To have success running the football against a New York Jets defense that entered Monday night's matchup with the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals were going to need a great performance out of running back David Johnson.
But instead of delivering a great night, Johnson turned in a historic one.
With 111 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground, Johnson became the first player in Cardinals' history with a pair of 100-yard, three-touchdown performances in his career.
Johnson's dynamic abilities powered the Cardinals to a 28-3 victory, and helped the team inch back to .500 after a rough start to the season. Additionally, Johnson scored the first 1st quarter touchdown of the season for Arizona, which has struggled mightily finding rhythm in the early portions of games.
"Felt great, our coach has been harping on us about that, especially since last week," Johnson said. "We have not scored a touchdown in the first quarter this whole season and it felt good to get in the end zone and I felt like that's actually what started the momentum, that's what started everyone getting hyped and everyone getting into the game."
A 58-yard rush off the left side of the line of scrimmage sent the Cardinals to a 7-0 lead, and gave the team all the breathing room it would need against a downtrodden New York Jets' offense.
On the play, Johnson worked off outstanding blocks from left guard Earl Watford and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and made a Jets' safety miss about 15 yards down field before cutting to the sideline and taking off.
"It was just a zone, a power really and it was great blocking," Johnson said. "I saw a guy who overplayed it, tried to cut it and the rest was great blocking by all the guys."
The Cardinals achieved outstanding offensive balance against a New York team that entered the league with one of the top rushing defenses and one of the worst passing defenses, which is a feat in and of itself.
With Johnson handling 22 of the team's 35 rushing attempts, Arizona ensured his workload was manageable, and Johnson ensured the Cardinals could slowly but surely wipe out the Jets' hopes of a comeback victory.
"I feel like the way our line is helping blocking, our tight ends and our receivers, it's making my life a lot easier," Johnson said. "And eventually when we can run the ball, it makes Carson's life and Drew's life a lot easier and if I can continue to do what I can and get the yards, it'll help out."
On Tuesday, head coach Bruce Arians said he would consider giving Johnson a game ball for his efforts, but said the NFL's leader in total yards from scrimmage still has a ways to go to reach his full potential.
Even though Johnson has clearly emerged as one of the best, if not the best, running back in the NFL, Arians' expectations for the second-year player are sky-high and according to Johnson, rightfully so.
"Getting there, I still had a mental error on a blitz pickup, straight from the middle, 25, it rushed Carson to throw it and I've still got to continue to get better, especially on blitzes," Johnson said. "I feel like that's one of the things I need to keep working on and keep getting better on."null