The Cardinals' offense wasn't as explosive as a year ago, but it still finished No. 9 in the NFL in total offense and featured plenty of fireworks. With the season wrapped up, we've pared it down to the best of the best. Here are the picks for the Top Five Offensive Plays of the Year.
*5. THE BOUNCE AND STRETCH TOUCHDOWN *
The situation: The Cardinals were reeling after quarterback Carson Palmer threw an interception that Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes returned 100 yards for a touchdown during a Week 11 game in Minnesota. The Vikings had all the momentum at that point, but tight end Jermaine Gresham flipped it back heading into halftime.
The play:Gresham has proven himself as a yards-after-the-catch beast, and showed it here. He lowered his shoulder and broke the attempted tackle by safety Andrew Sendejo before stretching out his 6-foot-5 frame to reach the ball over the goal-line before his knee touched the ground.
The aftermath: The score brought the Cardinals to within 20-17 at intermission. However, Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff of the second half 104 yards for a touchdown, as Minnesota's big plays helped render Gresham's impressive performance moot in the Cardinals' 30-24 loss.
4. THE ONE-SHOE WILDCAT
The situation: The Cardinals were, for all intents and purposes, eliminated from playoff contention the week prior, and there were concerns they could lack motivation in Week 15 loss against the Saints. That was quickly quelled with an opening drive which moved the ball efficiently and was capped by a Kerwynn Williams touchdown.
The play:The Cardinals' backup running back took the direct snap in the Wildcat formation, read New Orleans' defensive end and kept the ball instead of handing it off to David Johnson. With the help of blocks, he sliced through a crease and took the ball 49 yards to the house, losing his shoe in the process.
The aftermath: It was the first strike in an entertaining back-and-forth game, but in the end New Orleans made more plays. The Saints won, 48-41, leaving the Cardinals in despair with a 5-8-1 record.
3. OVER THE SHOULDER FOR NO. 100
The situation: The Cardinals played a see-saw affair with the Patriots in Week 1. New England led 20-14 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but the offense had the ball at the 2-yard-line, looking for the lead.
The play:Palmer lofted the ball to the corner of the end zone, where Larry Fitzgerald would need to make a spectacular diving grab to haul it in. Not a problem for Fitz, who located the ball over his shoulder and secured it while keeping his body in bounds.
The aftermath: It was the 100th career touchdown catch in Fitzgerald's prestigious career, and one with a high degree of difficulty. The Cardinals went ahead 21-20 with the touchdown, but the Patriots scored a field goal later in the quarter to escape with a 23-21 victory.
2. THE DEEP BOMB IN SEATTLE
The situation: The Cardinals were heavy underdogs when they traveled to Seattle, but had a 7-0 lead late in the second quarter. The Seahawks were missing key Legion of Boom safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor at this point in the game, and Palmer took advantage.
The play:Speedster J.J. Nelson ran a post route and got behind the inexperienced defensive backs in the Seattle secondary. Palmer saw it, slid right in the pocket and unleashed a beautiful throw to hit Nelson in stride. Nelson shook off an arm tackle and cruised into the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown.
The aftermath: It was the longest touchdown the Seahawks had ever given up at CenturyLink field and set the tone for the day. The Cardinals led for the vast majority of the game and secured a 34-31 upset on a Chandler Catanzaro field goal as time expired.
1. JUKING THE JETS
The situation: The Cardinals didn't score in the first quarter of their first five games, and the pattern held on their first possession against the Jets. A simple run play didn't seem likely to change that, but Johnson had other ideas.
The play:The Cardinals' star running back found a big hole, then used a stutter step and his underrated acceleration to zoom away from the Jets defense. Guard Earl Watford had a big role in the play, blocking four defenders to help spring Johnson for the 58-yard score.
The aftermath: The Jets were struggling heading into the game, and the long run helped take the wind out of their sails. The Cardinals never trailed and cruised to a 28-3 win. It was yet another instance of Johnson displaying his dominance, which went on all season.