As 2013 come to a close and 2014 is kicking off, it is natural to do some sort of look back at the season for the "best of" things that people do.
Here is mine -- the top 13 player performances of the 2013 season, with some honorable mentions.
Larry Fitzgerald did not have a great year, but he had some very good game performances. There are two that don't make the top 13, but are worthy of mention. The first is his Week 6 performance in San Francisco with six catches, 117 yards and a touchdown. It only gets honorable mention because 75 of those yards game on the touchdown, which was a little fluky because of the bad angle the defender had on the pass. It was one very good play and a few okay catches.
His other game worthy of mention is his 12-catch, 96-yard game at home against the Rams in Week 14. He added a touchdown, but nothing during the game said he was dominating -- he was left open a lot. He just caught easy passes. It was not his best performance.
Carson Palmer's Week 17 performance is worthy of note. He had the terrible early interception, but he bounced back and led the team to tie the game twice. He was 28/49 for 407 yards, two touchdowns and the one interception.
Finally, among the great performances that don't make the top 13, Darnell Dockett's three sacks in Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needs to be mentioned. It doesn't make the actual list because the sacks come with an asterisk -- he was going up against an undrafted rookie guard.
The Top 13 player performances:
13. We begin with Week 1 in St. Louis, when the offense was still a little lost. Andre Roberts was the biggest bright spot with eight catches for 97 yards. It was his finest game of the season. It was a great game in a loss, though.
12. At home in Week 14, also against the Rams, veteran linebacker John Abraham is a monster. He picks up three sacks and six tackles, and he forced a fumble.
11. In Week 4 on the road in Tampa Bay, Patrick Peterson came up with two huge interceptions that led to the Cardinals winning. With just over four minutes left in the game and Arizona down 10-3, Peterson picked off Mike Glennon, giving the Cards the ball in the red zone. Carson Palmer hit Larry Fitzgerald for the tying score on the next play. Then, after Arizona took a 13-10 lead with less than two minutes in the game, Peterson again intercepted Glennon to keep Tampa from scoring the tying or winning points.
10. In Week 11 against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, Carson Palmer had his finest game of the season. The running game was going absolutely nowhere, so the team relied on Palmer's arm. He came up big, throwing for 419 yards, completing 30 of 42 attempts and throwing for a pair of touchdowns. A game in which the team started slowly, they needed every yard Palmer threw for.
9. Michael Floyd had several very impressive games, and even led many to believe that he had become the team's best receiver on the team. At home against the Colts, he caught seven passes for 104 yards. He did not score, but it was the way he got his receptions -- in traffic, fully extended -- he was making plays the way Cardinals fans have seen Larry Fitzgerald do so for years. It wasn't just catching the ball when he was open. He looked dominant.
8. Another receiving performance get noted here. This time is is Larry Fitzgerald and it is from Week 17 against the San Francisco 49ers. He caught six passes for 113 yards. He did not score, but it was how he got his catches. They weren't easy plays. The biggest play was a 49-yarder that saw him get open and run with the ball after the catch -- this time without the flukiness of his touchdown in San Fran. Even though it wasn't his best stat line, it was his best game of 2013.
7. We go back to the defensive side of the ball for the first of a couple of mentions of linebacker Karlos Dansby. Late in the season against the St. Louis Rams, he made a ton of plays. He collected eight tackles and a sack. He also picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown. He was the defensive spark plug that kept that game from getting interesting.
6. The team's most dynamic offensive player has yet to be mentioned. Andre Ellington makes the top 13 list for the first of two mentions for his coming out performance in his only start of the season. Jumping in the starting lineup against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 8 for the injured Rashard Mendenhall, he made the entire league take note. He carried the ball 15 times for 154 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown sprint and other big plays. It was the first time #FreeEllington became a reality and fans saw how special he would be.
5. Now, as he come to the top five performances, we continue with the offense. Combined with Palmer in Week 11, Michael Floyd put on a show. He caught six passes for 191 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown that reminded fans of plays that Anquan Boldin made when he played in Arizona. He caught the ball and ran through several tackles for the score. He made other fantastic receptions and was dominant.
4. Ellington gets a top-five position for his play against the Tennessee Titans. He combined for 158 yards of total offense, with 71 rushing yards on only 10 carries and 87 receiving yards on four catches.
3. A player that did not start a game this season makes it into the top three. Cornerback Antoine Cason, who was pushed into the nickel package on defense after Tyrann Mathieu was lost to a torn ACL and LCL, made two huge plays in a game that looked like it would be a blowout, but then became a nail-biter. Against the Tennessee Titans in Week 15, Cason picked off a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass and returned it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give Arizona a 34-17 lead with just over six minutes left in the game.
The defense, however, would give up the lead and Tennessee would take the game to overtime. That is when Cason came up big again. Tennessee won the coin toss and began on offense. Fitzpatrick was hit as he threw it and Cason made the interception. Arizona went on after that play to kick the game-winning field goal and keep its playoff hopes alive.
2. The number two performance was Calais Campbell in Week 16 against the Seattle Seahawks, when Arizona shocked the entire league, defeating the Seahawks 17-10. It was the first home loss for Seattle in over two years. The defense was absolutely devastating and Campbell was a huge reason. He only had four tackles, but sacked Russell Wilson twice. He completely dominated the Seattle offensive line.
It was not, though, the best player performance of the season.
This brings us to our number one.
1. This performance comes from Week 5, when the Cardinals dismantled the Carolina Panthers 22-6. It was the first game back for linebacker Daryl Washington following his four-game suspension. He, Karlos Dansby and Calais Campbell put on a show. Each of the three players sacked Cam Newton twice. Campbell had four tackles, while Washington and Dansby each collected eight. Washington and Dansby also each picked off a Newton pass.
It was, for me, the best player performance of the season -- so good that I couldn't separate the play of all three players. Dansby and Washington matched each other stat for stat, while Campbell did what he does best -- disrupt things at the line of scrimmage.
Were there any other performances that you feel should have been mentioned? Where would you rank these plays? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Give us your top 13 in the comments below.