Palmer, Johnson lead Cardinals past Redskins

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — "No risk it, no biscuit" was back for the Arizona Cardinals.

So was the big play.

The result was a much-needed 31-23 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

Carson Palmer threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns and David Johnson scored twice on another dynamic afternoon for the second-year running back.

"I think he's the best player in the NFL," Palmer said. "Point blank."

The loss by the Redskins (6-5-1) clinched a playoff spot for the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (11-1).

Palmer's 25-yard touchdown pass to Johnson with 11:09 to play put Arizona ahead 24-20, the fourth lead change of the second half.

The big gamble came when, leading 24-20, Arizona went for it on fourth-and-1 at its 34-yard line.

"I was shocked," Palmer said. "I was ready to jog off the field."

But Johnson ripped off a 14-yard run and, moments later, when most teams would just try to run out the clock, Palmer threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Nelson that gave the Cardinals (5-6-1) a 31-23 lead with 1:56 to play.

"I've had a few drops," Nelson said. "And with that opportunity to ice the game and get in the end zone, I thought 'I can't miss this opportunity.'"

Such long passes have been few and far between for an Arizona team that routinely pulled them off in its 13-3 season a year ago.

"We finally found a big play at the end that we needed desperately," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, "because I didn't want to play for a three-point game. We wanted to play for that eight-point win. And sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but if you don't try, you don't ever win."

Washington drove to the Arizona 28-yard line before Patrick Peterson's interception of Kirk Cousins' pass with 41 seconds left sealed the victory.

Johnson, who also scored on a 1-yard run, became the second player in NFL history to top 100 yards from scrimmage in the first 12 games of a season. Edgerrin James was the other.

"I've been very fortunate to be around two pretty good backs," Arians said. "Actually three, but Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James aren't too shabby when they were young, and he reminds me a lot of those two guys."

Johnson carried the ball 18 times for 84 yards and caught nine passes for another 91.

Cousins completed 21 of 37 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown. His 59-yard pass to DeSean Jackson on the first series of the second half set up his 1-yard touchdown sneak.

In the third quarter, Cousins was stripped of the ball by Calais Campbell, and Markus Golden returned the fumble 20 yards to set up Palmer's 6-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd.

"I don't know if it is my job to really put a grade on my performance," Cousins said. "It is up and down. Each play has its own reason on why things happen. It is hard to give a blanket statement to summarize it."

That gave Arizona a 17-13 lead. The Redskins came right back. Cousins threw to a wide-open Jamison Crowder on a 26-yard touchdown to put Washington back on top, 20-17, with 1:06 left in the third quarter.

The Cardinals avoided what would have been the team's first three-game losing streak since Arians came to the desert four seasons ago.

"We came out flat to start the game," Washington defensive end Chris Baker said. "They go down and have a 15-play drive and then we get the ball back on offense and have two false starts. Against a good team like Arizona, you can't come out flat like that."

Palmer, in one of his best games of the season, completed 30 of 46 for 300 yards despite constant pressure behind a patchwork offensive line .

Josh Norman saved one touchdown by breaking up a pass intended for Floyd.


Larry Fitzgerald caught 10 passes for 78 yards, moving past Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison into third on the NFL's career receptions list.

"It's great," Fitzgerald said. "The most thing I'm happy about is it came in a winning effort. ... It's always nice to climb up a little bit higher, but it's humbling to know that I'm still 400 catches behind Jerry Rice."

He also became the youngest player in NFL history to top 1,100 catches.


Redskins center Spencer Long left the game early to be evaluated for a concussion and did not return.

Washington was without standout tight end Jordan Reed and Arizona didn't have do-everything defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. Both have shoulder injuries.


Redskins: Washington returns to NFC East play with a game at Philadelphia next Sunday.

Cardinals: Arizona travels across the country to face Miami on Sunday.


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