- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 4, 2016

GLENDALE, Ariz. — In a back-and-forth effort, it was Arizona running back David Johnson who proved to be the difference maker in the Cardinals’ 31-23 win on Sunday over the Washington Redskins.

Johnson finished the game with 84 yards rushing and added another 91 receiving. The matchup nightmare — who stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs 225 pounds — was simply too much for the Redskins to handle.

“There’s no talk about playoffs,” a disappointed Redskins coach Jay Gruden said after the loss, which dropped his team to 6-5-1 — and currently out of the NFC playoff picture. “I don’t like the way we came out. I feel like we underachieved today and that’s frustrating.”

Sunday’s loss was Washington’s second straight and it started much like the Thanksgiving Day game 10 days earlier in Dallas, with a Redskins opponent taking the opening drive methodically down the field for a touchdown.

The Cardinals drove 75 yards in 15 plays, pushing the Redskins back on their heels. The drive ended on a 1-yard rush by Johnson to give the Cardinals the 7-0 lead.

The Redskins’ defense stiffened, then began to settle in, holding the Cardinals to just 16 total yards on their next three drives. But the Redskins’ offense couldn’t capitalize on opportunities, walking away with just two field goals in the first half.

The second half turned into a gunfight, with each team trading touchdown for touchdown. The Redskins started the half with a 74-yard drive in just five plays. Kirk Cousins found wide receiver DeSean Jackson on a 59-yarder before the Redskins quarterback himself pushed the ball into the end zone on a 1-yard keeper. That touchdown gave the Redskins a brief lead.

After the Cardinals missed a 53-yard field goal attempt, Washington got the ball on its own 35. But after just two plays, Cousins was sacked by defensive tackle Calais Campbell, and the ball fell out of Cousins’ hands. The fumble was picked up by linebacker Markus Golden, who returned the ball to the Redskins’ 10. Carson Palmer found Michael Floyd for an easy 6-yard touchdown — one of three Palmer touchdown tosses of the day. Palmer finished 30 of 46 for 300 yards.

After Cousins found wide receiver Jamison Crowder on a 26-yard route, Arizona and Palmer answered with a 25-yard Johnson reception for a touchdown.

Following a Dustin Hopkins 53-yard field goal, the Redskins found themselves down 24-23 with 5:08 remaining and needing a stop. Instead, the Cardinals chipped away at the field and the clock. At 2nd and 10 on the Redskins’ 42-yard line, Cardinals wide receiver J.J. Nelson streaked down the field into the end zone, catching a rainbow in traffic for a touchdown. The catch was reviewed, but the play stood, giving the Cardinals the 31-23 lead.

With less than two minutes to drive the Redskins for a touchdown an two-point conversion to tie the game, Cousins was moving the chains. But after driving the ball to the Cardinals’ 28 yard line, the Redskins quarterback, under a fierce Cardinals rush, threw an errant pass behind Crowder. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson stole the boll to seal the game.

Cousins finished with 271 yards, ending his two-game streak of at least 375 passing yards. Cousins went 21 of 37 passes, adding a touchdown pass and an interception.

With tight end Jordan Reed out with a shoulder injury, wide receiver Pierre Garçon assumed the role of Cousins’ most targeted receiver, seeing the ball nine times. Garçon ended with 7 catches for 78 yards, leading Redskins receivers in all categories.

Despite getting just a single carry in the first quarter, running back Robert Kelley finished the game with 14 carries for 63 yards.

Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald combined for 253 of the Cardinals’ 370 offensive yards. With his 10 receptions, Fitzgerald passed wide receivers Chris Carter and Marvin Harrison for the third-most receptions all-time, with 1,106.

“They’re great players,” Redskins linebacker Will Compton said. “Fitz will be a Hall of Famer, and, I mean, Johnson’s a heck of a player too. We got to be able to understand better how we’re getting attacked and what’s going to happen once we give them this leverage and we’ve got to work off of that. We just have to play better.”

Defensive back Duke Ihenacho and Compton led all Redskins in tackles, with six each. Defensive end Trent Murphy and linebacker Ryan Kerrigan each recorded a sack each.

At 6-5-1. the Redskins remain in third place in the NFC East thanks to a Philadelphia Eagles’ loss earlier Sunday. But a Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ win over the San Diego Chargers cost the Redskins their grip on the second wild card spot in the NFC playoffs.

“We just got to execute,” Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said. “It’s on us.”

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