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The Setup
Cards had beaten Dallas the previous week, holding DeMarco Murray to under 100 rushing yards. A ferocious pass-rush, shanked Niner punt and some weird calls by the officials were instrumental in handing the Rams an upset over the Niners. (Sometimes you need to get lucky, but also have to work hard enough to put yourself in a position where the breaks are put to good use). To quote the late Branch Rickey: "Luck is the residue of design."
Reviewing the rosters and matchups, it was clear that we'd better watch out - the Rams were simply too good for this to be considered a "trap' game.

The Lede
Defense, Stanton, Brown & Fitz lead Cards to 4Q comeback win.

The Bottom Line:
Cards once again started off flat and were still down 14 - 10 (& without starting QB Carson Palmer ) early in the 4th quarter. But an incredible Hail-Mary touchdown throw from backup QB Drew Stanton to WR John Brown (aka The Smokester) ignited the "Desert Rats" - especially their Big Play defense who created three take-aways (two for touchdowns) to lead the Cards to a 31 - 14 win going away. The excitement over the win was dampened by a season-ending reinjury to Palmer's knee and led to mass speculation by the national media over "whether the Cardinals could continue to win without Palmer."

Game Recap
Cards didn't look sharp and fell behind by a TD early and, as they have done in the past, gave up a cheap TD just before halftime to fall behind 14 - 10. With neither team scoring in the 3rd quarter, the Cards faced the 4th quarter still down by 14 - 10. Early in the quarter, Carson Palmer's knee buckled as he was trying to avoid a sack. He was forced to leave the game and is done for the season. He was replaced by Drew Stanton who, on his 4th play from scrimmage, hooked up with #3 wideout John (Smokey) Brown on a 48-yard bomb to take a 17 - 14 lead which they never relinquished. The defense took over command of the game, expanding the the Cardinal lead with three turnovers (including two for TD's). Cards held StL to zero 2H points and won going away 31 - 14.

1st Quarter
  • Rams received. TB on the KO. The two teams exchanged two 3 & outs apiece (On the first set of possessions, Fanaika was flagged for a false start and Palmer was sacked once. On the second Cardinal possession, a 12-yard completion to Fitz was nullified by a roughness penalty on Fanaika). Dallas started out from their own 38. The only pass play on their 7-play touchdown drive was a 17 yard completion from Davis to Austin. Final play was a 3-yard bust up the middle by Austin. Card run defense was manhandled pure & simple. Rams 7 - Cards 0.

  • Ginn returned the KO to his own 18. Another sack of Palmer helped cut short a 5-play Cardinal possession ending in a punt from their own 24. Card defense held Rams to 3 & out and they punted from their own 36. The 30-yard punt went out of bounds at the Card 34. Quarter ended one play later.

    1st Quarter Score: Rams 7 - Cards 0.

2nd Quarter
  • One completion each to the "Brown Brothers" (Smokey and Jaron) and two to Fitz set up a three-yard TD cutback off left tackle by Ellington to tie the score. Rams 7 - Cards 7.

  • KO was returned to the Dallas 23. Bucannon's sack of Davis contributed to a StL 3 & out. An 11-yard run by Ellington and two 14-yard completions to Fitz helped set up a 43-yard Catanzaro field goal to give the Cards their first lead. Cardinals 10 - Rams 7.

    4:52 till half-time (Cardinal fans call this "The Witching Hour"). The Card defense seemed to have things well at hand until - on second & 12 with 2:01 left on the clock - the Cards lined up in "Cover Zero" and Ram TE Cook outran Bucannon down the middle of the field where Davis hit him in stride for a 59-yard TD. (El Windo El No Sailos). Rams 14 - Cards 10.

    Ginn returned the KO to the Cardinal 20; Cards went 3 & out. Rams ran three more plays. Half was over.

First Half Score: Rams 14 - Cardinals 10.

3rd Quarter
  • Cards received. TB on the KO. (At a point in the game when you hope your first possession of the 2H will be a monmentum-changer, the Cards went 3 & out). The first play of the first Ram possession was a run up the middle by Mason for significant yardage (Uh oh)! Fortunately, the Card defense then rose to the occasion and the next play - also a run by Mason - he was stuffed for minus-5 yards. On the 5th play of the StL drive, Hekker's punt went into the end zone for a touchback.

