After losses last week, the late-season playoff hopes of both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals were crushed, setting up a meaningless season finale between two division rivals who each want to get to 8-8 to end the season.
It was clear how the host Cardinals felt about the game when they elected to sit Kevin Kolb, who is still displaying symptoms of his last concussion, as well as running back Beanie Wells and safety Kerry Rhodes.
The Cardinals played hard, but so did the Seahawks. At the end of four quarters, the score was still tied at 20-20, sending the game into overtime before a Jay Feely field goal secured a 23-20 win for Arizona.
In the end, the Cardinals were able to emerge victorious, ending their season on a hugely positive note.
Over the next six slides, we’ll take one last look at the lessons we have learned about the 2011-12 Arizona Cardinals during their final game of the season.
LaRod Stephens-Howling is best known as the dangerous Arizona kickoff returner. He has been constantly overshadowed as a running back because his slight build makes him less than ideal as an every down back.
It’s really a shame that he doesn’t get more touches in the backfield. He’s an effective running back who averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
He may be small, but he is very quick and mobile in a way that is similar to Darren Sproles. Defenses have a difficult time keeping up with him when he gets going, and bringing him down when they get to him.
Unfortunately, during the overtime it was clear why Stephens-Howling cannot be an every down back. His small build worked against him as he tried to power his way to much-needed yards.
In his first season in the NFL, Patrick Peterson has certainly made his mark. He was drafted to be molded into an up-and-coming cornerback, which he is quickly accomplishing.
In the meantime, he has actually managed to overshadow the incomparable Devin Hester as a premier punt returner. In his rookie season he has tied an NFL record that is shared by three other players.
He was an ankle-grab away from breaking that record when he returned a punt 42 yards against the Seahawks. If not for that tackle tripping him up, he would have been the sole record holder in the NFL with five punts returned for touchdowns.
At the end of the season, the records for the two starting quarterbacks of the Arizona looked like this:
- Kevin Kolb—2-7
- John Skelton—5-2
There can’t be an argument that Kolb faced better opponents than Skelton because each quarterback faced teams that are playoff-bound.
At the end of the season, Kevin Kolb looks better statistically than Skelton, but that is to be expected. Kolb is a seasoned veteran, whereas Skelton is in just his second year in the NFL.
Based on that and Skelton’s much better record, he deserves the right to compete for a starting position during the 2012 training camp.
Levi Brown has been an atrocity at tackle for the entire duration of his career. He is infamous for being one of the worst tackles in the NFL.
That reputation reached a new high (or low, depending on how you look at it) today as he allowed tons of pressure on John Skelton and then accounted for a personal foul on an unnecessary roughness call.
Personality issues aside, the Cardinals need a better solution to protect the quarterback’s blind side. In fact, their entire offensive line could use an upgrade. That should be their number one priority in the offseason.
Throughout the game, Larry Fitzgerald made nine catches. It seemed that each catch was more amazing and unbelievable than the last.
At the end of the day, Fitzgerald finished with 149 yards, giving him a season total of just over 1,400 yards.
His season isn’t over yet; he’s headed to the Pro Bowl, and rightfully so. He truly is the consummate professional at wide receiver.
Although the Cardinals struggled defensively for the first part of the season, they buckled down and made some changes for the better.
Maybe it’s because the players were able to mesh as a group. Maybe it’s because Ray Horton’s new defensive scheme is exactly what the Cardinals needed.
Maybe it’s a combination of both.
Either way, Cardinals fans should have a lot of excellent defensive play to look forward to next season.