Big Red Recap: Cardinals take care of Rams on the road

Dec 6, 2015, 3:09 PM | Updated: Dec 7, 2015, 9:32 am
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, right, is congratulated by quarterback Carson Pal...
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, right, is congratulated by quarterback Carson Palmer after catching a pass during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Ram on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, in St. Louis. With the reception, Fitzgerald has surpassed Andre Johnson as the youngest player to reach 1,000 career receptions in NFL history. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

A sign of a good team is the ability to win on the road.

A sign of a great team is consistently winning in hostile environments.

With their 27-3 victory at St. Louis, the Arizona Cardinals earned their franchise record-tying sixth road win of the season, sweeping their NFC West division rivals on the road for the first time since 2008.

Overall, the Cardinals won their sixth straight behind Carson Palmer, the one-two rushing attack of David Johnson-Kerwynn Williams and a stifling defense.

Palmer passed for 356 yards and two touchdowns, while Johnson and Williams combined for 158 yards on the ground playing in place of starter Chris Johnson, who was placed on the injured reserve/designated for return list earlier in the week after injuring his knee/leg.

Johnson, in his first career start, carried the ball 22 times for 99 yards. Williams rushed six times for 59 yards and a touchdown, the first of his career.

Johnson added two catches for 22 yards and a touchdown.

John Brown (113) and Michael Floyd (104) each topped 100 yards receiving.

The Cardinals outgained the Rams, who lost their fifth straight, 524-212 with the defense limiting St. Louis (4-8) to just 66 yards rushing.

Todd Gurley, who gained 146 yards in the first meeting, finished with 41.

At 10-2, the Cardinals, who own a three-game lead in the division, are off to their best start since 1948.

Taking the opening kickoff, the Cardinals marched 80 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown. Palmer threw a 22-yard pass to J.J. Nelson in the back right corner of the end zone. The score—Nelson’s second of the season—came on third down-and-15 following a delay of game penalty against Palmer. For Palmer, it was his 28th touchdown toss, the most ever by a Cardinals quarterback through 12 games. Kurt Warner had 24 through 12 games in 2008.

Playing centerfield, Rashad Johnson picked off Nick Foles on a ball intended for Kenny Britt. The pass was badly overthrown, allowing Johnson to run under it for his career-high and team-best fifth interception of the season. It was Johnson’s fourth interception in his last eight games and ninth in 24 games. For perspective, he had just six interceptions in his previous 74 games. That was also the Cardinals’ 16th interception, second-most in the league.

Quite the historic first half for Larry Fitzgerald. First, he caught a first-quarter ball for minus-two yards which extended his franchise record of at least one reception to 175 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Then, he caught a second-quarter ball for 23 yards which pushed him past 1,000 receiving yards for the seventh time in his career and first time since 2011. Fitzgerald had three total catches for 36 yards through two quarters.

After the Rams kicked a field goal to pull to within seven, the Cardinals scored 14 unanswered points with Johnson catching a 10-yard touchdown pass and Williams adding a 35-yard touchdown run on back-to-back possessions. For Johnson, he became the first Cardinals running back with at least four receiving scores since Larry Centers had seven in 1997. And for Williams, he became the 16th different Cardinals player to score this season.

Sitting at 998 career catches, Fitzgerald was targeted on the first two snaps of the Cardinals fourth-quarter drive. He caught both balls—four yards and seven yards—to become the youngest receiver in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions at 32 years and 97 days. He’s the 11th player to reach the milestone. By the way, the second catch tied him with Hines Ward for 10th on NFL’s all-time receptions list. Fitzgerald finished with eight catches.

It’s not always how many but when penalties occur. The Cardinals’ second penalty—John Brown offensive pass interference—negated a Darren Fells 13-yard catch, effectively killing the team’s third drive of the game. Brown was called for a pick, allowing Fells to come across the middle of the field wide open for the second-down grab.

A 10-0 halftime lead could’ve been—and perhaps should’ve been—a lot more. Five times in six possessions the Cardinals advanced the ball into St. Louis territory, but only came away with one touchdown. Twice Palmer was sacked, pushing the Cardinals out of field goal range; and then on the final possession of the half, right tackle Bobby Massie was called for holding, ending a promising drive. Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 33-yard field goal.

29-9: The number of Cardinals first downs compared to the Rams

“We had to get one back,” head coach Bruce Arians said, referring to the Week 4 loss to the Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium. “We had to come here and even the score and get that back.”

Palmer passed for better than 300 yards for the eighth time this season, the most ever by a Cardinals quarterback in a single season, besting Warner and Neil Lomax

Johnson joined Gale Sayers as the only rookies in NFL history with four or more rushing touchdowns, four or more receiving touchdowns and a kick return touchdown in a season

Jermaine Gresham, who had one catch for 13 yards, exited the game late in the fourth quarter and did not return due to a left knee injury

Second-year defensive tackle Ed Stinson received the start, his first of the season, and made a team-best four tackles—all solo—including a pair for a loss in the first quarter

The Cardinals improved to 7-2 when winning the coin toss; all nine times, it should be noted, they have elected to receive and put the offense on the field to begin the game

The Cardinals reached double-digit wins for a third consecutive season; only the second time ever the team has posted 10 or more wins in back-to-back-to-back seasons (1974-76)

Arians became just the 10th coach in NFL history to win 10 or more games in each of his first three seasons as a head coach; his 31 wins are the sixth-most in franchise history

Among the Cardinals inactives were defensive starters Jerraud Powers and Frostee Rucker plus defensive tackle Cory Redding and running back Andre Ellington; all due to injury

After back-to-back road games, the Cardinals return home for a Thursday night contest against the Minnesota Vikings. The Dec. 10 kickoff is scheduled for 6:25 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning four hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

The Cardinals have lost three straight (all on the road by the way), five of six and 10 of 12 to the Vikings.

Their most recent win in the series came back in 2009, when Warner outdueled Brett Favre in a 30-17 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Warner passed for 285 yards and three touchdowns, two to Anquan Boldin; while Favre threw for 275 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was also sacked three times as the Cardinals handed the Vikings just their second loss of the season that Dec. 6 day.

Overall, the Cardinals are 10-15 in a series that dates back to 1963.

By the way, Thursday night affairs have not been kind to the Cardinals. They lost their first four games ever played in the early week matchup, a streak that ended in Week 15 last season at St. Louis, 12-6.

This will be just their sixth Thursday night game.

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