Arizona Cardinals

Arizona vs. St. Louis Full Roster Report Card Grades for Arizona

Andrew NordmeierContributor IIIDecember 9, 2013

Arizona vs. St. Louis Full Roster Report Card Grades for Arizona

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    They're baaaaack! The Arizona Cardinals are back in the thick of the wild-card battle after they thumped the St. Louis Rams, 30-10, Sunday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium. 

    Carson Palmer completed 27 of 32 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown. Larry Fitzgerald finished with 96 yards on 12 catches and scored a touchdown for the fourth straight game. The defense also got into the act with Karlos Dansby (above) running an interception back for a touchdown. John Abraham added three sacks.

    Despite the win on the scoreboard, the Cardinals appear to have suffered a significant loss in the defensive backfield. In the third quarter, Tyrann Mathieu was tackled awkwardly as he returned the free kick following a safety that made the score 23-3. According to Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, the Cardinals believe Mathieu has a torn ACL in his left knee and will be out for the rest of the season. 

    Arizona picked up its first win against the NFC West in its past nine tries to improve to 8-5 on the season. The Cardinals are still a game behind the San Francisco 49ers for the final wild-card spot as the 49ers knocked off the Seattle Seahawks, 19-17, on a last-minute Phil Dawson field goal. 

    Start the slideshow below and see how the Cardinals grade out in this win. 

Quarterbacks

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Quarterback Carson Palmer had one of his better games of the season in this one. Palmer was able to complete 27 passes on 32 attempts for a season-best 84.4 percent completion rate. 

    His yardage slipped a little bit to 269 and he only threw one touchdown pass, but this was still a really good game for him. His offensive line gave him a clean pocket to throw from. The play calls worked in his favor with safer, high-percentage throws that let the backs and receivers do the work for him. Very few deep passes were called, which made the day easier for Palmer and his elbow. 

    Palmer has thrown for 12 touchdowns and four interceptions as the Cardinals have won five of their past six games to get into the thick of the playoff race. 

    Grade: A

Running Backs

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    Running backs: Andre Ellington (pictured), Rashard Mendenhall, Stepfan Taylor

    The Arizona rushing attack still has a few kinks to work out before the final three games of the season. The good news is both Mendenhall and Ellington scored rushing touchdowns. The bad news is neither of them managed to get to 50 rushing yards. 

    Ellington posted 46 yards on 11 carries, while Mendenhall added 41 yards on 17 carries. Taylor had two carries for nine yards in limited action. 

    The Cardinals still lack that feature back that a team needs to take some pressure off of the passing game. For now, the Cardinals will take the two touchdowns out of the running backs, but deep down you know they want someone to step up and consistently knock out more than 80 yards per game. 

    Grade: C

Wide Receivers

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Wide receivers: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts and Jaron Brown

    Let's start with the obviously great day Fitzgerald turned in. Palmer threw his way 12 times. Fitzgerald caught 12 passes for 96 yards and the only receiving touchdown. Fitzgerald continues to show why he is one of the best receivers in the game. 

    Floyd had his worst game in a month with 26 yards on two catches, which is a far cry from his three straight games with at least 99 yards in each of them. Roberts continues to struggle on the field and had just one catch for eight yards. Brown made a 32-yard catch on his lone reception of the game. 

    This day belonged to Fitzgerald in the passing game since the Rams would slide back into zone coverage and Fitzgerald kept finding the holes in it. It was all too easy for Palmer to find him for simple completions.

    Grade: A

Tight Ends

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    Ralph Freso/Getty Images

    Tight ends: Jim Dray (pictured) and Rob Housler

    With the short-range passing attack of the past few games, the tight end position has started to feel the love from Palmer. Housler had 42 yards on three catches, while Dray had 32 yards on three catches of his own. Dray, however, lost a fumble, which brings the grade down a bit here. 

    The tight end position has been a weakness in the passing game for a long time. The tide might be turning, but no one will mistake Housler and Dray for Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski anytime soon. 

