Skins blame flat effort, Cardinals finally find their game
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws as Washington Redskins inside linebacker Will Compton (51) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals finally looked like the team they expected to be, even if it took a dozen games to get there.
But Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden didn't like the way his team looked from Sunday's opening kickoff.
''I feel like we underachieved today,'' he said after the Cardinals' 31-23 victory, ''and that's very frustrating.''
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The Cardinals (5-6-1) certainly understand. They've been underachieving all year. Sunday, though, they showed signs of that highly entertaining 13-3 squad of a year ago.
''Things started to fall our way a little bit,'' cornerback Patrick Peterson said. ''It looked like we picked up where we left off last year.''
Washington (6-5-1), despite the loss, remains in the thick of the race for the second NFC wild-card berth. It held that spot alone going into the game.
''There's no talk of playoffs over here,'' Gruden said. ''We're trying to win the next game. We're not even thinking about playoffs right now. A lot's going to happen these last four games, and if we get an opportunity to play in them, great. If not, we're going to do the best we can at Philadelphia (next Sunday). That's all I know.''
Arizona, despite all its problems, still has a chance, although it might take running the table over the final four games.
''It's tunnel vision,'' Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. ''You know you're in it, your team is up there every week as a potential guy, but you've got to win games. You can't give one up down the stretch, and it'll be another big week on the road (at Miami) this week.''
OFF CENTER: The Redskins lost center Spencer Long to a concussion early in the game, and the Cardinals' big interior line zeroed in on replacement John Sullivan.
He thought he held his own.
''Your adrenaline kicks up and you're ready to role,'' Sullivan said of how it feels to suddenly be thrust into the action. ''Reflecting on it, it wasn't difficult at all.''
Sullivan could be playing for a while. There's no telling how long Long will be out.
NFL'S BEST?: The accolades were flowing in the Arizona locker room after another dynamic performance by David Johnson. The second-year running back carried the ball 18 times for 84 yards and caught nine passes for another 91.
He is the second player in NFL history to top 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the first 12 games of the season. The other: Hall of Famer Edgerrin James.
Arians compared him favorably to a young Marshall Faulk or James.
Johnson was politely appreciative.
''It means a lot,'' he said. ''It's a great achievement just to hear that, just to be talked about amongst those great players. It means a lot because of everything I've been through. All the hard work is finally paying off.''
ANGRY GRUDEN: Gruden wasn't just upset about the loss, he was angry. Just ask his players.
Cornerback Josh Norman said it was probably as angry as he's ever seen the coach.
''Because he believed a lot in us and we put a lot on his plate and we just have to execute,'' Norman said.
But this is what the NFL is about, Norman said, the ups and downs.
''This is what you sign up for,'' he said. ''We're out here playing hard. It's just we aren't capitalizing and getting those wins.''
EAST WOES: The Cardinals head to Miami next Sunday, and that is not a good sign.
Arizona has played at Buffalo and lost 33-18, at Carolina and lost 30-20, at Minnesota and lost 30-24, and at Atlanta and lost 38-19.
The Cardinals' loan road victory was at 1-11 San Francisco.
Last year, Arizona was 7-1 on the road.
RESURRECTED RECEIVERS: After a mostly rough season, Arizona wide receivers Michael Floyd and J.J. Nelson had some big moments against Washington.
Floyd caught a 6-yard laser of a pass from Carson Palmer and then banged over the goal line for a touchdown.
And Nelson's was the spectacular one.
After a series of drops, fumbles and assorted problems, Nelson had arguably the game's biggest play.
In stride, between two defenders, the 5-foot-10 receiver caught a 42-yard pass between two defenders as he raced into the end zone. It was the score that provided the final eight-point margin.
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