Cardinals running back David Johnson stiff-arms Eagles cornerback E.J. Biggers during a 40-17 win Sunday night in Philadelphia.
PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles felt it and then Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said it.
Running back David Johnson might be a rookie, but dealing with him is certainly not child's play.
"The guy's a grown man," Palmer said.
Johnson, who three weeks ago sat third on the depth chart, put together one of the most dominant rushing days in team history in the 40-17 win over the Eagles on Sunday night. He finished with 29 carries for 187 yards and three touchdowns and added four catches for 42 yards.
The rushing total is the fifth-most in franchise history.
"I think I was not thinking too much," said Johnson, who felt he was pressing in last week's win over the Vikings. "Just using my instincts a little bit more just following my blockers – and they did great."
The highlight came in the second quarter as the Cardinals faced a second-and-5 at the Minnesota 47. The game was disjointed for the Cardinals up to that point, who looked like the better team but sat in a 10-10 tie.
Johnson changed that quickly, taking a handoff to the right and emerging from a large contingent of bodies still upright. He shook off multiple tackles and then used a late stiff-arm to make it all the way to the end zone, conjuring up comparisons to Marshawn Lynch's memorable "Beast Quake" runs of the past few years.
"He is very deceptive, fast and powerful and I think the nation got a chance to really see what he is capable of and it was fun to watch," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
Johnson, 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, had the benefit of nice holes paved by the offensive line throughout the night and then shed tackles on his own when needed.
"I know he's a big back, but we did not do a good job tackling tonight," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.
Said Palmer: "He's not a guy you want to tackle 15, 16, 17, 18 times coming down at you."
Coach Bruce Arians said before the game he had a feeling it would be a big night for Johnson, both running the ball and in the passing game. Johnson helped the Cardinals establish the big lead, and consequently, was counted on to keep the clock moving later on.
"We always script it, and if it goes good, I think I'll keep getting handed off," Johnson said. "And if guys keep blocking like they always do, and I keep having a good game, yeah (he will remain a focal point.)"
Johnson took over as the starting running back three games ago following injuries to Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. In that span, he has carried the ball 70 times for 378 yards and three touchdowns and the team has gone 3-0.
He has 12 touchdowns total on the season, which has established a new rookie record for the franchise. There are still two regular season games left and then a playoff run, and the Cardinals aren't just excited about Johnson's on-field excellence but also the way he's handling his burgeoning fame.
"I just like the way he goes about his business," defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said.
Even after such a stellar game, Johnson couldn't help but recount his mistakes on the postgame podium.
"It definitely feels amazing, I just can't get complacent," Johnson said. "I've always got to learn. I know I missed a couple holes, and I know I had a couple of (mental errors), so I've got to continue to get better. The last two games are going to be really big for us."
Johnson's ability to step in seamlessly portends well for the playoffs. While Chris Johnson's injury brought up concerns about the running game, David Johnson has allayed those fears in less than a month.
Palmer was asked if the young running back can be a major component as the team makes its postseason push.
"Did he run for (nearly) 200 yards?" Palmer said. "I mean, I think that answers that question."