    Grade: B-

Offensive Line

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Offensive line: Bradley Sowell, Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, Paul Fanaika and Eric Winston 

    Coming into this game, this group was a key area of focus for the Cardinals. The Rams had a tough defensive front, and Sowell was scheduled to be in for a long day against St. Louis defensive lineman Robert Quinn. 

    Quinn came into the game with 13 sacks on the season. He left with 13 sacks on the season. 

    The offensive line was able to block effectively all day and hold the Rams to just one sack of Palmer. As shown in the photo above, they were able to give Palmer clear passing lanes and put the Rams face-down in the turf. 

    This was a unit that had given up 35 sacks this season and could have given up several more in this game. But they didn't and showed they can perform well against fierce competition. The Cardinals need more games like this over the final three weeks of the season to contend for a wild-card spot. 

    Grade: A

Defensive Line

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    Ralph Freso/Getty Images

    Defensive linemen: Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, Dan Williams and Alameda Ta'amu

    The defensive line did it again. It made sure there was very little running room and continued to show why Arizona is one of best rush defenses in the NFL. The unit frustrated St. Louis running back Zac Stacy and left him with 25 yards on 14 carries for the afternoon. The Rams would have been held to fewer than 50 yards rushing if not for Tavon Austin's 56-yard scamper in the third quarter.

    Campbell (pictured) also brought pressure that led to a safety in the third quarter. That was part of a third quarter that also saw the defense score a touchdown. 

    The defensive line is taking care of business lately, and it looks great doing it. 

    Grade: A

Linebackers

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    Linebackers: John Abraham, Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby and Matt Shaughnessy

    Dansby did it all again for Arizona. He posted eight solo tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a quarterback hit and an interception returned 23 yards for a touchdown. Dansby had a complete game for Arizona and continues to be the anchor of the defense. 

    Abraham kept bringing the pressure on St. Louis quarterback Kellen Clemens and dropped him three times for sacks. Abraham started the season with no sacks in the first six games. Since then, he's been a quarterback's nightmare with 11 sacks in his past seven games. This was his second three-sack game of the season; the other came against Houston

    Washington added seven tackles in the win. 

    The linebackers are getting it done, and hopefully it continues next week against the Titans.

    Grade: A

Defensive Backs

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    Ralph Freso/Getty Images

    Defensive backs: Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, Antoine Cason, Jerraud Powers, Rashad Johnson, Yeremiah Bell and Javier Arenas

    Powers tied for the team lead with eight tackles on the day. The rest of the defensive backs were more focused on stopping the St. Louis passing game, which they did very effectively. Tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Stedman Bailey were the only Rams to finish with more than 25 yards receiving. Cook (49 yards) and Bailey (46 yards) each had three catches to lead the Rams. 

    The defensive backs didn't give up the big play this week. They also were able to help lock down the tight end position and ensure Cook didn't have a second great game against Arizona. There will be tougher challenges ahead, and the Cardinals made sure Clemens had a rough day in the office.

    Grade: A-

Special Teams

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Kicker Jay Feely, punter Dave Zastudil, long snapper Mike Leach, kick returner Javier Arenas and punt returner Patrick Peterson

    Feely had his druthers in this game. He hit all three of his extra points but missed on both of his field goals. He missed a 50-yard field goal wide right in the third quarter. He misfired again in the fourth quarter on a 25-yard field goal that sailed wide right. It doesn't instill a lot of confidence if the last games of the season are close ones that your kicker can't hit kicks. Watch and see if Arizona possibly brings anyone in for a tryout during the week. Dan Carpenter was brought in during training camp but didn't unseat Feely from his role. 

    Zastudil had his regular day in the office. He had four punts for an average of 47.3 yards and three of them were punts inside the 20-yard line. 

    Arizona didn't get much going in the return game. Peterson had two returns for a net of three yards. Arenas was able to run back one kickoff for 26 yards, which is a good average. 

    There were ups and downs in this game, but Feely's misses really stand out. 

    Grade: C

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