Cardinals vs Rams: 10 Things We Learned About the Cardinals in 23-20 Win

Elyssa GutbrodContributor INovember 27, 2011

Cardinals vs Rams: 10 Things We Learned About the Cardinals in 23-20 Win

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    The Arizona Cardinals traveled to St. Louis to take on the struggling Rams on Sunday morning, hoping to come away with a third win in four weeks as they work to turn their struggling season around.

    Through a hard-fought, exciting game, the Cardinals were successful in their endeavor. With the win, they move to 4-7 for the season and keep their hopes of coming away with a better record than their 5-11 showing in 2010 alive.

    Despite the lack of playoff implications for this game, there were plenty of exciting moments on both sides of the ball. Over the following 10 slides, we will review some things we learned about the Arizona Cardinals during their 23-20 win over the St. Louis Rams.

People Are Taking Notice of Patrick Peterson

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    There’s a small, exclusive club in the NFL of returners that punters and kickers actively try to avoid. Devon Hester of the Chicago Bears is the best known member of that club. So is Joshua Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns.

    It seems that with a trio of timely punt returns for touchdowns, Patrick Peterson has earned that label of too dangerous to kick to.

    It’s too bad for the Rams that they relaxed their keep-away attitude later in the game, setting the stage for Peterson to run back his fourth punt return of the year for a touchdown.

The Cardinals Offense Has Bounced Back from Last Week

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    Although John Skelton’s play was shaky for the duration of the game, the Cardinals were able to come out of the gates strong in other areas of their offense.

    For every overthrown or incomplete pass, Beanie Wells powered through for a surprising, big run.

    For every stalled run, Skelton managed to connect with one of his wide receivers for a big offensive gain.

    Make no mistake: There were plenty of errors by the Cardinals offense. Compared to last week’s rout by the 49ers, however, the play was enormously better against the Rams.

Beanie Wells’ Knee Injury Is Becoming Less Obvious

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    Beanie Wells has been playing through a knee injury for the majority of the season. This has been a point of concern for the Cardinals all season, especially given their less-than-optimal other options at running back.

    Against the Rams, who admittedly have struggled against the run this season, Beanie Wells finally found his stride. He exploded out of the gate for a career high 228 yards rushing and a touchdown.

Beanie Wells Broke a Cardinals Franchise Rushing Record

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    Through a combination of good blocking by the offensive line and hard running, Beanie Wells was able to chase down and break a Cardinals franchise record set in 1996 for rushing yards in a game.

    With that show of dominance, Wells has demonstrated beyond a doubt that he has what it takes to be the franchise running back for the Cardinals.

    If only he had a reliable quarterback and a competent back up to relieve him, Wells would be infinitely more dangerous.

The Cardinals Need a Better Backup Running Back

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    Beanie Wells has it in him to be a great running back for the Cardinals, but there’s a small problem with that plan: He has no one to back him up.

    LaRod Stephens-Howling is hugely dangerous in the open field, but he lacks the build that would let him serve as a viable every down back.

    Chester Taylor is good relief every once in a while, but he simply doesn’t have enough let in the tank to be able to spell Wells for long enough to give him a break.

    This lack of backup option has practically hamstrung the Cardinals running game throughout the season.

John Skelton Must Settle Down More Quickly

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    When John Skelton is uncomfortable on the field, he has a trademark of throwing too high. That was exactly what happened today during the first several possessions of the game.

    Skelton was intercepted early in the game after throwing a high ball that was tipped by his own wide receiver. He continued to throw high for the entire first half of the game.

    Part of the reason why Skelton has been able to lead his team on fourth-quarter comebacks in previous games has been because he is completely ineffective until somewhere during the third quarter.

    While it is admirable that he is able to overcome the adversity of being down late in the game, it has to be acknowledged that his team is playing from behind in large part because his actions put them there.

    Of course, this may all be a moot point, since it seems clear that Kevin Kolb will reclaim his starting job next week if his toe is finally healed.

The Cardinals’ Red Zone Woes Continue

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    One of the marks of a struggling team is an inability to get the ball into the end zone once a drive has penetrated deep into the opponent’s territory.

    The Cardinals made it deep into Rams territory several times during the game, yet they were only able to come away with a single touchdown and two field goals for their trouble.

Jay Feely Has His Groove Back

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    Kicker Jay Feely hasn’t always been the most reliable guy on the field this year when the Cardinals have needed him.

    Against the Rams, though, he showed up mentally and physically prepared to do his job.

    He was called upon three times for field goal tries and another two times for extra point attempts. All five times he took the field, his kicks rang true. That is fortunate, since any miss on Feely’s part could have been the difference between a win and a loss for the Cardinals.

The Defense Is Finally Settling into Their New Scheme

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    It can’t be easy for the Cardinals defense to have had so many changes on defense over the past several years. Ray Horton is the team’s third defensive coordinator in five years, which is hard enough on a defense.

    Add in the lockout keeping the players from having a chance to really learn Horton’s take on a defense, and you have a recipe for a struggling team.

    There have been notable improvements here and there on defense for the past several weeks, although the unit has a whole still hasn’t seemed to quite get it together.

    Against the Rams, it seemed as though the defense was as close as it has come to date to realizing the reality of Horton’s vision. The final score of the game is deceiving since one of the touchdowns came from the Seahawks special teams.

    If Horton is given a chance to stick around and really get his team in sync during the offseason, and to perhaps pick up a few strong additions at linebacker and cornerback, Cardinals fans should have a much stronger defense to look forward to in 2012.

The Cardinals Are Not the Worst Team in the West Division

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    After this second match up against the Rams, it seems safe to say that the Cardinals have put some separation between themselves and the title of worst team in the NFC West.

    True, that’s not quite the type of season the Cardinals were hoping to have at the beginning of the season. Putting together a win that potentially moves them to a tie for second place in the division is better than fans had any right to expect after the first half of the season, though.