What Worked & What Didn't In St. Louis

The Arizona Cardinals are enjoying their 5-3 record after dousing the St. Louis Rams thanks to plenty of passing and an awe inspiring performance from a rookie running back. The Cardinals are now over the hump with eight games left on the docket. Arizona will need to continue certain winning ways and dump other plays to reign supreme in the NFC. Here is what worked and what didn't from week nine.

What Worked

-- The Cardinals increased their three-game lead in the NFC West with a win over the Rams. The three other divisional foes are all laying low at 2-6, while the Cardinals are sitting pretty with a 5-3 record.

--Tim Hightower made his first career start and hit it out of the ball park. Success looked eminent from the beginning. He secured the first down on his first carry as a starter and carried in a 30-yard touchdown run later on. Hightower had a 109-yard game.

--Kurt Warner was in usual form, passing up the competition with 342 passing yards. Warner was the Rams' main target as the key to the game would be putting pressure on the Ram-alum. But the Cardinals offensive line swallowed the Rams' defensive front.


RB J.J. Arrington
(Getty)

--Instead of working in Edgerrin James on Sunday, J.J. Arrington took the extra snaps. He did a solid job compiling 62 yards on the ground and 57 in the air.

--Sunday's win wasn't a necessity for Arizona to stay a top the NFC West, but it sure did help. The playoff race for the Cardinals will be won in the division. Many are saying it's already been won by Arizona. --Sunday's game marked the Cardinals fourth turnover free game of the season. The last time the Cardinals had four or more games without a turnover in one season was 1985, with four.

-- The Cardinals defense had season lows with 231 total yards allowed, 61 rushing yards, and only allowed seven passing first downs. --Bertrand Berry returned to his starting role, replacing Travis LaBoy. Berry's awareness of the field and the play was pivotal when Adrian Wilson stripped the ball from Marc Bulger and Berry recovered it. The play marked the second consecutive big turnover for the Cardinals in the contest.

The first was a spectacular interception return by Antrel Rolle who returned to his picking ways. He intercepted Bulger and turned the pick into a touchdown. Ken Whisenhunt had a grin from ear-to-ear and gave Rolle a big hug of congrats when he came off of the field.

--The big guys up front gave Warner all day. Deuce Lutui came up with several key blocks.

--Darnell Docket picked up his third sack of the season when he got after Bulger.

--It goes without saying that the Cardinals have a star-loaded receivers unit, but when the No. 4 guy comes up with a big touchdown, a team knows they have something special. Jerheme Urban managed to recover a tipped pass that was nearly intercepted and ran the ball in for the 24-7 lead.


WR Anquan Boldin
(Getty)

--Anquan Boldin did whatever it took to get the ball in the end zone in the third quarter. He started blocking before he received the pass, an illegal play that went un-noticed by the officials but was pointed out by his teammates on the sidelines.

--The Cardinals limited the Rams to zero interceptions and registered a pair for themselves for 40 yards.

--Arizona kept the ball 17 more minutes than St. Louis.

What Didn't

--Warner's quarterback sneak in the first half wasn't sly enough. Had the game been close, this could have been a difference maker. Warner was called in to action after Hightower was denied three times at the goal line. Props must be given to stopping Hightower in the red as he is likely one of the most efficient goal line backs in the league. He is a pivotal part of why the Cardinals lead the league in first and goal.


QB Kurt Warner
(Getty)

--The Cardinals were shutout for most of the first half. They struggled to connect the dots, but all was worked out when Arizona hit the locker room.

--Larry Fitzgerald dropped a pair of receptions. Even the surest hands in the league, drop them sometimes. His team can give him those two.

--Arizona could have established itself quicker in St. Louis. Warner and team had a total of 333 yards of offensive at the half, but about 90 percent of those yards came past the halfway point of the second quarter.

--Coverage lapsed when James Hall got to Warner.


WR Larry Fitzgerald
(Getty)

--Arizona started getting sloppy in the fourth quarter. Penalties were plentiful and focus was lacking. The Cardinals tacked on 10 penalties for 69 yards. Their lead allowed handfuls of mistakes, but they will have to tighten up with plenty of tough competition still on the agenda.

The Cardinals are second in the league in penalties.

What's Next

The Cardinals will host the 49ers under the spotlight of Monday Night Football. San Francisco will be coming off of a two-weekend break. The San Francisco 49ers will be well-rested as they had their bye week in week nine and will have the following weekend off due to a Monday game.

The 49ers are coming to the desert with a 2-6 record. The Cardinals enjoyed a win on the road and an NFC West victory in both teams' season-opener.

The bye couldn't have come soon enough for San Francisco.

"It certainly came at a great time," coach Mike Singletary said. "I will say that it was very welcome. I'm very thankful to have had that first week prior to the bye week to give me something to have and be able to reflect upon and be able to look at throughout the rest of the season as I thought about different things that we needed going forward. I'm very thankful that I had the first week."

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