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Cardinals finally have something to celebrate with win over Rams

For the first time since Week 1, fans leaving University of
Phoenix Stadium did so with smiles on their faces. Their
joy, while measurable, paled in comparison to how the
Cardinals reacted in their locker room, 19-13 winners over
the St. Louis 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.