When the Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams squared off on Sunday, the atmosphere was one more befitting that of a playoff game than that of an all but meaningless competition between two teams with no postseason hopes.
Fortunately for football fans, division rivalries will do that.
In a surprisingly exciting and entertaining game, fans were treated to a hard-fought showdown that had a little bit of everything—offense, defense and special teams.
In a season that has been marred by inconsistency and missed opportunities, it was refreshing to see Jay Feely come out onto the field and simply do his job the right way.
Feely was three-for-three on field goal attempts and hit a pair of extra points through the uprights, accounting for 11 of the Cardinals’ 23 points when all was said and done.
Recording five tackles and some special teams contributions, Calais Campbell is the first up on this week’s acknowledgement list.
His statistics alone were pretty good—albeit far short of his season high—but the real reason that he makes this list is for actions that don’t get recorded on the stat sheet.
Campbell is a disruptive influence on the field whose presence must be accounted for by the opponent’s offensive line. He is outperforming the rest of the defensive line this year and truly making a name for himself as part of the Cardinals defense.
Daryl Washington has really blossomed this season, as he demonstrated once again on Sunday. He contributed five tackles to the cause against the Rams.
Those tackles are great, but the reason Washington ultimately made this list was for his timing. Late in the fourth quarter as Sam Bradford attempted to lead the Rams down the field to either tie the game or pull ahead, Washington was the one who stepped up.
On 3rd-and-17 yards, Washington stalled the drive by tackling Lance Kendricks five yards from the 1st-down marker. The Rams would go on to miss a 50-yard field goal attempt.
If there was an MVP of the Cardinals defense on Sunday, it would be Sam Acho. He was a monster on the field throughout the game.
He recorded just three solo tackles, but chipped in a pair of sacks. On one of those sacks he forced Sam Bradford to fumble the ball. On the other, he took the Rams out of field goal range on third down.
Oh, and just for good measure, he recovered a fumble in the third quarter to give his team a short field from which they would score their only offensive touchdown of the game.
Darnell Dockett contributed a pair of tackles and a lot of disruption on the field against the Rams.
Sam Acho may have gotten the credit for covering up the fumble in the third quarter as the Rams drove down the field, but Dockett was the one who caused the ball to come loose in the first place.
With that return, he joins the elite company of Devin Hester (2007), Rick Upchurch (1976), and Jack Christiansen (1951) as punt returners to bring four back to the end zone in a single NFL season.
Peterson still has five more games to pull a fifth touchdown out of his hat, which would make him the most prolific punt returner in NFL history.
He also contributed five tackles to his team defensively during the team’s stand against the struggling Rams offense.
Does anything more need to be said?
Speaking of records being broken, how’s this one: Beanie Wells rushed for 228 yards and a touchdown on 27 attempts.
That was good enough to break a franchise record previously held by LeShon Johnson (214 yards against the New Orleans Saints in 1996).
Oh, and he did all that running with a knee that has been a huge injury concern all season. In fact, Wells left the field at several points during the game. Each time he returned to the field it was a bit of a surprise.
Imagine what he could have done if his knee had been even close to 100 percent healthy.
It could be said that Wells single-handedly carried his team to victory over the Rams, particularly given John Skelton’s inability to make effective throws for most of the game.