Big Red Recap: Cardinals roll over Rams after losing David Johnson to injury
Jan 1, 2017, 6:13 PM
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
And so ends the Arizona Cardinals’ 2016 season.
It ended with a 44-6 win over the Rams at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, but the outcome was overshadowed by the loss of David Johnson, who saw his afternoon end after suffering a left knee injury in the first quarter. And so, too, ended his pursuit of 100 scrimmage yards in all 16 games, which would’ve been an NFL first.
Johnson finished with 44 total yards.
Carson Palmer threw three touchdowns, Kerwynn Williams rushed for a score and Chandler Catanzaro kicked three field goals as the Cardinals (7-8-1) won their second straight, closing out the season with back-to-back division road victories.
It’s the first time the Cardinals have won consecutive games since Weeks 5 and 6.
They ended the season 4-1-1 against the NFC West.
The Rams (4-12) lost their seventh straight.
Palmer was 20-of-38 for 255 yards with four-yard, five-yard and 37-yard throwing scores to Jeremy Ross, Larry Fitzgerald and Darren Fells, respectively.
For Ross and Fells, it was their first touchdown catches of the season.
The Cardinals jumped in front 13-0. After the Rams made a pair of field goals to pull to within a touchdown late in the second quarter, Arizona scored 31 unanswered points, including a 68-yard pick-six by Justin Bethel to provide the final margin of victory.
The Cardinals’ 44 points were a season-high.
Defensively, the Cardinals sacked Jared Goff seven times, forced three turnovers and held running back Todd Gurley to 40 rushing yards.
For the game, the Cardinals outgained the Rams 344-122 with 12 more first downs (21-9).
Though the Cardinals’ opening possession ended in a field goal, both Fitzgerald and Palmer recorded individual season marks on the 10-play drive. On the game’s third snap, Fitzgerald caught a 22-yard pass, pushing him past 1,000 receiving yards for a second straight season and the eighth time in his career. It also gave Palmer 4,000 passing yards for a third time in his Arizona career and the fifth such season in team history.
It was absolutely no sophomore slump for Markus Golden. His two first-quarter sacks were his team-leading 11th and 12th of the season, giving him six in his last six games — not bad after a four-sack rookie campaign. For Golden, he becomes just the ninth player in team history with 12-plus sacks in a season and the first to do so since Bertrand Berry had 14.5 sacks in 2004. Also in that first quarter, Josh Mauro recorded two tackles for loss.
Just two weeks ago, Harlan Miller was on the Cardinals practice squad. A week ago he made his season and NFL debut, playing free safety in place of the injured Tony Jefferson. And Sunday in L.A., again playing out of position, he recorded his first career interception, picking off receiver Pharoh Cooper, who on a double pass attempted to complete the across-the-field throw to Gurley. Miller ran under the ball and returned it 53 yards.
Coming out of the locker room after halftime, the Cardinals immediately got after Goff. They dropped him four times in the third quarter. Calais Campbell and Chandler Jones each had a sack-and-a-half, while Golden recorded his third of the game. His 13 sacks are tied for the sixth-most in a single season in team history. Meanwhile, Jones hit double-digits in sacks with 11, the third time in five seasons he’s had 10 or more sacks in a season.
It had been more than two months since Fitzgerald last scored a touchdown. His five-yard catch on 3rd-and-goal to make the score 37-6 at the 11:35 mark of the fourth quarter was his first since Week 5 at San Francisco. It was his sixth of the season and 17th of his career against the Rams, the most of any active player against a single opponent. It was also his fifth catch of the game, giving him an NFL-best 107 on the season.
With just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Cardinals ran a toss play to Johnson on 2nd-and-3 at the Arizona 41. He was tackled for a three-yard loss, and on the play Eugene Sims landed on Johnson’s left leg. After being attended to for a few moments on the field, Johnson, at the 4:20 mark, limped off the field and later carted back to the locker room with what was announced as a left knee injury. He did not return.
For the second time this season the Cardinals had a punt blocked. Yes, another special teams mistake in the season’s final game. Fitting, perhaps. It happened right before halftime. After Jermaine Gresham dropped a 3rd-and-3 pass, Matt Wile had his punt blocked by Chase Reynolds who ran up the middle, virtually untouched. It appeared Williams missed his assignment on punt protection. The play led to a Rams 36-yard field goal.
STAT OF THE GAME
2.1: The Cardinals limited the Rams, owners of the worst offense in the NFL, to just over two yards a play, and perhaps more importantly, without a touchdown.
HE SAID IT
“Got our fingers crossed,” head coach Bruce Arians said, referring to Johnson’s injury. “It does not appear to be ligament damage.”
– Fitzgerald’s 22-yard first-quarter catch extended his franchise-record streak with a reception to 195 straight games, the third-longest streak in league history.
– Golden and Jones became the first set of Cardinals’ teammates with double-digit sacks in a season for the first time since 1984 and the third time in history.
– Cardinals started their eighth different offensive line combination in 16 games with Evan Boehm becoming the fifth different starter at the right guard position.
– With the victory, the Cardinals secured their first win against the L.A. Rams since 1993 and first win against the Rams at the Memorial Coliseum since 1976.
– With the victory, the Cardinals secured their sixth consecutive road win against an NFC West opponent, including three straight road wins against the Rams.
– Among the Cardinals’ inactives were defensive tackles Olsen Pierre, Robert Nkemdiche and Ed Stinson. Nkemdiche reinjured his ankle in practice this week.
– A handful of Phoenix Suns players, including Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker, were expected to be at the game; the Suns play at the L.A. Clippers on Monday.
Missing out on the playoffs for the first time in three years means the Cardinals will now place 100-percent of their focus on 2017.
The new NFL season officially begins March 9 with the start of free agency. The draft will follow seven weeks later, April 27-29, in Philadelphia.
And for those curious about next season’s schedule, it includes the usual NFC West opponents plus home games against the Cowboys, Giants, Jaguars and Titans as well as visits to Houston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Washington.