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Rams aftermath, and a rough way to leave home

If this is indeed Larry Fitzgerald’s final season, then he will have something in common with former teammate Emmitt Smith. Both threw their first NFL touchdown passes in their last year. Emmitt’s came, as a Cardinal, in 2004 at Sun Devil Stadium against the Saints, a 21-yarder to fullback Femi Ayanbadejo. I thought of that when Fitz threw his Sunday against the Rams – the potential last season part of it, at least. Fitz was thinking about something else I had forgotten.

Smith, who treasured his milestone footballs, was horrified when Ayanbadejo chucked the ball into the stands after his score. And then David Johnson gave away the ball himself to a fan after catching Fitz’s toss.

“Femi threw it up in the stands and Emmitt was like, ‘What are you doing? I’ve been playing 16 years and never done that before, go get the football,’ ” Fitzgerald said with a smile. “I didn’t even notice (David.) I was just so excited to get the opportunity.”

It was a cool sight. But as Josh Rosen noted, there have not been enough of them this season. The loss to the Rams (who outscored the Cardinals 65-9 in two meetings) was the fifth time this season the Cards have lost by at least 22 points. The run defense was correctly interpreted by coach Steve Wilks as “horrendous.” The focus was totally on Fitz Sunday, which was good, because everything else looked a lot like the week previous loss to the Falcons, right down to Rosen coming out in the fourth quarter so he wouldn’t get hurt.

The Cardinals won just once at home this season. That hadn’t happened since the franchise moved to Arizona.

“Our fans are extremely important in the things we want to try and portray and represent and give to them,” Wilks said. “I take full responsibility for the letdown this year. It’s unacceptable.”

-- What happens over the next week will be under the spotlight. Wilks said he has not talked with team president Michael Bidwill or GM Steve Keim about his future. But that is coming, one way or the other. Fitzgerald was asked about only getting one home win. Fitz called it “disturbing.” No one will argue.

-- At one point after Fitz’s pass, the Cardinals’ leading passer was wide receiver Fitzgerald, their leading rusher was quarterback Rosen, their leading receiver was Johnson. Not where you want those particular players sitting in the stats.

“That’s a funny stat definitely for sure,” Johnson said.

-- Rosen did have scrambles of 14, 15 and 16 yards. Lamar Jackson, the sequel, everyone! Right?

“Absolutely not,” Rosen said with a small smile. “I’m not trying to run the ball.”

-- Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was quiet the first time the Cards and Rams played. He wasn’t Sunday. He had three sacks, bringing his season total to 19½ and putting him within three of tying Michael Strahan’s NFL record for a season. The Rams play the 49ers in the season finale.

“I’m just going to play and see what happens,” Donald said.  

-- Safety Tre Boston got flagged twice for 15-yard penalties after lighting up the Rams’ Brandin Cooks. The first one seemed unfair, that Boston – while hitting hard – got Cooks shoulder-to-chest. The second one deserved a flag. Wilks was bothered by both.

“I love and respect Tre, but he has to better control himself in those types of situations,” Wilks said.

-- Zane Gonzalez is going to get a chance to win the kicking job this offseason, I’d think. And a 54-yard field goal is not easy. But if he had made that Sunday, it gives him a leg up on anyone they might want to bring in to challenge him. Missing an extra point doesn’t help the cause.

-- There will be no Tuesday mailbag, on account of Christmas. I’ll resume the Tuesday after New Year’s.

-- The Rams ran a ton (and very well) so there wasn’t a ton of pass-rushing chances, but Chandler Jones never really came close to a $20,000-for-Phoenix-Children’s-Hospital sack.

-- That’s enough for tonight. The office is closed for Christmas Eve, but I will be working and writing, so be sure to click on my story before settling in to your Eve festivities Monday night.

WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson slap the hands of OC Byron Leftwich as they run off the field following a Fitz-to-Johnson TD pass

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