ESPN’s Lisa Salters gave a sideline report Monday detailing Chris Johnson’s recovery from a bullet wound he suffered in a drive-by shooting this past offseason. The bullet remains in his shoulder while the nerve damage was so severe that Johnson lost the feeling in his hand for several months after the attack.
Today, Johnson is the NFL’s second-leading rusher behind Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. He pushed his season total to 567 yards Monday with 122 yards on 18 carries in a thrilling 26-18 win over the Ravens.
Funny how life works isn’t it? Johnson, who is one of the more senior running backs in the league at age 30, was lucky to even find work this offseason. He finally caught on with the Cardinals in mid-August after a long period of unemployment. Arizona saw him as an insurance policy for Andre Ellington and a veteran presence who could bring out the best in rookie David Johnson. The door opened just a smidge for Johnson when Ellington went out with a PCL injury in Week 1. Johnson (Chris, not David) took the opportunity and ran with it—literally.
Johnson scored the Cardinals’ first points Monday with a breathtaking 26-yard touchdown that included no fewer than three missed tackles. Amazingly, that wasn’t even his longest run of the day. That came later on a play that was met with controversy. Brandon Williams appeared to have Johnson wrapped up at the 30-yard line but Johnson’s knee never touched the ground. Johnson kept going and took it 62 yards, setting the Cardinals up with a first-and-goal at the eight-yard line.
The Ravens kept it interesting with a late fourth-quarter rally. Trailing 26-10 with 4:40 remaining, Asa Jackson got a hand on Drew Butler’s punt. Raheem Mostert recovered it at the one-yard line, setting up an easy touchdown for fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Crockett Gillmore jumped early on the two-point conversion attempt but Nick Boyle scored a play later, cutting the deficit to eight. Chandler Catanzaro had missed the extra point on the Cardinals’ last touchdown.
Carson Palmer suffered a mental lapse on Arizona’s next possession, throwing an incompletion that was flagged for intentional grounding. Arizona would have to punt, giving Baltimore the ball back with a chance to tie it. The Ravens marched down the field, pushing all the way to the four-yard line. Against a heavy blitz on second-and-goal, Joe Flacco floated a pass to the back of the end zone. Tony Jefferson swooped in for the game-clinching interception with six seconds left.
The Ravens are now 1-6 and will need a miracle to reach the postseason. Meanwhile the Cardinals are 5-2 with a comfortable game-and-a-half lead over the Rams in the NFC West. With another inviting matchup on tap Sunday against Cleveland, the Cardinals will have an excellent chance to stretch their record to 6-2 heading into the bye week. After that they’ll play the Seahawks, a team they lost to twice last season.
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The Hardy Problem
We’re two games into the Greg Hardy Era in Dallas and things are already getting ugly. Hardy, who has not once shown any sign of remorse in the wake of his domestic violence scandal, was up to his usual tricks Sunday against the Giants.
It all began when Hardy stormed into the special teams huddle after Dwayne Harris put the Giants ahead with a kickoff return for a touchdown. Hardy approached special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and promptly knocked the clipboard out of his hand. After some pushing and shoving, injured Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant confronted Hardy, leading to another heated exchange. Instead of owning up to his unchecked aggression after the game, Hardy was incredibly rude to a group of reporters huddled around his locker, offering a hostile “No comment” to each question.
For some players, this chain of events would be enough to get you kicked off the team. But in Dallas, that’s called leadership. “He’s, of course, one of the real leaders on this team and he earns it and he earns it with respect from all of his teammates and that’s the kind of thing that inspires a football team,” said owner Jerry Jones after Hardy’s latest meltdown.
Jones sure knows how to pick ‘em. When no one took the bait on Randy Gregory after his failed drug test, the Cowboys drafted him late in the second round. Coming out of college, Dez Bryant didn’t have the cleanest track record either. Before that, Jones took a chance on famous locker room headache Terrell Owens. There’s no limit to how much baggage the Cowboys will take on as long as it improves their on-field product.
That hasn’t been the case so far with Hardy—the Cowboys have lost both games he’s played in—but the former Carolina Panther has certainly made his presence felt. He terrorized Tom Brady in Week 5 and was just as ruthless to Eli Manning on Sunday. With three sacks, eight tackles and a forced fumble in his first two games, Hardy already owns PFF’s 15th highest grade among 4-3 defensive ends. That’s out of 80 qualifiers. The Cowboys have allowed an average of 322.5 yards per game since Hardy’s debut, down from 347.75 in their first four contests.
We’ll see if Hardy can hold it together Sunday against Seattle.
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Quick Hits: The Lions fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi after Sunday’s loss to Minnesota. Offensive line coaches Terry Heffernan and Jeremiah Washburn were also let go. The Lions are 1-6 this year … Chargers beat writer Michael Gehlken “wouldn’t be surprised” if Antonio Gates missed multiple games with his sprained MCL. Gates could be headed for an MRI later this week … Joseph Randle is dealing with an oblique injury. He was limited to six snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Giants … Jason Garrett said Darren McFadden has “absolutely” earned more work in the Cowboys’ backfield. It would be hard to get more than the 31 touches he logged in Week 7 … Emmanuel Sanders returned to practice on Monday. He sprained his AC joint before the Broncos went on bye … Davante Adams is expected to play this week. He’s missed the Packers’ last three games with a sprained ankle … Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt has no plans to increase Dorial Green-Beckham’s role. He said: “the more things you put on his plate, the harder it is for him to play fast” … Marcus Mariota will test out his knee on Tuesday. Zach Mettenberger started in his place Sunday against the Falcons … According to the Houston Chronicle, Texans coach Bill O’Brien wanted to cut Ryan Mallett after he missed the team’s flight to Miami but GM Rick Smith wouldn’t sign off on it. Mallett, who previously slept through practice during training camp, said he was stuck in traffic. Did I mention Arian Foster (torn Achilles) is out for the year? Not a good week for the Texans … Ryan Mathews tweaked his groin Sunday against Carolina but should be good to go after the Eagles’ bye week … Jason Pierre-Paul (finger) was at the Giants’ facility on Monday. He still hasn’t signed a contract … Andrew Hawkins suffered a concussion Sunday in a loss to St. Louis. Hawkins led the Browns with 824 receiving yards last year but only has 207 through seven games this season … Josh McCown (shoulder) won’t be available when the Browns return to practice on Wednesday. Johnny Manziel would start if McCown can’t go Sunday against the Cardinals … Louis Murphy tore his right ACL Sunday against the Redskins. He’ll finish the year with 10 catches for 198 yards … Keenan Robinson left Sunday’s game with a slightly fractured rib but should be ready to go when the Redskins return from their bye week … Ryan Kerrigan had surgery to repair a broken hand on Monday. It’s unclear if he’ll miss any time … Chris Ivory vows to play against the Raiders in Week 8. He battled quad tightness Sunday against the Patriots … X-rays on Nick Mangold’s neck came back negative. The Jets center was wearing a neck brace after Sunday’s loss to New England … The Patriots didn’t practice Monday but if they had, Dion Lewis would have been a limited participant. Lewis missed Sunday’s game with an abdomen injury … Dolphins linebacker Chris McCain has one of the more bizarre Twitter avatars you’ll see. His default photo shows him crushing Tom Brady’s head. Rob Gronkowski’s response was perfect: “I think that would be a penalty if he does that. If he wants to do that and give us 15 yards, that’s fine.” The Patriots host the Dolphins on Thursday night.