Chris Johnson rolled his way to a big play, Joe Flacco couldn’t quite respond with one of his own.
And the Arizona Cardinals escaped with a 26-18 victory over the luckless Baltimore Ravens on Monday night.
Johnson rushed for 122 yards, 62 on a play when he rolled over the belly of a big defender and kept on running to set up a field goal.
Baltimore (1-6) drove to the four-yard line in the final seconds before Tony Jefferson’s interception deep in the end zone clinched the victory for NFC West-leading Arizona (5-2).
“A lot of things happened during the game,” Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians said. “Good, bad and one ugly one, but we finished and made a great play at the end.”
Arizona led, 26-10, before Asa Jackson blocked a punt to set up Flacco’s one-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Juszczyk. The two-point conversion pass to Nick Boyle made it an eight-point game with 4:26 to play.
Baltimore got the ball back and Flacco quickly moved the team downfield before the final ill-fated throw.
“The punt block and all of a sudden you let them in,” Arizona’s Carson Palmer said, “but that’s what you want on ‘Monday Night Football.’ We made it a game at the end.”
Flacco and Coach John Harbaugh said they had trouble with the communications system throughout the game, particularly in the final drive.
The eight-point loss was the most one-sided of the season for the Ravens.
Johnson also ran 26 yards for a touchdown. The 30-year-old running back, signed late in training camp after recovering from a gunshot wound during the off-season, topped 100 yards for the third time this season and didn’t play in the fourth quarter. The last Arizona player to do that was Edgerrin James in 2007.
Palmer completed 20 of 29 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco was 26 for 40 for 252 yards, with a touchdown and that one interception. The Ravens’ Justin Forsett had a 14-yard touchdown run, but finished with 36 yards in 12 carries.
A 26-10 lead seemed comfortable before Jackson burst up the middle to block Drew Butler’s punt to set up the final Ravens touchdown.
The play of the night came in the third quarter, when Johnson hit the line and was pulled down, but he came to rest on the belly of 6-foot-1, 335-pound Brandon Williams. Johnson’s knee or elbow didn’t touch, so he alertly got up and kept running to the four-yard line.
“I was standing right in front of him and he was sitting on top of the guy,” Arians said. “He wasn’t down and no whistle blew, so it was a good call.”
The play set up Chandler Catanzaro’s second 21-yard field goal, making it a two-possession game at 20-10.
After Arizona scored again, Catanzaro’s try for the conversion bounced off the right upright and was no good, setting the stage for the tight finish.
The only turnover of the night, before Jefferson’s interception, led to a touchdown that put the Cardinals up, 14-10, at the half and Arizona never trailed again.
Baltimore, leading 10-7, forced a punt late in the second quarter.
Justin Bethel, a Pro Bowl player on special teams the last two years, stripped the ball from punt returner Jeremy Ross’ hands and recovered at the Ravens 25. Penalties gave Arizona a series of chances inside the five-yard line and, finally, Palmer threw three yards to Michael Floyd for the score to put Arizona up, 14-10, with 1:01 left in the half.
The Cardinals won a close game for the first time this season. The others were blowouts.
“We wanted to be in these types of games to see if we can win it,” Arians said, “but we exorcised that, ‘Can-we-win-it-at-the-end thing?’ So, I was very, very pleased.”