The Morning After: Arizona Cardinals trounce Rams
By Erich Becker
The Arizona Cardinals took care of business and got revenge for an early season home loss to the St. Louis Rams
This wasn’t the shellacking that we expected from a team that still has a competent defense, but with the top two running backs out for the Arizona Cardinals, putting up 27 points on the St. Louis Rams will do. The Cardinals did have some struggles in the red zone, twice reaching field goal range and getting sacked out of points.
The story of the week was how would rookie third-round pick David Johnson react to being thrust into the starting role and the top back on the depth chart, and, could he hold on to the ball. The answers were, great and no (well, mostly). Johnson looked good as the starting back, picking up blitzes, including a beautiful pickup on the Cardinals first drive of the day, running with purpose and finishing a yard shy of the century mark.
He did struggle to hold on to the ball on one play that could have been a disaster for the Cardinals after the kick-off fumble earlier in the drive by the newly signed Kerwynn Williams who lost the ball out of bounds at the two yard line. Still, the Cardinals drove the field for 98 yards and capped it off with a touchdown to show that, once again, they could win the game and be as resilient as any other team in the league.
Elsewhere, the defense was unstoppable after looking a bit shaky last week in San Francisco. Captain Patrick Peterson negated the victory Monday for the defense and had them watch film and discuss how they could be better moving forward. The Rams were a team they knew they had to beat, not only because the Cardinals lost at home to them in Week 4 of the season, but because the team has no offense. The defense allowed three points, picked off Nick Foles one time, and only allowed a single third down conversion.
Dec 6, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs the ball in to the end zone for a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
That is how you play this game to win championships.
The Rams picked on newly-resigned-Justin-Bethel all afternoon and aside from one long catch, the held up well in relief of Jerraud Powers. He does need work here and there as a starting cornerback, but there is a lot of promise there for the Cardinals to give him a $15m/3-Yr deal on Friday.
The Cardinals now have 38 touchdowns on the season, making them the highest scoring offense in the league, and still rank in the top five in defense as well, rankings that should only increase after the day in St. Louis. Carson Palmer is now one touchdown shy, with 29 of tying Kurt Warner’s franchise record for TD passes in a season at 30.
The Cardinals have a short week this week, turning around and playing at home against a Vikings team that was embarrassed at home by the Seattle Seahawks. The Vikings are currently in second place in the NFC North and hold the fifth seed in the playoffs. The Packers and Vikings have traded the division lead nearly every week since Green Bay feel from the unbeaten ranks. The Cardinals currently hold a three game lead in the NFC West and a two game advantage for the second seed which comes with home field advantage and the first round bye.
Finally, a closing thought. The is the first time since 1948 that the Cardinals have opened up a season with a 10-2 record. In the three years of Bruce Arians tenure as head couch, the team has won 10, 11 and 10 (so far) games in a season. The franchise record for wins in a season is 11. With games against Minnesota, Philadelphia (road), Green Bay and Seattle all looming, the Cardinals could still potentially finish 12-4, 13-3 or even 14-2.