    Palmer then engineered a 12-play (6:19) drive that came to an abrupt halt at the Ram 15 when Carson threw an ill-timed interception to Ogletree who returned it to the Cardinal 45. On the first play from scrimmage, Davis hit Kendrick deep right for 41 yards, but the play was nullfied by an illegal blindside block. Four plays later (further stymied by an 11-yard sack by Campbell), the Rams punted from the Cardinal 47. Fair caught by Ginn at the Cardinal 10. Palmer pecked his way to the Cardinal 21 as the quarter ended.

Third Quarter Score:Rams 14 - Cards 10.

4th Quarter
  • Completions of 13-yards to Jaron Brown and and 14 and 18-yards to Fitz got us into field-goal range at the StL 31. But on 3rd and 7 at the StL 28, Palmer faded back to throw and appeared to escape a sack from Barron only to fall backward in obvious pain. (Early diagnosis, strained knee ligaments. Severity won't be known until MRI's on Monday, but it didn't look good). Catanzaro's 53-yard FG attempt was no good (his first miss of the season).

    11:13 left. Ram ball on their own 43. Defense held the Rams to 3 & out. Punt was fair caught at the Cardinal 11. Clock read 9:45 left to play. Stanton in for Palmer. He hit Housler for +11, scrambled up the middle for +4 and connected Carlson up the middle-seam for +26-yards. This made it first & 10 at the Ram 48. Stanton then faded back, double-pumped and let one fly deep to Smokey Brown who (as he has more than once) caught the ball in full stride a step or two ahead of the nearest defender and seemed to "fly" the final 7 or 8 yards into the end zone for a 48-yard TD (a tremendous momentum-shifter that put the Cards ahead "for good" at the 7:40 mark of the contest). Cardinals 17 - Rams 14.

  • TB on the KO. On the third play from scrimmage, Davis' pass for Givens was picked off by Peterson for no gain. But the Cards couldn't do anything with the turnovers and punted after going 3 & out. 6:31 still left. On the third play of this Ram possession, Davis' pass for Britt was batted up in the air by Peterson who then somehow caught it and rambled down the left sideline for a 30-yard touchdown to give us a more comfortable 10-point lead with 5:13 on the clock. Cardinals 24 - Rams 14.

  • Cunningham returned the KO to the StL 24. A couple of penalties (one on each team) set things up at 1st & 10 at the Ram 22. The Cards brought an all-out blitz. After being knocked around like a pinball, Davis made one more effort to get rid of the ball but ran smack into Kareem Martin. Ball popped loose and bounced up off the field into Cromartie's arms. The Cardinal DB rambled 14-yards for the final score of the afternoon. (Play was challenged - frankly, I thought Davis' arm was moving foreward and that it was an incomplete pass, but the ruling - that it was a TD - was upheld). Cards 31 - Rams 14.

  • The final 3:58 saw the Rams move from their own 20 to the Card 49, where they surrendered the ball on downs. Cards ran out the final 0:49.

Final Score: Cardinals 31 - Rams 14.

Game Stats.

  • Passing Efficiency: Palmer went 25 for 36, 241 yards and no TD's. He threw one interception (to Ogletree). Stanton came in for the 4Q and completed 3 of 5 passes (including the 48-yarder to Smokey) for 85 yards, one TD and no interceptions. (Davis threw 30 times, completing 17 for 1 TD and gave up 2 interceptions).

  • Run Game: Cards were held to a total of 28 yardson 22 carries and held StL to 70 yards on 22 carries. Ellington gained just 23 yards on 18 carries. Grice, Stanton and Palmer are credited with a combined 5 yards on 4 carries. (Cards held Mason to 48 yards on 19 carries).

  • Receiving: Fitz led Card receivers with 9 catches for 112 yards. Smokey (73 yards & a TD) and Ellington (19 yds) each had 5 receptions.
  • Defense: StL gained 244 total net yards (70 on the ground and 174 thru the air).

  • Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: Runs: 22/Passes: 41.

  • Sacks: Cardinal QB's were sacked three times. Cards sacked Davis 6 times (Campbell 2 and Martin, Okafor, Benard & Bucannon 1 each).

  • Leading Cardinal Tacklers:Foote 7, Campbell 6, Bucannon 5.

  • Field Goals: Catanzaro finally ended his perfecto-streak, missing one from 53 and connecting one from 43-yards out..

  • Turnover Ratio: +2. Two Pick Sixes (Peterson and Cromartie). Cromartie recovered a fumble. Peterson picked off two passes. For StL, (Oglertree) intercepted one.

  • Penalties: Cards were penalized 5 times. Rams were flagged 8.

