Cornerback Jerraud Powers leaps to knock down the fourth-down pass of Rams quarterback Shaun Hill late in the fourth quarter of the Cardinals' 12-6 win Thursday night.
ST. LOUIS – Coach Bruce Arians heard a lot of chatter about the big, bad Rams defense in the lead-up to Thursday night's nationally televised matchup at the Edward Jones Dome.
St. Louis was coming off two straight shutouts, and defensive tackle Michael Brockers was boasting of making it three in a row. The Rams' defense certainly did a nice job, holding the Cardinals out of the end zone. They just weren't as good as their counterparts across the field.
"Everybody wanted to talk all that stuff about how great their defense is," said Arians after the 12-6 victory. "I think they saw a good defense tonight. It was in red and white."
It was a slugfest the whole way, as no touchdowns were registered by either side. The Cardinals allowed a long drive which ended in a field
goal on St. Louis' first possession, but then put the Rams' offense in a vice grip.
St. Louis scored only three more points the rest of the way, and even that was seen as a victory when St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher chose to kick a field goal on a 4th-and-goal from the 1 in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals became the first team this season to win a game without scoring a touchdown.
"The defense," cornerback Patrick Peterson said, "was phenomenal."
While neither team lit up the scoreboard, the Cardinals consistently moved the ball more effectively until quarterback Drew Stanton left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury.
The Cardinals surpassed 100 yards on the ground for the second consecutive outing without starting tailback Andre Ellington, as Kerwynn Williams had 15 carries for 75 yards and Stepfan Taylor added 14 for 61. St. Louis' Tre Mason, meanwhile, had only 13 carries for 33 yards.
"We respect those guys and we know what they can do," linebacker Larry Foote said. "But we know one thing: Our offense ran the ball on them tonight and their offense didn't. That was the key."
Foote said one of the biggest factors in the victory was the defense's ability to get off the field on third downs. The Rams went three-and-out on their first five drives of the second half, gaining a total of 12 yards in that span.
"I looked up there and we had seven first downs it seemed like midway through the second quarter," Fisher said. "And it stayed up there until the fourth quarter."
Foote recovered a fumble forced by defensive tackle Frostee Rucker to set up the Cardinals' first points, and Peterson put an exclamation point on the performance by intercepting a final desperate pass from Shaun Hill. Hill finished the game 20-of-39 for 229 yards with no touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 58.6.
"We knew not to come out after halftime slow and staggered," Rucker said. "We wanted to come out full speed. We knew it was on our backs to do it and we got it done."
Stanton was carted off the field after he was sacked in the third quarter and was replaced by third-stringer Ryan Lindley. Word soon trickled down that Stanton was done for the night – the severity of the injury is still unknown – but the defense never flinched. Just a month ago, starting quarterback Carson Palmer tore his ACL against these Rams, and the Cardinals rallied for the win that time.
"When people go down we don't even ask how bad it is," Foote said. "We just keep rolling. We're used to that since training camp. We don't care who gets hurt -- well we definitely don't want our QB getting hurt, but on the defensive side we said, 'Let's hold them. We've got the talent to do it. We've just got to focus and dial in to keep them from scoring touchdowns.'"
The Cardinals' goal was to hold the Rams under 10 points, and they did it with four to spare. They'll officially clinch a playoff berth provided the Cowboys and Eagles don't tie on Sunday, but again doubts will surface due to Stanton's uncertain status.
Despite the injury, the mood was jovial, not doom-and-gloom, in the postgame locker room. The Cardinals' defense remains tough as ever, and it's helped keep the team atop the NFC pack with two games left.
"We're here to play." Peterson said. "A lot of teams said, 'Oh, they're going to start out hot and take a nose dive.' We're still playing football, baby."