FEEL­ING THE HEAT

Red­skins strug­gle to con­tain John­son in loss to Car­di­nals

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOMMY CHALK

Wash­ing­ton Red­skins cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man walks off the field af­ter a 31-23 loss to the Ari­zona Car­di­nals on Sun­day in Glen­dale, Ari­zona. The Red­skins re­main in third place in the NFC East and are los­ing their grip on a play­off spot with the loss.

GLEN­DALE, ARIZ. | In a back-and-forth ef­fort, it was Ari­zona run­ning back David John­son who proved to be the dif­fer­ence maker in the Car­di­nals’ 31-23 win on Sun­day over the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins.

John­son fin­ished the game with 84 yards rush­ing and added an­other 91 re­ceiv­ing. The matchup night­mare — who stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs 225 pounds — was sim­ply too much for the Red­skins to han­dle.

“There’s no talk about play­offs,” a dis­ap­pointed Red­skins coach Jay Gru­den said af­ter the loss, which dropped his team to 6-5-1 — and cur­rently out of the NFC play­off pic­ture. “I don’t like the way we came out. I feel like we un­der­achieved today and that’s frus­trat­ing.”

Sun­day’s loss was Wash­ing­ton’s sec­ond straight and it started much like the Thanks­giv­ing Day game 10 days ear­lier in Dal­las, with a Red­skins op­po­nent tak­ing the open­ing drive me­thod­i­cally down the field for a touch­down.

The Car­di­nals drove 75 yards in 15 plays, push­ing the Red­skins back on their heels. The drive ended on a 1-yard rush by John­son to give the Car­di­nals the 7-0 lead.

The Red­skins’ de­fense stiff­ened, then be­gan to set­tle in, hold­ing the Car­di­nals to just 16 to­tal yards on their next three drives. But the Red­skins’ of­fense couldn’t cap­i­tal­ize on op­por­tu­ni­ties, walk­ing away with just two field goals in the first half.

The sec­ond half turned into a gun­fight, with each team trad­ing touch­down for touch­down. The Red­skins started the half with a 74-yard drive in just five plays. Kirk Cousins found wide re­ceiver DeSean Jackson on a 59-yarder be­fore the Red­skins quar­ter­back him­self pushed the ball into the end zone on a 1-yard keeper. That touch­down gave the Red­skins a brief lead.

Af­ter the Car­di­nals missed a 53-yard field goal at­tempt, Wash­ing­ton got the ball on its own 35. But af­ter just two plays, Cousins was sacked by de­fen­sive tackle Calais Campbell, and the ball fell out of Cousins’ hands. The fum­ble was picked up by line­backer Markus Golden, who re­turned the

ball to the Red­skins’ 10. Car­son Palmer found Michael Floyd for an easy 6-yard touch­down — one of three Palmer touch­down tosses of the day. Palmer fin­ished 30 of 46 for 300 yards.

Af­ter Cousins found wide re­ceiver Jami­son Crow­der on a 26-yard route, Ari­zona and Palmer an­swered with a 25-yard John­son re­cep­tion for a touch­down.

Fol­low­ing a Dustin Hop­kins 53-yard field goal, the Red­skins found them­selves down 24-23 with 5:08 re­main­ing and need­ing a stop. In­stead, the Car­di­nals chipped away at the field and the clock. At 2nd and 10 on the Red­skins’ 42-yard line, Car­di­nals wide re­ceiver J.J. Nelson streaked down the field into the end zone, catch­ing a rain­bow in traf­fic for a touch­down. The catch was re­viewed, but the play stood, giv­ing the Car­di­nals the 31-23 lead.

With less than two min­utes to drive the Red­skins for a touch­down an two­point con­ver­sion to tie the game, Cousins was mov­ing the chains. But af­ter driv­ing the ball to the Car­di­nals’ 28 yard line, the Red­skins quar­ter­back, un­der a fierce Car­di­nals rush, threw an er­rant pass be­hind Crow­der. Car­di­nals cor­ner­back Pa­trick Peter­son stole the boll to seal the game.

Cousins fin­ished with 271 yards,

end­ing his two-game streak of at least 375 pass­ing yards. Cousins went 21 of 37 passes, ad­ding a touch­down pass and an in­ter­cep­tion.

With tight end Jor­dan Reed out with a shoul­der in­jury, wide re­ceiver Pierre Garçon as­sumed the role of Cousins’ most tar­geted re­ceiver, see­ing the ball nine times. Garçon ended with 7 catches for 78 yards, lead­ing Red­skins re­ceivers in all cat­e­gories.

De­spite get­ting just a sin­gle carry in the first quar­ter, run­ning back Robert Kel­ley fin­ished the game with 14 car­ries for 63 yards.

John­son and wide re­ceiver Larry Fitzger­ald com­bined for 253 of the Car­di­nals’ 370 of­fen­sive yards. With his 10 re­cep­tions, Fitzger­ald passed wide re­ceivers Chris Carter and Marvin Har­ri­son for the third-most re­cep­tions all­time, with 1,106.

“They’re great play­ers,” Red­skins line­backer Will Comp­ton said. “Fitz will be a Hall of Famer, and, I mean, John­son’s a heck of a player too. We got to be able to un­der­stand bet­ter how we’re get­ting at­tacked and what’s go­ing to hap­pen once we give them this lever­age and we’ve got to work off of that. We just have to play bet­ter.”

De­fen­sive back Duke Ihenacho and Comp­ton led all Red­skins in tack­les, with six each. De­fen­sive end Trent Mur­phy and line­backer Ryan Ker­ri­gan each recorded a sack each.

At 6-5-1. the Red­skins re­main in third place in the NFC East thanks to a Philadel­phia Ea­gles’ loss ear­lier Sun­day. But a Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers’ win over the San Diego Charg­ers cost the Red­skins their grip on the sec­ond wild card spot in the NFC play­offs.

“We just got to ex­e­cute,” Red­skins cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man said. “It’s on us.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ari­zona Car­di­nals run­ning back David John­son runs past Wash­ing­ton Red­skins cor­ner­back Ken­dall Fuller and safety Duke Ihenacho on a 25-yard touch­down in the fourth quar­ter on Sun­day. Ari­zona won, 31-23.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Red­skins wide re­ceiver Jami­son Crow­der runs on a 26-yard touch­down re­cep­tion in the third quar­ter of Sun­day’s 31-23 loss to the Ari­zona Car­di­nals.

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