By Andrew Kahn-
(CBS Local) Two defensive-minded teams with sub-par quarterbacks produced the lowest-scoring game of the season last night. The Arizona Cardinals improved to 11-3 without scoring a touchdown, winning in St. Louis, 12-6. But their injury-ravaged roster took another critical hit.
Arizona head coach Bruce Arians has been preaching “next man up” for most of the season. He wishes he didn’t have to keep repeating it. Drew Stanton, starting his fifth consecutive game for Carson Palmer (out for season), injured his right knee on a third quarter sack last night. He was carted off the field, and although nothing is certain before an MRI, Stanton has injured that knee before. Said Larry Fitzgerald after the game, “I’m glad we don’t have to play the Rams anymore,” a reference to the fact that Palmer was also injured against St. Louis. Ryan Lindley, a sixth round pick out of San Diego State in 2012, had not seen action since his rookie season before entering last night’s game. He went 4 for 10 for 30 yards. The only other quarterback currently on Arizona’s roster is rookie Logan Thomas.
Field goal fest
All of the game’s points were scored by the kickers, as both offenses struggled to find any consistency. Arizona’s Chandler Catanzaro, a rookie out of Clemson, went 4-for-4, hitting from 23, 44, 51, and 46 yards. He is 26 of 30 on the season. Greg Zuerlein, who missed two short field goals and an extra point last week for St. Louis, made both his attempts last night.
Arians clearly didn’t like all the hype surrounding the Rams defense, which had pitched two-straight shutouts and was receiving a lot of attention leading up to the game. While St. Louis performed very well on that side of the ball on Thursday, Arizona’s unit is superior. The Cards lowered their season average to 17.4 points allowed per game, second best in the NFL. Safety Tyrann Mathieu may return next week.
Fitzgerald became the youngest player to reach 900 career receptions last night. He had seven catches for just 30 yards last night, but is no doubt one of the best receivers of his generation. Since Arizona drafted him with the third overall pick in 2004, he’s been the focus of opposing defenses. He experienced 61 regular season games with Kurt Warner as his quarterback but far too many with guys like John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Brian Hoyer, Derek Anderson, Max Hall, Matt Leinart, and Josh McCown. After seeing his numbers dip a bit without Palmer this season, he’ll now have to adjust to yet another quarterback. Fitzgerald has done this without a whiff of controversy; unlike many of the wideouts of his generation, it’s hard to do anything but respect Fitzgerald.
Heading in different directions
The Rams, at 6-8, will not finish above .500 this season, keeping alive a streak that’s been going since 2003. Oakland is the only franchise with a longer active streak. Arizona, meanwhile, will clinch a playoff spot Sunday if the Eagles-Cowboys game doesn’t end in a tie, or with a Lions loss/Packers win combo.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal.