For the first time since September 30th, yes September 30th, the Arizona Cardinals have managed to put themselves back in the win column. Nine agonizing losses in a row could have sent this team into offseason cruise mode, but a 58-0 thrashing at the hands of the Seahawks proved to the wake-up call they needed.
Offensively, Mike Miller's group didn't appear to be more awake than normal, but the team benefited from strong secondary play and generous field position. The Cardinals started three of their 13 drives inside enemy territory. Not to mention two of them started within 30 yards of the end zone.
Both drives that started from the 30 on in led to touchdown runs from Beanie Wells. Wells totaled three touchdown runs by game's end, which marked only his second three-rushing touchdown game of his career. The first occurrence happened in Week 4 of the 2011 season against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Despite the three-touchdown performance, the blocking up front, especially from the interior offensive linemen, holes were far and few between. In turn, that put pressure on Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling to improvise and make people miss on their own.
Wells probably didn't break or force as many missed tackles as he would have liked to as a 235-pound back, yet he ran with a purpose today. For the first time all season, No. 26 looked quick on outside runs, and he ran hard in between the tackles. Case in point: his first touchdown run from five yards out.
Another case in point is Patrick Peterson's current ascent to becoming considered a shutdown corner in the NFL. As Darren Urban tweeted, Peterson's 31-yard, second-quarter interception gave him his seventh pick of the season and his fourth in as many weeks:
Make that four straight games with a Patrick Peterson interception. Stafford overthrows Megatron, not PP.— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) December 16, 2012
Currently, the second-year pro out of LSU is tied for the second-most interceptions in the league. Ask yourself this question, did I expect PP to be this far along two seasons in? After a below-average rookie campaign, it was hard for me personally to think he would make that big of a jump in his second season.
We all saw it, the physical tools were there, he just needed to work on his technique. Whatever Ray Horton and Louie Cioffi did in the offseason has worked wonders. In addition to Peterson's seven interceptions, he has also allowed only 51.5 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed, and opposing quarterbacks have a quarterback rating of 54.2 when throwing into his coverage area.
At 5-9 with two remaining games against the Bears and 49ers, the Cardinals may have seen their last victory of the season in Week 15. Parity is at an all-time high, but in order to beat two playoff-bound teams, Arizona's offense is going to have to step up or its defense will continue to carry them.
However you look at it, head coach Ken Whisenhunt may have just saved his job by not losing 12 games in a row to close out the season. One or two more wins may give the Bidwill family a glimmer of hope, but by the looks of today's game, he still has to answer that ever-important question: Who will be under center in 2013; it can't be Ryan Lindley, can it?
Only time will tell after the season concludes. December 31st and January 1st may be crucial dates as the Cardinals begin to look ahead to 2013.