Running back Beanie Wells scores a touchdown Sunday in the midst of his record-setting 228-yard day while the Cards beat the Rams, 23-20
ST. LOUIS – For a guy who just ran for a franchise-record 228 yards Sunday, Beanie Wells was taking a lot of grief.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was "a little mad" with his running back after Wells was caught on both a 71- and 53-yard run at the Edward Jones Dome, unable to finish off the plays with touchdowns. "He keeps telling me how fast he is," Whisenhunt cracked.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was telling everyone how he was giving Wells his "Paul Pierce Award" – named after the NBA star who infamously left a Finals game with a major knee injury, only to return later in the game – after Wells suffered what looked like a knee injury, only to come back and rip off that 53-yarder. "What injury?" Fitzgerald said.
All in good fun, of course, the kind of humor easy to dole out after a victory. The Cardinals won for the seventh straight time in St. Louis, beating the Rams, 23-20, behind Wells, another good defensive day and Patrick Peterson's NFL-record tying fourth punt return for a touchdown this season.
"It was a grinder," quarterback John Skelton said, and when Fitzgerald was asked about a "different" kind of win, he just smiled. "We've had a couple of those, those different kind of wins."
Offensively, the Cardinals (4-7) couldn't pass the ball again as Skelton struggled for a second straight week. With Kevin Kolb not quite ready – Whisenhunt thought about using Kolb as a backup, but decided it would be too difficult to have Kolb wait on the sideline and then warm his injured foot up well enough to play – Skelton was frequently high with his passes early.
Skelton finished 12-of-23 for just 114 yards and a pair of interceptions, and despite nine targets Fitzgerald had just three receptions for 55 yards.
"You get your stomach in knots because you get plays (open) and you're not hitting them," Whisenhunt said. "But sometimes it's a product of young quarterbacks. You can't lose your patience."
It's an easier process to digest when the other phases of the game perform. The Rams (2-9) had just 272 total yards, with running back Steven Jackson gaining just 64 yards on 17 carries while the Cards' defense allowed just 13 points (the other touchdown came on Nick Miller's 88-yard punt return).
"We stuck it out and it was another ugly win," linebacker Daryl Washington said. "But we kept staying positive."
Then there was Peterson, who said he was "very, very surprised" that Rams punter Donnie Jones kicked to him in the third quarter, and then almost dropped the ball when he tried to steal an extra peek at the coverage.
But he grabbed it with his fingertips and then scooted 80 yards – mostly up the middle – for yet another score. Peterson is the first player to have four punt return scores at least 80 yards (89, 82, 99, 80).
"Nine out of 10 times, when you make a big play like that on special teams, you'll win the game," Peterson said.
It negated Miller's play for the Rams earlier. The win for the Cards, however, wouldn't have come without the healthy dose of Beanie. Tying his career-high with 27 carries, Wells broke the franchise record with a 14-yard run on the game's final play, snapping a tie with the 1996 game of LeShon Johnson.
"I really don't think about (records)," Wells said, calling the day "a blessing."
"After a slow start the past couple of weeks, myself and the offensive line were challenged by coach (Whisenhunt)," Wells said. "We wanted to prove we were a good football team and capable of competing."
Wells said his right knee was "not fine" and it would be looked at – he was already wearing a knee brace on it. That didn't take away from his day, even if it seemed like no one who took part wanted to celebrate it much.
Rookie fullback Anthony Sherman, back in the lineup and playing well as lead blocker after dealing with an ankle injury, said "I'm just doing what I was supposed to do." Wells said he wanted to make sure he came back after the knee injury – in the fourth quarter, while the Cards were trying to hang on to the ball and their three-point lead – because "I knew my team would need me."
"It's great to be a part of something like that, because you always want to set records," guard Daryn Colledge said. "But it just sets a standard that certain things will be expected in games. We have to keep it to that level."
Most importantly, Colledge emphasized, Wells' day ended with a win. That makes three of four for the Cards, who went 2-2 on their four-road-games-in-five-weeks stretch.
"Today," Fitzgerald said, "was Beanie's day."
That's no joke.