Things were obviously different after the Arizona Cardinals buried the Denver Broncos 43-13 in their Week 14 NFL matchup. Kicker Jay Feely personally scored 25 points between five field goals, a touchdown and three extra points. John Skelton played well enough to keep the hope of the fans in him. Tim Hightower scored twice and rushed for 148 yards. Larry Fitzgerald set a franchise record. The defense forced six turnovers, intercepting Kyle Orton three times. The team's seven-game losing streak is over and Ken Whisenhunt did not use the words "frustrated" or "disappointed" to describe his team for the first time in weeks.
Feely was the obvious star of the game. He extended his streak of field goals without a miss to 18 before missing from 49 yards. Coach Whisenhunt blamed himself for the miss saying he "kind of iced [his] own kicker" when he sent him out. He hit a total of five field goals -- from 23, 36, 48, 49 and 55 yards. He scored a touchdown (the first of his career) on a fake field goal.
After all of that, what was the one thing that he was asked? It was about the gloves he was wearing. A pertinent question it would seem, considering the magic we have seen with gloves before and the effect they had on Kurt Warner. Feely's answer (who hopes now that the questions about them will now end)? He cited the fake, tackling, and onside kicks. There was one other factor. He says, "it looks kind of cool, too."
Tim Hightower rushed for a career high 148 yards and two touchdowns. So for the record, Feely scored 25 points, Hightower scored 12, and the entire Denver football team scored 13.
Hightower, though, fumbled once but responded positively after that. Whisenhunt described it as "a poor situation to have a fumble in," but after coming back in he played well, both running the ball and in protection. Whiz said that he "was obviously happy for Tim."
This may have been partially affected by the fact that Beanie Wells only was able to get six carries for the game. Beanie left with a stomach illness, although no cause was given. It could not be confirmed, but there is some question as to whether the sickness he felt was from not being given carries against a Denver team that ranks 31st in stopping the run.
Rookie John Skelton did not do a single thing to hurt his status among fans as the guy who should be playing. He began 0-7, but four of those balls were dropped, raising the question if the players were doing their best to heed to cries of many fans for tanking the season and securing a top-five draft pick. Skelton finished 15-37 for 146 yards and no touchdowns, but did not throw an interception.
As Whiz said, "he made some good throws and he made some bad throws." He echoed his comment from earlier in the week that he is far from a finished product, but did state that "there's no doubt that we have something to work with here." It would be surprising if Skelton did not start again next week in Carolina.
To be perfectly honest, this could not be a better stretch of games for Skelton to start off his career. Denver is terrible, Carolina has won only once, Dallas then comes to Glendale (who also has been bad). That would give him three games to prepare for the season finale in San Francisco, which will be the stiffest test of the remaining games.
With his six receptions, Larry Fitzgerald is no all alone atop the franchise leaders for receptions and number two in receiving yards. He still needs three touchdowns to take over the team record in that area.
Defensively, it was as good a game as the team has played. One change that was made was replacing Gerald Hayes in the starting lineup with rookie Daryl Washington. Washington's speed helped and he recorded eight total tackles and an interception.
Adrian Wilson had 11 tackles and looked again like the impact player he was before this year.
In the end, a win always feels good, especially one in this fashion, even against a bad team like the Broncos. A convincing win like this can start things in the right way. As for playoff chances, the Cards are still in it, but to win the division the must do the following: win out, have the 49ers lose at least two more games, have Seattle and St. Louis lose their next two games and have Seattle and St. Louis tie when they play each other in Week 17.
So in other words, as we already knew, they are done. But closing out the season with several wins wold be very good for the team going foward into the offseason, so while losing out sounds good for the draft, winning would better for the future of the team overall.