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David Johnson Re-Emerges In Cardinals Offense

Running back catches a touchdown in fourth quarter to cap efficient day

RB David Johnson celebrates his touchdown reception against the Steelers.
RB David Johnson celebrates his touchdown reception against the Steelers.

There is only one football, of course, and that means every time David Johnson has it in his hands for the Cardinals, Kenyan Drake does not.

But that doesn't mean the team's running backs are rooting for the other's demise. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Johnson had a nice bounceback game in Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Steelers, carrying the ball three times for 19 yards while adding a pair of receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown.

After his 24-yard fourth-quarter score, Johnson jumped into the front row of State Farm Stadium, and upon his return to the field, one of the first players to congratulate him was Drake.

"It's all about making plays, no matter how Coach (Kliff Kingsbury) draws them up, whether it's all three of us in the backfield, one of us in the backfield, two of us in whatever capacity," Drake said. "I mean, we all want to go out there and win games. We're all very unselfish players. When someone gets their chance to shine and they make a play, we're happy for them. And vice-versa. We just want to continue to put it all together."

Johnson has taken a back seat in the running back rotation since Drake was acquired from the Dolphins in a midseason trade. Drake was again used more often against Pittsburgh – gaining 67 yards on 14 touches -- but Johnson had a larger role than in previous weeks.

He had the five touches and was on the field often, either as the only back, with Drake in two-back sets, or even in three-back looks with Chase Edmonds also on the field.

Johnson's touchdown – in which Kyler Murray slipped the throw past the outstretched fingertips of Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds – was his first since the Week 6 win over the Falcons.

"It felt good to get involved and get in the end zone, but at the end of the day, we still lost, so it doesn't feel too good after," Johnson said.

Edmonds didn't play on offense last week but did have a small role against the Steelers. He was targeted twice in the passing game, drawing a holding penalty on one leak out but dropping a screen pass later in the game. Edmonds also carried the ball once for nine yards on a fake punt.

The screen pass was one of several plays in which the Cardinals used all three running backs at the same time.

"It makes it tough for defenses to really know what we're doing," Johnson said. "We can run out of it. We can pass out of it. We can do a lot of different things out of it. Hopefully we'll continue to do that."

With the scoring reception through the air, Johnson became the fifth player in NFL history to amass at least 30 rushing touchdowns and 15 receiving touchdowns in the first five seasons of his career.

It is a reminder of Johnson's former dominance, and, if Drake is right, a foreshadowing of more future success.

"Look, he's been there and done that," Drake said. "He knows what he's capable of. He's done a lot of great things in his career and has a ton more to accomplish in his career. I'm happy for him."

Images from the Week 14 matchup against Pittsburgh at State Farm Stadium