Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson has his 45-yard field goal attempt blocked in the fourth quarter.
The Rams’ special teams unit has been strong for years, but in the past it was needed to make up for weaknesses on offense and defense.
Now that Los Angeles is solid in those facets, it’s the icing on the cake. The Cardinals and Rams were nearly identical in total yardage on Sunday, but special teams excellence helped Los Angeles pull away for the 32-16 win.
The Cardinals’ biggest miscue came in the fourth quarter, when Phil Dawson lined up for a 45-yard field goal that would have cut the deficit to 26-19 with about 11 minutes remaining. The ball never got past the line of scrimmage, as Rams defensive end Michael Brockers bulled over long snapper Justin Drescher and got a paw on the ball.
Coach Bruce Arians called it "probably the critical part of the game."
It was the second block of the contest for Los Angeles. Tyrunn Walker blocked a Cardinals extra point attempt in the second quarter. Arians said Drescher and the guards didn’t hold up in the middle of the protection each time.
“It was coached up as well as you could coach it up,” Arians said. “We just didn’t execute it.”
The Rams were consistently impressive on special teams. Kicker Greg Zuerlein missed an extra point, but he connected on four field goals with a long of 56. Johnny Hekker boomed a 70-yard punt from his end zone in the third quarter, and, after a Cardinals three-and-out, Pharoh Cooper returned the ensuing punt 30 yards to give the Rams the ball at the Arizona 30. They found the end zone six plays later for a two-score advantage.
The Cardinals’ best chance at a game-changer on special teams came on the opening kickoff. Safety Budda Baker ended up with the ball and told Arians he stripped it before Cooper was down. Arians challenged, but there was not a conclusive replay to overturn the call.
“It looked cloudy because there were a lot of guys around the ball, but I knew for a fact I stripped it while he was standing,” Baker said.
JIM HART INDUCTED INTO RING OF HONOR
Former Cardinals quarterback Jim Hart was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony. Hart, who played for the team from 1966-1983, was accompanied by his wife, children and grand-children on the field. Several of his former teammates watched from a suite, and Hart was quick to thank them.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” Hart said. “It’s a team game, and all these guys were on my side. I appreciate that.”
Hart, who joined the team as an undrafted rookie free agent, was a four-time Pro Bowler for the Cardinals from 1974-77 and set every significant passing record in team history.
“Jim Hart exhibited a toughness and durability that set the standard for generations that have followed him,” team president Michael Bidwill said. “But more importantly, he set the standard for class and sportsmanship on the field and off the field.”
Hart became the 17th member of the Ring of Honor.
FITZGERALD FASTEST TO 1,200 CATCHES
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 1,200 career receptions with a 15-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.
Fitzgerald got there in 214 career games, seven faster than Jerry Rice, the previous record-holder. He became the third player in NFL history to reach 1,200 receptions, joining Rice and Tony Gonzalez.
Fitzgerald finished the game with 10 catches for 98 yards and the score. His 12-yard catch in the fourth quarter passed Isaac Bruce for fourth-place on the all-time receiving yardage list. Fitzgerald’s 15,267 career receiving yards trail only Rice, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss.
Fitzgerald said it was hard to appreciate the historical accomplishments following a loss.
“The season hasn’t gone the way we hoped, so it’s hard to take any joy in losing,” Fitzgerald said.