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A Business-like Win Over Rams

With 31-10 victory, Cards reach 10 wins for the first time since 1976

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Wide receiver Early Doucet (80) celebrates his first NFL touchdown with teammates during Sunday's 31-10 victory over the Rams.
 
 
The Cardinals reached 10 wins Sunday and personal milestones were plenty – Adrian Wilson reaching the 20-sack/20-interception career club and Kurt Warner throwing his 100th touchdown pass in Arizona, just to name a couple.

Yet the 31-10 victory over sliding St. Louis at University of Phoenix Stadium was about business more than anything else. The Cardinals (10-5) should've beaten up the Rams (1-14). And that's what they did.

"This is our job," linebacker Clark Haggans said. "To take care of business and (it's good to) have everyone sound nice in the locker room after the game instead of that somber feeling we had where you could hear a pin drop in San Francisco.

"(Coach) gave us some time off Friday and he gave a little and he expects a lot in return. It's one of those things, we didn't want to let him down, because he treats us real well."

Avoiding practice on Christmas didn't seem to affect the Cards. They were playing a team already without many of their key pieces, a list that grew before the game when Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson was declared inactive because of his ongoing back issues.

The results were as expected. The Cardinals outgained the Rams, 407 yards to 238, they intercepted Rams quarterback Keith Null three times and sacked him four times, and scored four touchdowns in five trips into the red zone.

Quarterback Kurt Warner completed 24-of-38 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin finished just short of 1,000 yards on the season after his eight-catch, 116-yard game. And the running game generated 110 yards.

Yet after a slower-than-desired start (it was 0-0 after a quarter), the Cards wanted even more.
 
"We didn't execute as well as we had anticipated," said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who tied his career-high with his 12th touchdown catch of the season.

Again, wanting more was about the business of getting better.

"We're growing up," said linebacker Bertrand Berry, who had one of the Cards' sacks. "We understand we have to be like this. We understand we can't celebrate wins like they are like the Super Bowl every single time. You have to be professional. Today was a prime example of that."

Warner threw for 196 yards in the second quarter, his second-highest quarter total in his career, as the Cardinals scored 17 points.

But with a 17-0 halftime lead against a bad team for a second straight week, the Cards added to the déjà vu when Warner fumbled when hit by Rams defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, with the Rams recovering on the Arizona 35.

Five plays later, Null hit Brandon Gibson for a 21-yard touchdown (the play was at first ruled incomplete but overturned on a St. Louis challenge) to make the score 17-7, another step in recalling Detroit.

This time, the Cardinals answered with a touchdown of their own – a drive that ended in Tim Hightower's eighth rushing score of the season – and later cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made his sixth interception of the season to finally bury the Rams.

"We learned from last week," Berry said. "And that's encouraging."

Also encouraging was the apparent lack of injuries coming out of the game. Fullback Dan Kreider didn't play after waking up with a stiff neck, but he is expected to be OK. Fitzgerald left late with a left elbow contusion, but he said he was fine as he wore a wide smile afterward.

The Cards celebrated not only reaching the 10-win mark for the first time since 1976 but also Wilson's long-awaited 20th career sack (which actually gives him 20½ total), making him the 10th player to get there. Wilson also had one of the Cards' interceptions.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he considered taking Warner out before he finally put in backup Matt Leinart with three minutes left, stopping from doing so because "I kept wanting one more score" that never quite came.

The playoff picture still hasn't been sorted out. The Cards could have used a loss by Philadelphia, but the Eagles barely hung on to top Denver, 30-27. The Vikings, who currently hold the No. 2 seed, play in Chicago Monday night.

But this is about business, and for the Cards, all they can do is take care of their own – just like Sunday.

"Our biggest thing is getting healthy, clicking on all cylinders, and doing the right thing," defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said. "That's doing whatever we need to do to win ballgames."

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