Rams struggle as Cardinals roll to 30-10 victory
Sunday, December 8, 2013
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The St. Louis Rams have virtually assured themselves last place in what might be the NFL’s toughest division.
Carson Palmer picked the Rams apart with precision passing Sunday and St. Louis’ run game struggled in a 30-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Other than Tavon Austin’s 56-yard run that set up the Rams’ only touchdown, St. Louis managed just 44 yards rushing in 18 attempts. Zac Stacy had just 25 yards in 14 tries.
“I thought we’d do a better job than we did,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, “But we couldn’t run the football today, and that’s disappointing.”
So was the pass rush. The most effective part of the Rams’ game on most days, it sacked Palmer just once.
Meanwhile, the Arizona quarterback completed 27-of-32 passes, with 12 of those receptions hauled in by Larry Fitzgerald.
“They were getting the ball out fast, chipping a lot,” defensive end Robert Quinn said. “His receivers were making plays.”
It was the second-highest completion rate (84.4) in franchise history. Only Kurt Warner’s NFL record of 92.3 percent (24-of -26) against Jacksonville in 2009 was better.
Palmer threw for 269 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions as the Cardinals (8-5) won for the fifth time in six games. He was sacked once.
The Cardinals ended an eight-game losing streak against NFC West opponents. St. Louis fell to 1-4 against division foes.
Arizona’s Karlos Dansby returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown and John Abraham tackled Kellen Clemens for a safety.
Tavon Austin’s 56-yard run set up the only touchdown for the Rams (5-8), a 1-yard run by Zac Stacy. Austin injured his left ankle on the play and didn’t return. The loss mathematically eliminated the Rams from postseason contention.
The Cardinals lost rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu in the third quarter. Arians said it “appears to be an ACL” injury to his left knee.
Arizona had not beaten an NFC West opponent since downing Seattle in the 2012 opener. The Cardinals lost three in a row this season, including 27-24 at St. Louis in the opener. Coach Bruce Arians hammered that home last week.
“I can’t use the words he used,” Dansby said. “My mom would get at me if I do that, but he let it be known that we were at the bottom of the totem pole and we’ve got to climb our way out.”
Fitzgerald’s 12 catches went for 96 yards, including a 7-yarder for a touchdown. It was his most receptions since he matched his career high with 13 against Seattle on Oct. 18, 2009.
Dansby had his second touchdown return of an interception in three games. He returned one 22 yards in Arizona’s 40-11 rout of Indianapolis.
Mathieu, the “Honey Badger” having a terrific rookie season, was hurt after returning the free kick that followed the safety in the third quarter. He jogged toward the Arizona bench but his knee buckled and he collapsed, then he was carted off the field.
The Arizona safety came after a Cardinals punt was downed at the Rams’ 1. On third down from the 5, Clemens retreated to the end zone and was hit by Abraham, who had three sacks to give him 11 this season.
In the first half, Palmer completed 16-of-17 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. He would have had another TD had Jim Dray not fumbled at the half-yard line. Palmer completed his first 10 passes.
Arizona took the opening kickoff and went 80 yards in eight plays, Rashard Mendenhall scoring on a 3-yard run. The Rams responded with Greg Zuerlein’s 44-yard field goal.
On St. Louis’ second play from scrimmage in the third period, Calais Campbell pressured Clemens. Dansby stepped in front of intended receiver Jared Cook, picked off the pass and ran untouched 23 yards to make it 21-3.
Notes: Abraham moved past Lawrence Taylor and Leslie O’Neal into ninth on the NFL career sacks list with 133. … Dansby has four interception returns for scores for the Cardinals in two stints with the team. Only Aeneas Williams (six) and Larry Wilson (five) have more in franchise history. … Arizona has outscored its past two opponents at home 70-21 and is 6-1 at home. … The Rams were penalized 11 times for 90 yards. … With his 10th TD catch of the season, Fitzgerald became the ninth player with double-digit touchdown receptions in five seasons.
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