Five big takeaways from the Arizona Cardinals' 48-23 stomping of the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field on Sunday, moving the Cards to 2-0 and sole possession of first place in the NFC West:
1. He’s still got it.
Of all the incredible stats that came out of the game in Chi-town, this one may be the most unbelievable: Sunday marked Larry Fitzgerald’s first-ever three-touchdown game in the regular season. While the Bears were accounting for the Cards’ young receiving duo of John Brown and Michael Floyd, the 32-year-old Fitzgerald carved up the Bears defense for 112 yards on eight receptions, making some difficult, vintage Fitz catches along the way.
— NFL (@NFL) September 20, 2015
Fitzgerald’s third and final TD grab, a 9-yard reception in the fourth quarter, generated some “La-rry, La-rry” chants from the Cards faithful that made the trip to the Windy City. Yep, the old man’s still got it.
2. John Brown, Penalty Master.
This is why you have to watch the games in order to fully appreciate the impact a player makes. If you just look at the box score, speedy second-year receiver John Brown appeared to have a subdued day: five catches, 45 yards. But look closer: Brown induced two major pass interference penalties, both of which went for over 40 yards and set up a pair of Cardinals touchdowns.
The 2014 third-round draft pick scored a TD in the Cards’ Week 1 win over the Saints, and he might have scored at least twice Sunday if not for the Bears’ infractions. Nonetheless, Brown has played a crucial role in both of the Cards’ victories, whether the box score reflects it or not.
3. Chris Johnson’s quiet efficiency.
With starting running back Andre Ellington out Sunday with a knee injury, the Cards were expected to lean on veteran Chris Johnson to pace the rushing attack and produce a respectable performance that kept the Bears’ defense honest.
Johnson did just that, grinding out 72 rushing yards on 20 attempts. Nothing to write home about, but an efficient performance nonetheless from a workhorse whom the Cards brought in during the preseason for exactly this kind of situation. The Cardinals hope to have Ellington return next week, but if he’s not able to go, the Cards should be in good hands with CJ.
4. Defense does better against the screen pass.
Sunday’s defensive performance from the Cardinals has to be taken with a grain of salt, as star Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery wasn’t able to play, and starting quarterback Jay Cutler was knocked out of the game in the second quarter. Nonetheless, the Cards did much better Sunday in defending the screen pass than they did in their Week 1 victory over New Orleans.
Drew Brees and the Saints consistently burned the Cards with dump-off passes to their running backs last weekend. On Sunday, Calais Campbell, Deone Bucannon and the rest of the Cards did a sensational job of keeping Bears running back Matt Forte in check. Forte, who caught 102 passes last season for over 800 yards, was limited to four catches for 44 yards Sunday.
5. All he does is score.
Two games into his professional career, Cardinals rookie running back David Johnson has a rushing, receiving and special-teams touchdown. After scoring on a game-clinching 55-yard reception last weekend against the Saints, the third-round pick returned the opening kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown against the Bears, and he scored on a 13-yard run in the fourth quarter.
— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) September 20, 2015
ICYMI David Johnson is 1st in NFL history w TDs via rush, recept & kickoff return after 1st 2 career gms pic.twitter.com/nAefgNRNrp
— Mark Dalton (@CardsMarkD) September 20, 2015
So yeah, even without Ellington, the Cardinals appear to be OK at running back – which is a major change from last season. Depth is good.