There were a few audible sighs of relief around the office when I asked for this game last week. Many of the analysts can’t bear the thought of negatively grading yet another game chock full of John Skelton over throws, but I knew better and so it proved. It’s not that Skelton suddenly morphed into Peyton Manning – there were plenty of those passes for his critics to savor. Here was a close game, with an all-time Cardinals record (rushing yards in a game), two punt returns for touchdowns, lead changes, a close finish and most importantly some really good and bad performances on both sides. Throw in Chad Pennington making a good, if understated, showing in the commentary box and it was fun for the entire family. Here’s a few of those more noteworthy performances:
Arizona – Three Performances of Note
Wells Rushes to Record
What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, against the 49ers Beanie Wells ran for 33 yards total, fumbled and dropped the only pass thrown his way receiving a -3.8 grade from us. Here he set a franchise record for rushing yards with 228 (beating LeShon Johnson’s 214 set in 1996), scored a touchdown and led his team to victory. This was despite twice being sidelined with knee injuries and was rewarded with a +2.2 evaluation for his efforts. True, he also fumbled but it was one of those more understandable ones as he was bent backwards, with his foot trapped underneath him and was stripped of the ball as the pain washed over him. Overall it was a display in which, while he did run well, the statistics flattered him a little as the major substance of the numbers were two long, well blocked runs of 71 and 53 yards. Perhaps the most impressive part was the way he rode his knocks and came back to take more punishment and help ice the game.
While many people will be talking about Wells and his record today, the best player on offense will likely get no press (well apart from us obviously). Since moving to Arizona Daryn Colledge (+6.7) hasn’t had the easiest of times but perhaps this was his break-out game. Back in 2008 we saw him as one of the best young guards in the league but for whatever reason, after the Packers disastrous use of him as a left tackle early in 2009, he’s seemed little more than a journeyman player. Here though, he looked backed to his 2008 best, giving up nothing in pass protection and making a very good player in James Laurinaitis (-4.4) look particularly poor. For those who are thinking he did most of that damage at the second level, you’d be wrong. Nearly everything the Cardinals did was focused on getting him pulling either right, where he would usually then come up against Laurinaitis or left where he would get the better of ex-teammate Brady Poppinga (-3.5). For example at 7:10 left in the third Wells picks up seven yards behind his block as Poppinga ends up on the ground.
Peterson – Defensive Rookie of the Year?
On the back of yet another impressive display on special teams I’ve heard a number of calls for Patrick Peterson (-1.1) to be named Defensive Rookie of the Year today. There’s only one minor problem with this view; he hasn’t played well as a cornerback so far. This game was no exception; he was thrown at nine times, allowing six receptions for 74 yards and never came close to breaking up a pass. While things could change (as not all the week 12 game data is in) he currently leads all corners in yards allowed with 641. Peterson is also tied for second in penalties given up (his eight equals Cedric Griffin and is one behind Brandon Browner); hardly DROTY material. The truth is he was so far off his man in this game it looked like a deliberate plan to let Brandon Lloyd (+1.3) have whatever he wanted underneath as long as he didn’t give up the big play behind him. If that was the plan it was carried out to the letter. That said, if you have a player of Peterson’s undoubted talent in a dead season when better to let him knock off the rough edges?
St. Louis – Three Performances of Note
Jack of No Trades
C.J. Ah You (-5.1) has always been something of a mystery player to me. He normally plays about 40% of the Rams defensive snaps as a nickel pass rusher from the defensive tackle position and occasionally spells Chris Long at left end. He gets some pressure but never enough for you to see him as a consistent threat (or actually any threat at all). Alternatively it’s never so little that he is an obvious cut at training camp. The real problem comes in games like this where the opposition decides to run at him. Look at the ease with which, a marginal run blocker, Jeremy Bridges (-5.4 run blocking this year) turns him inside on Wells’ 53 yarder scamper (Fourth Quarter 6:18 left). It was a consistent theme throughout and certainly not helped by his failure to get any pressure whatsoever on 17 pass rushes.
Benched for Good?
For those wondering why Jason Brown (-2.5) had lost his starting role at center to Tony Wragge (+2.0), the reasons were made obvious during this game. Due to injuries on the offensive line Harvey Dahl (+1.4) was moved to right tackle and Brown was asked to fill in at right guard. After a decent initial couple of quarters pulling against Paris Lenon (-1.2), Darnell Dockett (+3.3) got the measure of Brown and started to beat him like a drum. A hit, two hurries and blown blocks in the running game were the result before Ronald Talley and Sam Acho also got in on the act. For those wondering about Brown’s two false starts, while one was definitely on him I do agree with Chad Pennington though that the other was on Wragge for a late snap, and Dockett has already given him enough grief without me unfairly adding to it.
One Out of Three
The only one of the Rams starting linebackers to come out of this game with much credit was Chris Chamberlain (+3.1). While this may have something to do with the respective matchups it’s important to note that regardless he did play well throughout. While the other two linebackers were more often than not on a guard, Chamberlain had Anthony Sherman, the fullback, to contend with and fared much better. Check out the second quarter with 4:44 to go. Chamberlain attacks the line of scrimmage, gets inside the lead block of Sherman and makes the tackle for a one yard gain. Of his six tackles, five were stops and this was indicative of the way he played downhill for the majority of the game. In addition his coverage was sound, giving up only one reception and four yards.
– Not a single Cardinal missed a tackle on defense.
– With 3:52 left in the second quarter Adrian Wilson elbows a prone Harvey Dahl in either the stomach or chest. To make sure Dahl gets the message he then wags a finger in the tackles face. It’ll be interesting to see if this goes any further in terms of a fine.
– Sam Bradford throwing over 20 yards outside the numbers to the left; 3-for-3 for 77 yards and a TD. Think we might try that again next week?
PFF Game Ball
Given how much I always want to give this to an offensive lineman, Daryn Colledge gives me a perfect excuse with probably the best game of his career.
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