The top five defensive plays of the season were unveiled on Wednesday. Here are our choices for the five best offensive plays of the Cardinals' 2013 regular season. They are in no particular order, but we have ranked them in the video at the end of the article.
The rundown: Seahawks 10, Cardinals 9, 6:13 remaining fourth quarter. Cardinals with 3rd-and-3 from their 27.
The situation:The offense had blown chances throughout the game, and despite a dominant showing by the defense, the Cardinals found themselves one failed third down away from another unsuccessful possession as time ticked down.
The play:Carson Palmer, already one of the more immobile quarterbacks in the NFL, was dealing with a gimpy ankle but still bolted out of the pocket after feeling pressure. He scrambled to his right, and with defensive tackle Clinton McDonald bearing down, flipped the ball to tight end Jake Ballard in traffic for a 17-yard gain.
The aftermath:The crucial conversion got the ball near midfield, and the Cardinals would cap the drive with a touchdown to pull off the upset of the Seahawks. It was an unlikely sequence, with a pocket passer throwing on the run to a midseason addition, but it was a huge lift for the offense.
RUNNING WITH THE OPPORTUNITY
The rundown: Cardinals 7, Falcons 6, 7:38 remaining second quarter. Cardinals with a 1st-and-10 from their 20.
The situation:At this point, the Cardinals were 3-4 on the season and still struggling offensively. Starting running back Rashard Mendenhall missed the game with a toe injury, putting the onus on promising rookie backup Andre Ellington.
The play:The play design sent Ellington up the middle, but he made a fabulous jump-cut to his left to avoid Falcons nose tackle Corey Peters. No one would touch him again before he reached the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown. Wide receiver Michael Floyd did a great job of blocking three different Falcons on the play.
The aftermath:The boost from Ellington helped the Cardinals to an easy win, and they would go on to play like one of the NFL's best teams the rest of the year. Ellington finished the game with 15 carries for 154 yards, establishing himself as the most electric player on the offense. He led the NFL in yards per carry in 2013, highlighted by this run.
The rundown: Seahawks 10, Cardinals 9, 2:21 remaining fourth quarter. Cardinals with 3rd-and-6 from the Seahawks' 31.
The situation: The Cardinals had answered Seattle's go-ahead touchdown with a nice drive, and were in range for a long field goal attempt by Jay Feely, though a third-down conversion would still be a huge pickup.
The play:The Seahawks blitzed seven, but the offensive line held up and gave quarterback Carson Palmer a nice pocket. He threw an all-or-nothing pass down the left sideline to Michael Floyd, who had been held without a catch up to that point. Floyd created just enough separation in 1-on-1 against Byron Maxwell, momentarily bobbled the ball and then hauled it in for the 31-yard touchdown.
The aftermath:The touchdown and a subsequent two-point conversion were the final points in the Cardinals' memorable victory in Seattle. It staved off playoff elimination and gave the Seahawks their only loss at home in the past two years. Palmer had thrown four interceptions to that point but lofted a perfect ball to Floyd, who made a tremendous catch.
NO PAIN, NO GAIN
The rundown:Cardinals 7, Colts 3, 13:35 left in the second quarter. Cardinals with 1st-and-10 from the Indianapolis 26.
The situation: Long-developing plays had not been the Cardinals' strength earlier in the year, but quarterback Carson Palmer took a shot at one to star receiver Larry Fitzgerald early in a close game.
The play:As Palmer dropped back, Colts inside linebacker Kelvin Shepard came on a delayed blitz and got a clean shot. Despite a pump-fake, Palmer was still able to get the throw off in the nick of time, finding Fitzgerald in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown. Fitzgerald used a double move to create separation from double coverage.
The aftermath:It was the second touchdown connection of the day between Palmer and Fitzgerald, and it illustrated the continued strides the offense made in the second half of the season. The Cardinals won the game easily, 40-11.
SHOULDERING THE LOAD
The rundown: Cardinals 17, Jaguars 14, 7:48 left third quarter. Cardinals with 3rd-and-10 from their 9.
The situation:The Cardinals had won two straight games but were struggling to put away a one-win Jaguars team on the road.
The play:It was a dangerous spot for the Cardinals deep in their own territory, but Carson Palmer found Michael Floyd in stride for the first down. Floyd wasn't done, as he shook off three tackles, turned 360 degrees and then raced to the end-zone for a back-breaking 91-yard score.
The aftermath:Floyd nearly missed the game because of an injured shoulder, but toughed it out at practice that week and in the game. He finished the contest with six catches for 193 yards and really excelled down the stretch, reaching the potential pegged of him as a first-round pick from 2012.
Here is how we ranked the top five offensive plays of the 2013 season: