The cast of second-year players had a big impact as the Arizona Cardinals posted a 28-3 victory over the New York Jets in NFL action on Monday.
No player was more impactful than running back David Johnson, who ran for 111 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns. Johnson also caught three passes for 27 yards and now leads the NFL with eight touchdowns.
The Cardinals ripped through the Jets' second-ranked rush defense. New York had allowed just 68.4 rushing yards per game, but Arizona blew past that number in the second quarter, finishing with 171 yards on 35 attempts and Johnson's three rushing touchdowns.
With Johnson, a third-round pick from Northern Arizona last year, pounding the rock, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was an efficient 23 of 34 for 213 yards and a touchdown.
Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick did not fare as well. Fitzpatrick has been disappointing all season and went 16 of 31 for 174 yards and his NFL-leading 11th interception before getting replaced in the fourth quarter by Geno Smith.
Smith did not exactly impress with a brief four-for-six night for 31 yards and a late interception by Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu.
JOHNSON SETS THE TONE
With Richardson lined up at middle linebacker and coming on a blitz in the first quarter, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians dialled up the perfect play with a counter. It was perfectly executed and Johnson set the tone with a 58-yard run for the game's first score.
The Cardinals rode Johnson the entire night as had three rushing touchdowns in a game for the second time in his young career. It was his second straight 100-yard game and third of his career.
"It was great blocking," Johnson told ESPN following the game. "We knew they had a great rush defense, but we didn't want to change our offense. Those guys up front did a great job."
The Cardinals may have re-established themselves as an NFL contender. They won three straight "Monday Night Football" games for the first time in franchise history and can win three successive primetime games if they beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
The Jets had playoff hopes, but those are probably simply pipe dreams at this point. Only two teams in NFL history -- the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs and 1970 Cincinnati Bengals -- have started a season 1-5 and gone on the make the postseason.