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Week 14 Recap: Cards Tame Broncos, 43-13

John Skelton did enough to help the Cardinals snap their seven-game losing streak by defeating the Denver Broncos at home

Jubilation!  The Cardinals won their first game since a Week 5 victory over the defending Super Bowl Champions.  There were Santa hats out in force at University of Phoenix Stadium and the fans got an early Christmas gift.  Although it was John Skelton’s (15/37, 146 yards) first career start and victory, it was really kicker Jay Feely that led the Cardinals to a whopping 43-13 victory over the Broncos.  Thanks largely to Feely’s career effort, the Cardinals matched their points scored total for the past four games.  With the victory, the Cardinals improve to 4-9 while Denver falls to 3-10.

The Cardinals started the game in dubious yet familiar fashion by allowing a long kick off return, which was called back for holding.  After Kyle Orton and Eddie Royal mercilessly picked on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on several passes down the field, the Cardinals defense tightened up on third down in the redzone by forcing Denver to kick a 23-yard field goal. 

John Skelton’s first offensive possession almost ended in disaster when he threw a bubble screen to Larry Fitzgerald (6 receptions, 72 yards), who seemed to catch and fumble away the ball, but the call was challenged and ruled an incomplete pass.  On 3rd and 9 Skelton set up a screen, but Jason Wright let the easy completion drop harmlessly to the ground.

After Denver and Arizona traded punts, “Money” Mike Adams secured his second interception of the season on a 3rd and 7 pass attempt by Orton.  Adams returned the ball all the way to the Broncos 23 yardline before Ben Coates made the tackle.  As per usual, though, the Cardinals offense stalled with a chance to put up a touchdown.  Jay Feely trotted out and banged through a 28-yard chip shot to tie the score at 3.

Eric Decker broke off his second great return of the game, giving his team excellent field position.  On third down, though, Eddie Royal fumbled an end around and the Cardinals pounced on the ball setting up shop on the Broncos 30 yardline.  Once again, the Cardinals offense failed to gain any ground.  Ben Graham lofted a great punt that was downed inside the Broncos’ 5 yardline.

The Cardinals forced a punt and took over in Denver territory.  Arizona finally started to move the ball as Skelton completed a first down pass to tight end Steven Spach.  On the next play, the Cards ran a reverse with Steve Breaston that was good for 15 yards and another first down.  The highlight of play, though, was John Skelton using all of his 6’6″, 245 lb. frame to throw a very nice block to spring Breaston.  After failing to convert on a 3rd and 11, Jay Feely gave the Cardinals a 6-3 lead by nailing a 48-yard field goal.

The Broncos fumbled away their next possession when Rashad Johnson and Alan Branch combined to force an Eric Decker fumble.  Kerry Rhodes jumped on the loose ball to give Arizona possession at their own 41 yardline.  The Cards punted the ball away, but not before Larry Fitzgerald passed Anquan Boldin as the Cardinals’ all time leader in receptions.  Fitz finished the day with 592 receptions in his first seven years in the NFL.

As soon as the Broncos got the ball back they gave it up immediately on another Orton interception, this time by Kerry Rhodes.  After the Cardinals failed to convert on yet another third down, Jay Feely decided that he was going to take matters into his own hands.  The Cards lined up for another field goal, but holder Ben Graham flipped the snap up to Feely who took off towards the right corner of the endzone from 23-yards out, scoring the Cards’ first touchdown in 9 quarters of football.  “As soon as I caught the ball I kind of knew I was going to make it,” Feely said.  “They rushed pretty hard on that corner.  I was able to get in the end zone and have a little fun.”  The Cards took a 13-3 lead after Feely (who else?) banged through the extra point.  Feely became the fourth kicker in 40 years to run for a touchdown and matched his career best with five field goals, including a 55-yarder in this game.

On the Cardinals’ opening possession in the second half, the Cardinals marched right down the field, but was forced to settle for another Jay Feely field goal.  Feely once again put it through, giving the Cardinals a 19-6 lead.  From that point on, the Cardinals really poured it on.  The running game finally got going as Tim Hightower clearly had his best game of the season rushing for 148 yards on 18 carries with 2 TDs. 

Late in the fourth quarter, Rookie Daryl Washington intercepted Orton late in the game and ran 39 yards, which was great.  It wasn’t great, though, when Washington pulled up to showboat, holding the ball high in the air in one hand because Denver’s Lance Ball stripped it from behind on the two yardline.  Darnell Dockett recovered in the end zone for the final score.  Coach Ken Whisenhunt gave Washington a tongue-lashing on the sideline.

Whisenhunt didn’t have a tongue-lashing for Skelton, though.  “I’m very pleased with how he handled himself today,” Whisenhunt said. “That goes a long way.  I think the guys in the huddle feel the same way.  It’s exciting to think we have a young guy that shows some promise.  But listen, we have a lot of work to do still with him.”  When asked whether Skelton would be the starter for next Sunday’s game at Carolina, the head coach stated that “there’s no reason for me to sit here and make any kind of decision like that right now.  We’re still going to look at the tape and evaluate it going forward.” 

Based on the available options, though, it seems that Skelton will get the first road start of his career.

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