I was waiting for a Cardinals game that I could thoroughly enjoy reporting on. Well, it finally came this week, as the Arizona Cardinals beat the St. Louis Rams 23-20. There was much to like about the Cardinals performance, and only a few things to dislike. Here are my nine observations about the game:
1) First, the bad news. John Skelton had an awful game. In fact, I was texting my son at the end of the first half, saying that it might have even been a good idea to start Richard Bartel in the second half to get the offense moving (the Cardinals were 0-5 on third down conversions in the first half). Skelton constantly overthrew his receivers in the first two quarters, even when they were open and when he had no pressure applied against him. And save for a beautiful pass to Larry Fitzgerald, he wasn’t much better in the second half. I’ll forgive him for one great play he made in the second half—gaining a first down on a scramble where he dove with the ball in front of him, which kept an important drive alive.
2) What can you say about Beanie Wells. He was absolutely great, and I’m glad he was able to break the all-time Cardinals record for rushing yardage in a game with 228 yards. (By the way, I am assuming that the reason he was on the field to run a play when the game was won was because the coaches knew that he needed only one more yard to break the record.) He also showed a lot of courage coming back into the game twice after sustaining an injury. Today Beanie was no weenie.
3) The Cardinals kept Steven Jackson—who always seems to kill the Cardinals—pretty much in check all game. He did gain 64 yards, but the Cardinals made him work hard for those yards—and he didn’t break any long runs.
4) LaRod Stephens-Howling had two huge plays—a beautiful catch out of the backfield to pick up a first down in the waning minutes of the game, and a five-yard run that iced the game and gave the Cardinals their third victory in the last four games.
5) The Cardinals only were tagged for four penalties, which is a big improvement over previous games this year, when 8-10 penalties seemed to be the norm. They executed beautifully on the offensive side, and I saw very few coverage lapses on the defensive side.
6) This was the best display of tackling the Cardinals have shown all season. There were very few missed tackles, and no big gains because of a miss. Yards after catch were miniscule for the Rams—the Cardinals stopped receivers immediately after they caught the ball. This made a huge difference in the outcome of the game.
7) This was Sam Acho’s coming out party—I think the sports world is going to start talking about this rookie. He had two huge sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. He seemed to be everywhere on defense against the Rams. With Darryl Washington and O’Brien Schofield, the Cardinals linebacker corps indeed looks promising.
8) I’d be remiss if I did not compliment Ken Whisenhunt and his play calling today. He knew the Rams weak spot was their run defense, and he stuck with Beanie and the game plan even when they fell behind. Kudos to Whiz and the coaching staff on a well called game.
9) Patrick Peterson is a very special talent who has the potential to break a whole bunch of punt return records before he finishes his career. Let’s hope this young man stays healthy and provides the Cardinals with a very potent weapon that not every team has.