Technically, this was a meaningless game in the sense that neither the Arizona Cardinals or St. Louis Rams were going to see the postseason. But in some respects, the Cardinals had something to play for. They had the chance to finish at .500 for the first time since 1998, when they went 9-7. And of course they wanted to finish the season on a high note, as well. Mission accomplished as every aspect of the Cardinals team got involved in the scoring as they mauled the Rams 48-19 Sunday at Glendale.
Both teams traded field goals in the first quarter, then the Rams decided to gamble early; on fourth-and-4, St. Louis failed to convert, giving the ball to Arizona. The Cards then proceeded to drive 57 yards, capping the drive with running back Edgerrin James running into the end zone from 2 yards out, giving Arizona a 10-7 lead with 7:45 left in the first half. On the 2nd play from scrimmage, Rams quarterback Marc Bulger threw an interception to Cards cornerback Antrel Rolle. Rolle returned the pick-6 47 yards for the score, upping Arizona’s lead to 17-7.
About 5 1/2 minutes later, Cards QB Kurt Warner would throw a TD pass to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, increasing even further the Arizona lead 24-3. A late first-half 42-yard field goal by Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins narrowed the Cards’ first-half lead to 24-6, a lead that Arizona would have no difficulty hanging on to. Warner had a productive outing, going 23-of-39 for 300 yards with 3 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions. James led all Cards’ rushers with 102 yards on 24 carries and a score; he would also catch 3 passes for 34 yards. Fitzgerald had an outstanding season-ending effort, catching 11 passes for 171 yards and 2 TD’s, while WR Anquan Boldin caught 4 for 56 and a score.
The Rams managed to scrounge up 234 yards of total offense, led by Bulger, who went 13-of-25 for 176 yards with a TD and 2 INT’s; RB Stephen Jackson led the Rams’ rushing attack (or lack thereof) with 18 carries for 55 yards. WR Torry Holt led the Rams receivers with 7 receptions for 93 yards, while tight end Joe Klopfenstein caught a ball for 36 yards and a score. Some milestones were recorded along the way, as well. As previously noted, the Cards hit the .500 mark for the first time since 1998, when they were 9-7 and made the playoffs. The Rams’ Holt also became the 19th player in league history to have at least 800 receptions in a career.
The Cardinals, barring a meltdown at the 2008 NFL draft, should have a solid foundation going into next season. The offense is in place, perhaps with the exception of determining who the starting QB will be next season. The defense, especially their secondary is gradually improving; that should make things very interesting next season in the NFC West. The Rams (3-13), in short, are in disarray and have lots of work to do to become relevant next year.