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Top Five Plays Of 2015: Offense

Posted Feb 2, 2016

Counting down the most memorable sequences when the Cardinals had the ball


The Cardinals smashed multiple franchise records with their potent offense this season, averaging 30.6 points and 408.3 yards per game. Many plays stood out, but azcardinals.com narrowed it down to the best of the best. Here are our Top 5 Offensive Plays of 2015:

5. SHOVEL PASS BURIES THE PACKERS

The situation: The Cardinals were in a good position, looking at a second-and-goal from the Green Bay 5-yard line in overtime of the NFC Divisional Round. Since it was the first drive, though, they needed a touchdown to avoid giving the Packers the ball back. Enter, Larry Fitzgerald.

The play: Coach Bruce Arians said this one had been practiced all year but had yet to be unveiled. He called it at the perfect time, as quarterback Carson Palmer flipped a left-handed shovel pass to Fitzgerald, who followed his blocks into the end zone. The touchdown ended the game and punched the Cardinals’ ticket into the NFC Championship game.

The aftermath: Fitzgerald was mobbed by his teammates, and the play signified the peak of the Cardinals’ season. It was fitting that Fitzgerald was the one that scored, as he had a monster day and played a key role in the team’s success throughout the season.


4. SPEED KILLS THE BENGALS

The situation: The Cardinals were in a primetime showdown against the Bengals in Week 10, but their high-flying offense had yet to show up. Cincinnati led 14-7 early in the third quarter until one play changed that. Rookie wideout J.J. Nelson was drafted in the fifth round in large part because of his game-altering speed, and he put it on full display.

The play: Nelson split the Bengals’ deep safeties down the middle of the field, and by the time they saw what was happening, he was gone. Palmer lofted a perfect deep pass and Nelson took it 64 yards to the house to knot the score at 14.

The aftermath: It was the start of 21 unanswered points for the Cardinals, and while the Bengals rallied, the Cards held on for a 34-31 victory. It was the back-end of an impressive two-game march, following up the road win in Seattle. These two games showed the league Arizona was a legitimate contender, and Nelson helped kickstart it with the long touchdown reception.


3. AN EXPERT DRAW IN SEATTLE

The situation: The Cardinals led the Seahawks, 32-29, with 2:07 remaining in the fourth quarter and a first down promised to bleed the clock and make a Seattle comeback unlikely. Running back Andre Ellington did more than move the chains.

The play: The Cardinals’ jitterbug was nearly corralled in the backfield, but he navigated his way out on the delayed handoff. The play-call worked to perfection as Ellington easily picked up the first down. From there, he juked Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor and picked up a downfield block from Brittan Golden, resulting in a 48-yard touchdown.

The aftermath: The touchdown gave the Cardinals a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks quickly kicked a field goal, but the memorable victory was wrapped up when Fitzgerald recovered the ensuing onside kick. The victory over the Seahawks put the Cardinals in the driver’s seat for an NFC West title they claimed five weeks later.


2. A RUN THROUGH PHILLY

The situation: The Cardinals eventually routed the Eagles in Week 15, but the first half was competitive. The score was tied at 10 in the second quarter when David Johnson performed the most impressive individual feat of the season.

The play: Johnson took a routine handoff and seemed to be bottled up for a short gain, but he had other ideas. The standout rookie cut upfield and somehow emerged from a cluster still upright. He was far from done, as Johnson then broke four tackles – with some nasty stiff-arms at the end – and tip-toed into the end zone for a 47-yard score.

The aftermath: Johnson’s touchdown kicked off a stretch of 27 straight points for the Cardinals as they pulled away for the easy win. He finished with 29 carries for 187 yards and three touchdowns, proving the loss of injured starter Chris Johnson at running back was not as big of a blow as some feared. The Cardinals clinched the NFC West championship with the victory.


1. HAIL LARRY

The situation: The Cardinals were reeling, as the Packers tied the game on a Hail Mary on the final play of regulation to force overtime in the NFC Divisional Round. However, the Cards won the coin toss and never looked back. Aaron Rodgers had powered a valiant comeback for Green Bay, but Fitzgerald and Palmer made sure he never saw the ball in overtime.

The play: In a clip that has been replayed countless times, both Palmer and Fitzgerald made incredible plays. Palmer was nearly sacked before the play developed, but a nifty spin move and a key shove by right tackle Bobby Massie allowed Palmer to escape the pocket. He scrambled right, and then noticed Fitzgerald by himself all the way across the field. Fitzgerald didn’t just settle for a 30-yard gain after the catch, as he cut hard to the middle of the field, delivered a stiff-arm and didn’t go down until he was 75 yards from the line of scrimmage.

The aftermath: The University of Phoenix Stadium crowd roared after the play, and the Cardinals cashed in on the opportunity. Fitzgerald’s touchdown two snaps later sealed the victory, and memorialized the ‘Hail Larry’ as one of the most distinguishable plays in Cardinals history.


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