Tyrann Mathieu had his first sack of the season, one of a total of seven tackles, three for loss, a quarterback hit and a pass defensed.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL