Running back David Johnson races for his 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown during Sunday's win in Chicago.
CHICAGO – The Cardinals don't want to overload running back David Johnson early in his rookie season, so they've limited his responsibilities for now.
One decision that's all his comes on kickoff returns. When the opening kick floated to Johnson in Sunday's 48-23 win over the Bears, coach Bruce Arians figured touchback because the ball was eight yards deep in the end zone, but didn't have a say. The alternate option worked out much better.
Johnson brought the ball out and patiently waited for his blockers to set a crease. He shot through it, and 108 yards later was
celebrating a score on the opposite end of the field.
"He felt good about the height of the kick, brought it out and took it to the house," Arians said. "God bless him."
Johnson's kickoff return for a touchdown was the first by the Cardinals since LaRod Stephens-Howling did so on Sept. 26, 2010 against the Raiders, and it was the longest play in Cardinals history, surpassing Roy Green's 106-yard kickoff return in 1979.
That wasn't all for him, though. Johnson also finished with five carries for 42 yards, including a 13-yard score with 6:06 remaining in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
That's three touchdowns in two games on a limited snap count for the third-round pick. He clinched last week's win over the Saints with a 55-yard touchdown catch in the waning minutes, so now he's scored on a return, a reception and a rush.
"I'm going to have to definitely sit back and think about everything I've done to help out the team and just soak it in." Johnson said. "Continue to get better, though."
Quarterback Carson Palmer called Johnson "special" and is struck by his graceful running which may look slow from the outside but is extremely effective. Johnson's speed and frame are giving defenders fits.
"He's running so effortlessly, but there's so much power behind each step," Palmer said. "Him back there on kickoff return, those arm tackles aren't going to get him down."
PETERSON PICKS A PASS, RETURNS PUNTS
Cornerback Patrick Peterson continued his stellar start to the season by nabbing an interception in the third quarter. He broke in front of a Marquess Wilson route on and made an easy pick of a Jimmy Clausen pass.
The Cardinals scored on a 28-yard flea-flicker from Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald two plays later to begin the second-half
"I had to catch the first one, because now they're going to start coming like hot cakes," Peterson said. "You've got to catch the ones early in the year."
Peterson was also in on punt return duty several times, taking over full-time after J.J. Nelson injured his shoulder trying to recover his muffed punt.
Arians said he wanted Peterson back to receive that one it but made the decision too late and instead stuck with Nelson. Peterson had one return for six yards and seems to be in the punt return rotation whether Nelson is healthy or not.
"I wasn't expecting to get this many punt returns this early in the season, but I'll take it," Peterson said.
GRESHAM DOWNPLAYS DUST-UP AFTER LOW HIT
Some of the Cardinals were rankled when Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee hit Palmer on the 28-yard touchdown pass to Fitzgerald. McPhee drew a roughing the passer penalty on the play, diving low near Palmer's knees.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham took exception to the hit and stood up for his quarterback after the play, but downplayed it in the postgame locker room.
"It's a brothers league, and at the end of the day (McPhee) is still my brother and we take care of each other," Gresham said. "Maybe it was just in the heat of the moment and there was nothing bad about it. Nothing serious."