The Arizona Cardinals gladly accept the gift the rest of the NFC West now presents to them as of Sunday, week 2 of the 2015 NFL season; its lead role in the annual drama that is the NFL quest for superiority. In fact, it will be a huge surprise if they aren’t in every major top 5 power ranking this coming week, accompanied by the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots (the only two teams on their level, in my opinion), Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons.
In the midst of their recent speed and youth movement, it was the old dog, future H.O.F. and all-time Cardinal great, the savvy veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald who exploded with three touchdowns to lead Arizona to a 48-23 spanking of the Chicago Bears. Running back/returner David Johnson also put in another [rather loud]request for more playing time with two more touchdowns. After the eye-opening week 1 performance that saw him take a kick-off return 43 yards and a pass reception 55 yards for a score, he then followed up Sunday by opening the game with a kick-off return of over one-hundred yards and a thirteen yard run for another score in the third quarter. Note to Coach Arians (known to be reluctant playing rookies in big time situations): That’s 221 total yards and three touchdowns in the rookie’s first six touches of a NFL football…Just sayin’.
FIRST QUARTER: RB/KR David Johnson takes the opening kickoff back 108 yards for a touchdown. Not much taking place after that until Jay Cutler, after hitting running back Matt Forte for 27 yards to get them near midfield, connected with receiver Joshua Bellamy for a 48-yard score, Bellamy’s first NFL touchdown in his previously-buried four-year (originally undrafted) career. With no major plays but aided by a 42-yard pass interference call, Carson Palmer answered back hitting his forth receiver Jaron Brown for a 6-yard score with 1:19 left in the quarter. Score: Cardinals 14, Bears 7
SECOND QUARTER: Highlighted by a 21-yard pass to TE Martellus Bennett, the Bears scored on a 1-yard run by RB Jeremy Langford. The ardinals then operated a slow, methodical drive (aided yet again by an interference call) before Palmer hits Larry Fitzgerald for 8 yards and 6 points. Less than sixty seconds later, Arizona safety Tony Jefferson picked off a Cutler pass on the second play of the Bears drive and returns it 26 yards for a pick six. A fumbled punt by Cardinals WR J.J. Nelson set up a 40-yard Robbie Gould field goal. A minute later, Gould kicked another field goal (23-yarder) two seconds before the half after Palmer’s pass is intercepted by linebacker Jared Allen inside Arizona’s red zone. Halftime Score: Cardinals 28, Bears 20
THIRD QUARTER: Less than a minute into the second half, all-pro corner Patrick Peterson intercepted a pass by Jimmy Clausen (hamstring-injured Jay Cutler’s replacement) setting up the second Palmer-to-Fitzgerald touchdown, this time a 28-yard pass play. Rookie back David Johnson broke left for a 13-yard score on a drive highlighted by 24 and 20-yard passes to Larry Fitzgerald. Passes of 15 and 12 yards from Clausen to receiver Eddie Royal, and a 27-yard Matt Forte run led to another Gould field goal from 51 yards out. Score: Cardinals 42, Bears 23
FOURTH QUARTER: The action would subside in the final quarter with neither team accomplishing much until Arizona picked away at the Bears’ defense with short plays before a third strike of 9 yards from Carson to Fitzgerald sealed the hat trick. The extra point was missed. Final Score: Cardinals 48, Bears 23
Carson Palmer has now thrown 7 touchdowns in the first two games for a total of 492 yards and a quarterback rating of 124.4 this season, and is now 15-2 in his last 17 starts, and he was not sacked in Sunday’s game. Larry Fitzgerald reminded fantasy players that he was once a top WR selection with 3 touchdowns and a total of 112 yards. With RB Andre Ellington out, Chris Johnson ran for 72 yards on twenty carries while rookie David Johnson added 42 more yards on just five carries, an 8.4 average. The Bears’ Jay Cutler managed a touchdown pass in the first quarter but pulled a hamstring late in the second when he attempted to make the tackle of Tony Jefferson, the AZ d-back that had just intercepted his pass. Cutler did not return and the Cardinals team defense gave up no more touchdowns after the time-stamped 10:06 point of the second quarter when the Bears ran one in from 1 yard out.
The game was won on Soldier Field in Chicago. The Arizona Cardinals, the only NFC West unbeaten team and the highest-scoring team in the NFL heading into week 3, now return home to host division foes, San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams in week 3 and 4, respectively.