  • 3rd Down Efficiency: Cards converted 40% (6 for 15). Rams converted 10% (1 of 10). (Another way to look at it is that our defense prevented StL from converting third downs 90% of the time.

  • Time of Possession: Us - 33:20/Them: 26:40

Bright Spots

  • Cards found another way to win.

    True Grit - A backup QB, our #3 receiver and the entire defense were the heroes of yesterday's game.

  • Stanton physically performed as well or better than Palmer.

  • Our two corners came up with three huge plays.

  • The run defense held St backs to 70 yards.

  • Mason caught 4 passes, Britt was held to 3. No other Ram receiver caught more than 2.

  • 8 wins - this one against a division foe.

    Cards cleaned up their act and, after a flag-filled first half weren't penalized at all in the second half.

    Once again one more game won; one less game to lose. One game closer to 11 wins; one game less close to 6 losses.

The Dark Side

  • Team once again looked flat early.

  • Team once again gave up a cheapy just before half-time.

  • Carson may be done for the season.

  • If Palmer is sidelined, all we've got behind Stanton is rookie Logan Thomas

  • Fanaika needs to up his game.

  • IWe couldn't run the freakin' ball; however, this may be mainly due to StL's strength - both vs. the run and pass - being along their Front Four.

    Floyd has been struggling of late.

    It did seem as though play calling did hit a rut (i.e. Run for little or no gain; Pass under heavy pressure; Due whatever it takes on 3rd down). Then, again, those occasional shots down field always seemed to come at just the right time.

Last Word:
The Monday morning media pundits are all singing the "doom and gloom song." (i.e. Palmer's done. The Cards may play gritty defense but they can't win without Palmer." Yada H. Yada). Maybe; maybe not. Here's my take: When both were healthy, Stanton may have actually had the edge over Carson in arm-strength and mobility. Palmer's strength was in his accuracy, reading defenses, game- experience, chemistry with Cardinal receivers and knowing the Cardinal offense. Carson clearly had an edge in more aspects of his game, but given Stanton's lack of playing time, it's unclear how fast or slow the experience- gap between the two players can be closed (if at all). (What we do know is that Stanton has a couple of earlier wins under his belt and that deep throw to Smokey Brown was NFL-quality).

I'm less worried about Stanton's ability to step in without missing a beat than I am our lack of depth at the QB position. (Logan Thomas may turn out to be Mr. Wonderful in a year or two, but he's a rookie who, in my opinion, is certainly isn't a guaranteed success should Stanton - again -go down). Steve Kiem went out and signed former Cardinal QB Ryan Lindley from the Charger practice squad. (LIndley knows Arians's system and we would have probably kept him if it wasn't for our fondness with Thomas's huge upside).

A final word about the so-called pundits (I've wanted to get this off my chest for quite a while). I believe that, in a place called "Media Pundit Land", there's still a carry-over in attitude from the "pre MIchael B days" (when Cardinal personnel decisions weren't universally considered brilliant). There still exists, today, a bevy of ex players and beat-witers who form the nucleus of nay sayers when it comes to anything Cardinal. The negativity has its roots in (the pre AZ) NFC cities: Like Dallas, where you have Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson. Or NYC, there's Gary Myers and Michael Strahan. Or Philly, there's Sal Palantonio and Rob Jaworski. (Note - Other than, maybe Mark Schereth, attitudes toward the Cards may be a bit less negative in Washington).

It was Jaws who, last night mocked Bruce Arians' "next man up" philosophy as being "coach-speak" and looked down at those "overeactors" who dared suggest that Drew Stanton could capably step in for a superstar like Carson Palmer*. Well, Jaws, I have a slightly different take. You see, many of the so-called cliches you ridicule have their origins in legitimate coaching, teaching or motivational fundamentals. They only become cliches when players don't buy into them or pay them lip-service. That's where a head coach like Bruce Arians (a straight shooter with good motivational skills) can make a difference. "Next man up" is more than just coach-speak. Buying into "one man up", the Card defense has successfully replaced Dansby, Dockett and Washington for the entire season and Shaughnessy, Campbell and Mathieu for parts of the season. Stanton stepped in for Palmer earlier in the season and went 2 & 1.

* Funny how Jaworski can't see how Stanton could replace a "superstar" like Carson Palmer when, before his injury, I don't recall Jaws putting Palmer's football card in the same drawer as Otto Graham.

If I'm somehow overstating the case, I apologize. But I don't think so - this is how I see it, and this is how I'm calling it. - JGG

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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 11/26/2012