The Arizona Cardinals improved to 8-1 with a strong second half holding off the St. Louis Rams 31-14 Sunday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium. The victory, their fifth-straight, will likely come with some heavy consequences.
Here are five things we learned from the win.
1. Carson Carted Off …just 48 hours after agreeing to a three-year, $50 million extension ($20 million guaranteed) starting quarterback Carson Palmer limped to the sidelines and left the field on a cart after being sacked in the fourth quarter. Several published reports have speculated Palmer tore his ACL. After the game head coach Bruce Arians said everything to this point is merely speculation. “We don’t know anything. It will be evaluated, get an MRI and hopefully know something more by Tuesday.” If true it would be the same injury to the same knee he suffered back in 2006 and would, no offense to Drew Stanton, severely dampen any hopes of a deep playoff run as Palmer (11 touchdowns, two INT’s, 99.3 passer rating) was playing arguably his best football ever.
2. Don’t Pick on Patrick …one play after being called for a questionable illegal contact penalty on Chris Givens in front of the Cardinals bench Patrick Peterson stepped in front of an under thrown Austin Davis pass killing a potential Rams’ go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter. The very next drive Peterson broke on another poor Davis throw and sprinted untouched 30 yards to the end zone for his first career pick six. P2, who has come under scrutiny at times from Arians, has amped up his play of late, holding Dez Bryant to just two catches last week and completely flipping the complexion of Sunday’s game. “[I] got tired of hearing the criticism,” he said. “I just want to put that criticism behind me. Play Patrick Peterson football.” He said he’s healthy for the first time after snagging his first two picks of the season.
3. Smoked Out…John ‘Smokey’ Brown continues to be a big-time playmaker and difference maker for the Cards. The rookie got loose behind the Rams’ secondary and hauled in a beautiful 48-yard touchdown from backup Drew Stanton with under eight minutes to play to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game 17-14 after the PAT. “BA did a great job getting me comfortable pretty quick,” Stanton said. “Taking that shot to Smokey was huge. [He] went up and made an unbelievable catch.” Brown hauled in five passes for 73 yards and was targeted nine times.
4. Nowhere to Run…The Cards rushing attack against St. Louis’ stout defensive front was for the most part non-existent Sunday. 28 yards on 22 attempts for a paltry 1.3 yards per attempt average. They had only nine yards on the ground at halftime. “We got our ass whipped,” Arians said afterward. “It was simple.” Leading rusher Andre Ellington managed just 23 on 18 attempts. With Palmer likely out, balancing the offense will be of even more importance moving forward.
5. Winning Ugly…the common theme for the 2014 Bird Gang continued: play excellent defense and be opportunist offensively. “What a beautiful win,” Arians said with a wry smile to open his post-game media press conference. Sans their Week 5 loss to Denver Todd Bowles’ defense hasn’t given up more than 20 points this season. Sunday was another example of the players trusting the coaches to put them in positions for success. To this point it’s eight wins and counting.