The defense for the Arizona Cardinals played better, holding rookie Sam Bradford to only 189 yards passing without a touchdown and intercepting him once, but Steven Jackson busted free in the fourth quarter for 27 of his 102 yards rushing to score the game's only touchdown in a 19-6 victory for the St. Louis Rams. The win evens the Rams' record at 6-6 and keeps them in pace with the Seattle Seahawks, who beat the Carolina Panthers 31-14, in a close NFC West competition.
As we know, the playoff picture in the NFC West is that only the division winner will get in. Were it not for the guaranteed playoff spot for the division champ, it is uncertain whether or not that the winner's record would qualify them for the playoffs if it were based on wins and losses alone.
The Cardinals, at 3-9, will end up with a losing season for the first time under the leadership of Ken Whisenhunt. While they are not mathematically eliminated from the division race, they are three games out of first with four remaining games. Seattle has already beaten them twice, so they would own the tiebreaker in the case they ended with the same record and with only one division game remaining, the Cardinals can only end with a 2-4 record within the division if they win in San Francisco in Week 17. That would be the other tiebreaker.
So while mathematically they are not out, everything else says they are.
There were some positives that came out of the game. The defense was much improved. Darnell Dockett had perhaps his best game of the season. He had five tackles, but more importantly was in the backfield consistently and disrupting the line of scrimmage.
Kerry Rhodes was active, having a sack, an interception, seven tackles and was around the ball a lot.
As for injuries, after a week where several starters were a little hurt, it appears that there were no injuries to speak about on the defensive side of the ball.
Offensively, it was another story. Whisenhunt said he believed that the team "did some things at the start of the game that showed we had a chance to be a decent team" and that they did a good job running the football (105 yards for the game), but that they "needed to score touchdowns" rather than settling twice for Jay Feely field goals. The issue was, according to the coach was that the team "we didn't get it done at the quarterback position."
Derek Anderson was 7/20 for 93 yards and an interception. He was pulled in favor of Max Hall in the third quarter because of his play, but Whisenhunt clarified that "Derek was not himself and he took some shots in the first half" and that he was getting checked out for a concussion after the game.
Hall's appearance was brief, as he suffered a dislocated shoulder on a play where he fumbled and recovered the ball. He said that he will be out probably 3-4 weeks, which means his season is likely over.
Rookie John Skelton got some playing time and showed why the team was high on him and selected him in the draft. Whisenhunt said that he has not decided who will start next week, but most fans will say that they want to see Skelton the rest of the way to give him experience and see what he can do.
Already there is talk of signing another quarterback. XTRA's Mike Jurecki tweeted that the Cards will sign UFL QB Richard Bartell. He also spoke to former Cards quarterback Josh McCown, who said that he would be interested in trying out. I would not expect whoever they sign to start, so expect either Anderson or Skelton against the Broncos.
It was just a few days ago when Whisenhunt said, "I'm not trying to play young guys to get a look at them. I'm more interested in getting this turned and getting a win." He may now be forced to play his younger guys out of necessity. Already against the Rams, O'Brien Schofield saw some time replacing Clark Haggans. Skelton played. Hall played, but then got hurt. Dan Williams played and Gabe Watson was inactive.
It isn't what the coach was wanting, but since the veterans have not been getting it done, he may have to play the younger guys to see if they are in fact a better option for greater production.
Larry Fitzgerald caught four passes, so he is tied for the lead in career receptions for the team. His next catch will put him alone at the top. By not scoring a touchdown, he still needs three to take over that record.
As for the Rams, the playoffs are within sight. They hold the head-to-head tie break with Seattle right now, but Seattle has the better division record (3-1 to St. Louis' 2-2). Both teams have two home games remaining. Both have games against potential playoff teams (the Rams travel to New Orleans and host Kansas City, while Seattle travels to Tampa Bay and hosts Atlanta). Both still have another contest against San Francisco. But it will likely come down to the Week 17 game between the Seahawks and Rams in Seattle that will determine the division champ.
For the Cards, next up are the 3-9 Denver Broncos in Glendale, in battle for pride only.