"All or Nothing," the groundbreaking series which followed the Cardinals from the start of the 2015 season through the NFC Championship game, is currently streaming on Amazon. NFL Films was given unprecedented access into both the professional and personal lives of the team's players, coaches and executives, resulting in thousands of hours of footage and eight one-hour episodes.
NOTE:* *SPOILERS AHEAD.
EPISODE FIVE: "DECEMBER FOOTBALL"
Episode Summary: The episode begins with the reality that running back Chris Johnson must go on injured reserve, only to return if the Cardinals make the Super Bowl, and with Andre Ellington also down, the running game falls to rookie David Johnson. It works out fine, with Johnson dominating in St. Louis to earn team president Michael Bidwill a sideline Gatorade shower on Bidwill's birthday, courtesy of Larry Fitzgerald. We get to hear from veteran center Lyle Sendlein, who is once again an anchor on the offensive line despite being signed halfway through training camp. We also hear from his father Robin, who also played in the NFL.
The Cards come back four days after the Rams win by beating the Vikings on Thursday night, thanks to more solid David Johnson play, Fitzgerald blocking and a dramatic strip-sack by Dwight Freeney. Those are among the film clips we see GM Steve Keim and VP of player personnel Terry McDonough watching the next morning.
Christmas-time brings fun (Arians' Christmas party and Calais Campbell's shopping spree for needy kids) and some hard news (a reminder that Bidwill's dog Reilly has terminal cancer and her liver is failing.) Patrick Peterson loses the bucket toss, meaning he has to dress up like Buddy the Elf on the plane ride to Philly. QB Carson Palmer shakes off an ugly dislocated finger on his throwing hand to help beat up the Eagles, but safety Tyrann Mathieu crumples to the turf near the end of the win, casting a pall on an NFC West title.
Most Riveting Scene: It comes at the end of the episode, when the blowout win in Philadelphia to win the division turns sideways as Mathieu lands after an interception and hurts his knee. We know now it was an ACL tear, but in the moment, there was only dread that it was the probable outcome – you hear injured safety Rashad Johnson tell Arians "he thought he heard it pop."
Something We Learned: Larry Fitzgerald, always proper in front of the cameras and also in games when talking to opponents, indeed can dig down for the proper terminology to inspire. The wide receiver's plea to teammates as they prepared to take the field in St. Louis to start December, remembering the Cards' 2014 December swoon: "December football, let's remember what happened last year and make sure history does not repeat itself," Fitzgerald implores. "We control that. We control our own (expletive) destiny, man."
Star of the Episode: David Johnson. After the Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington injuries, the Cardinals turned to their rookie running back, and he didn't disappoint in running through both the Rams and Eagles. The upcoming wedding to fiancée Meghan Brock just has to stay on the backburner for now.
Line of the Episode: "You can't practice soft and play hard. You (practice) hard, so when you show up on Thursday night, you have faith. If you ain't got no faith in yourself, you can't get it from another man." – DL coach Brentson Buckner, in a meeting before the Vikings game.
What was your favorite part of "December Football?" Leave your reaction in the comments below.
Behind the scene images as the Cardinals cheerleaders prepare for the season.