I'm feeling ambivalent about the Arizona Cardinals' Week 14 victory over the woeful Denver Broncos. On one hand, the Red Birds wasted a couple big wins from draft position competitors, the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions. They would have been in Top-3 pick range if they had lost to Denver (another team going for a high pick). But, on the other hand, this was a much-needed win for a team that had been rendered nearly obsolete in the NFL, and the emotional stability of the team probably required the victory.
The Cardinals were never going to have the top pick in the draft, so hopes of Andrew Luck were already nearly extinct. They're still on pace to draft in the top eight or so, and that ought to be high enough to grab likely targets Ryan Mallett or Cam Newton. Unless John Skelton shows his mettle in the final three games and renders a top QB pick moot.
- But Skelton's not there yet. He finished his first start with a mediocre stat line: 15-for-37, 146 yards, and no turnovers or touchdowns. He had only a 52.3 QB rating, though the number is a little misleading. He really only had a handful of bad rookie-esque throws and there were a number of passes dropped by his receiving corps. Overall, Skelton showed poise and calm, moved well in the pocket (zero sacks), and had a nice mix of reads. But the team still had trouble generating points through the air (of which they had zero) and only converted four of their 16 third downs. Still, it was a game to build on for Skelton and this is a favorable stretch of games in which to learn.
- Kicker Jay Feely was, of course, the player of the game. Feely was directly responsible for the Cards' first 22 points of the game, which were comprised of five field goals (including three bombs from 48, 49 and 55 yards) and a touchdown run on a fake field goal that worked brilliantly. Prior to missing a 49-yard attempt, Feely had made 18 straight field goals.
- Tim Hightower ran for a career-best 148 yards, including two touchdowns. He fumbled away the ball early in the fourth quarter, but with Beanie Wells out with a mysterious "stomach illness," Hightower remained the primary ball-carrier and it paid off with two TD runs late in the game. Wells came into this season with high expectations, but he has just not been able to gain traction. Hightower seems far more consistent and tougher. If he can ever get a handle (pun intended) on ball security, Hightower may solidify the starting job going forward.
- Larry Fitzgerald became the franchise leader in receptions -- finally passing Anquan Boldin -- after catching six passes for 72 yards.
- This was the first time the Arizona Cardinals had beaten the Denver Broncos (previous record was 0-7-1). The Broncos were the only franchise Arizona hadn't ever beaten.
- It never ceases to amaze me when players are more interested in celebrating a touchdown than actually getting one, so of course I was amazed when rookie linebacker Daryl Washington prematurely celebrated a pick-six late in the game, slowing down as he approached the goal line and holding the ball away from his body where it was then stripped by Denver's Lance Ball. Luckily, Darnell Dockett was nearby and recovered in the end zone for the final score of the game. Those are the types of things that make coach Ken Whisenhunt reluctant to give playing time to rookies.
- The pass-to-run ratio (38 passes to 34 rushes) was much more in line with the expectations for a team starting a third-string rookie quarterback, and the team finished with 211 yards on the ground.