Updated Nov 6, 2011 - 7:27 pm
Cardinals finally have something to celebrate with win over Rams
The cheers could be heard from a couple rooms away.
Sure, in the grand scheme of things all it means is the Cardinals are 2-6 instead of 1-7, but the fact that they won - especially the way they did - was certainly worth smiling over Sunday. Because really, how many times does a team win on a walk-off punt return, as receiver Larry Fitzgerald called it?
"You have no idea how hard it's been coming up here six weeks in a row trying to put something positive on losing," a smiling Fitz said. "It's a great feeling to come out of here with a W today."
And he wasn't about to apologize for the team reacting as if this was something more than one 1-6 team beating another.
"We haven't won a game since Week 1, we were elated," he said, talking about the finish. "You can't hold it in."
The last six weeks have not been easy on the Cardinals. Some of the losses have been close, others not so much. No matter how it happened, each one left players and coaches having to explain what went wrong, talking about how they were close and that they were not going to give up on the season.
And while a win over a team that notched its first win of the season one week ago will not a season turn around, you better believe snapping a losing streak and winning a close game will give this team new life.
"Emotionally for your team it gives you a lot to build off of going forward," a hoarse Ken Whisenhunt said. "The belief in our guys defensively now on how to run our scheme is going to go up exponentially.
"Offensively it's much easier to correct your mistakes… when you have a win."
And there is plenty to correct.
The offense, in the first half, was downright offensive. Arizona mustered just 58 yards - total - and trailed 9-3. John Skelton was just 6-of-11 for 65 yards, Beanie Wells had just two yards on seven attempts and some Cardinals fans had to be yearning for the days of the Derek Anderson-led offense. Hey, at least you could chuckle when an open receiver is overthrown by 15 yards, whereas Sunday the Cards were just missing on some plays. No running game, an inconsistent passing game and a pair of safeties (yes, really, two more) left the Cardinals trailing 13-6 heading into the fourth quarter, with the seven point deficit looking rather insurmountable.
The game seemed like something we'd seen over the last six weeks, but then something strange happened.
The Cardinals started making plays.
John Skelton, who got the start at QB for an injured Kevin Kolb, led the team on a nine-play, 84-yard touchdown drive to tie things up, throwing for 47 yards and rushing for another 28. The final 13 were on a beautiful pass to Fitzgerald, with No. 11 scoring for the first time since Week 3.
The defense held the Rams on the next drive, stuffing Steven Jackson twice when he needed just one yard for the first down. The second time was on fourth down. No points scored, game still tied.
That helped set the stage for Patrick Peterson's game- winning punt return in overtime, the final play in a day filled with just enough for the Cardinals to get the win.
"We've had guys step up and make plays, periodically, through games, but we weren't able to close some games out," Fitzgerald said. "Today guys really stepped up.
"Blocked field goals, the fourth down stop, punt returns; a lot of guys made some plays."
Indeed, this win was a team effort.
The defense was strong all day, not allowing the Rams to reach the end zone. The offense came alive when it mattered most, with Skelton leading the way. Special teams was just that, blocking what would have been the game- winning field goal for St. Louis and then, finally, scoring on Peterson's 99-yard return. In overtime.
"The team has some character," Whisenhunt said. "What you have to do is you have to win some of these games like this in order get on a roll, in order to make a turn, hopefully that's the first step in that [Sunday]."
It's the team's first step forward in nearly two months, and don't ask them to feel bad about doing so with a little gusto.
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