NFL@L.A.: John Skelton
November, 27, 2011
By Mike Sando | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals following the Cardinals' 23-20 victory at the Edward Jones Dome in Week 12:
What it means: Patrick Peterson's legend continues to grow after the Cardinals rookie scored on a punt return for the fourth time in his first 11 NFL games. The Rams, having lost to Arizona previously on Peterson's 99-yard return in overtime, will face tough questions about kicking to Peterson at all in this game. Little about this game will quell speculation about Steve Spagnuolo's future beyond this season as the Rams' head coach. The Rams' inability to stop the Cardinals' Beanie Wells from setting a franchise single-game record for rushing yards stands as another mark against Spagnuolo's defense.
What I liked: Wells, though limited by a knee injury in recent weeks, ran with power and speed in setting the Cardinals' single-game record for rushing yards with 228 on 27 carries. LeShon Johnson set the previous record with 214 yards against New Orleans in 1996. Wells' third-quarter touchdown run moved him past 150 yards while giving Arizona a 13-10 lead following Lance Kendricks's fumble. This was Wells' eighth touchdown of the season, a career high. Kendricks bounced back from his fumble to make a tough catch in traffic as the Rams moved into the red zone while trailing 20-13 in the final eight minutes. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford then found Brandon Lloyd for the tying 16-yard scoring reception.
What I didn't like: The teams with the most expensive quarterbacks in the NFC West struggled to get much going in the passing game. The Cardinals remained without injured starter Kevin Kolb, a disappointment after Kolb practiced during the week. The Rams had Bradford in the lineup, but they once again struggled through the air, in the red zone and in general for three-plus quarters. Kolb's backup, John Skelton, threw two more interceptions. He has five picks without a touchdown pass over the Cardinals' past two games. Turnovers were a problem for both teams. Josh Brown missed a 50-yard field goal attempt that wound up being pivotal. Spagnuolo opted to pass on a late third-and-1, understandable given the state of his offensive line and his team's short-yardage problems against Arizona this season.
What's next: The Rams visit the San Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals are home against the Dallas Cowboys.
November, 6, 2011
By Mike Sando | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals following the Cardinals' 19-13 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 9:
What it means: Rookie Patrick Peterson is becoming a legend already after his 99-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Cardinals an overtime victory. This was his third punt return for a touchdown in eight games and it came when the Cardinals were desperate for a victory. The last time they won, against Carolina in Week 1, his punt return score was the difference. In the bigger picture, this game hurts Arizona's chances for securing a higher choice in the draft, but the payoff was sweet for the Cardinals.
What I liked: Calais Campbell continued to demonstrate his value on the field-goal block team. His third career block made sure the game went to overtime. Campbell also dominated from his spot at right defensive end. The Cardinals got No. 2 receiver Andre Roberts more involved in the offense. Adrian Wilson made an aggressive play in the Rams' backfield to foil a third-and-1 rushing attempt, forcing the Rams to settle for a field goal and a 6-3 lead. Arizona's John Skelton made a good touch pass to Larry Fitzgerald for the tying 13-yard touchdown in the final five minutes. ... Sam Bradford toughed it out on his sprained ankle, a starting point in his return to the Rams' lineup. Steven Jackson continued his physical running and topped 100 yards on the ground for the second week in a row. He has at least 96 yards in three of his last four games and at least 70 in all four. Rams rookie Greg Salas caught seven passes. Rams safety Darian Stewart was again active, getting a hand on passes well down the field.
What I didn't like: Skelton became the first NFL player since Aaron Rodgers in 2008 to take two safeties in the same game. Both were avoidable. Both were costly in a low-scoring game dominated by defense. The Cardinals had 58 yards and four first downs in the first half. Beanie Wells did not appear healthy and had a hard time getting anything going against the Rams' defense. Bradford took too many sacks. Salas suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury and was carted off the field. Later, medical personnel carted off Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams after a scary collision that appeared to put his head and neck area in jeopardy. Peterson continued having problems with penalties, including with the game on the line.
Controversial call: The Rams went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Arizona 33 with 1:48 remaining and did not get it. They were within range for a 51-yard field-goal attempt. Their kicker, Josh Brown, had made all three attempts Sunday (48, 37, 41 yards). Brown had made 15 of 19 tries from 50-plus yards since signing with the Rams. Field conditions in Arizona appeared excellent. Yes, Jackson was running well, but that was partly because the Rams had done a good job mixing up their play calls. Arizona knew what was coming in this situation. The fact that Arizona blocked the Rams' field-goal try later in the game doesn't validate Steve Spagnuolo's decision.
What's next: The Cardinals face the Eagles in Kevin Kolb's return to Philadelphia. The Rams visit Cleveland.