The Defense – This unit was expected to be improved, but they kept the game within reach in the second half and responded with big plays when the offense faltered down the stretch. Safety Adrian Wilson filled up the stat sheet once again with two interceptions, a sack and a blocked field goal. DE Calais Campbell and LB Joey Porter provided consistent pressure on Sam Bradford, limiting his rhythm throughout the afternoon. CB Greg Toler proved he was no weak link with 13 tackles and a couple pass deflections. The defense also kept RB Steven Jackson in check and made the Rams’ offense work for everything.
Steve Breaston – With Pro Bowl WR Larry Fitzgerald less than 100 percent and a new quarterback under center, the Cardinals were starving for someone to step up on the perimeter. Breaston came through in a big way with seven receptions for 132 yards and a game-saving play after a fumble. Breaston’s promotion to the No. 2 wideout has been overshadowed by Anquan Boldin’s departure, but he seems to be on the path to a marquee season.
Tim Hightower – RB Beanie Wells’ absence put the load squarely on Hightower’s shoulders and the third-year back buckled under the weight with a couple of costly fumbles. Hightower had a decent game with 54 yards rushing, another 40 receiving and a touchdown, but put the team’s chances in serious jeopardy with his turnovers. Hightower’s reliability has been rock solid since coming into the league and coach Ken Whisenhunt reaffirmed his faith in Hightower after the game. But the Richmond product needs to keep the ball off the carpet to maintain his spot atop the depth chart.
Execution – Turnovers. Penalties. Missed assignments. Timing miscues. Even with a new quarterback, these are issues that need to be corrected soon. As Arizona goes into a difficult stretch in their schedule, facing three talented teams -- Atlanta, San Diego, New Orleans -- in the next four weeks. Execution, particularly on offense, will be crucial in these four contests leading up to the bye week. The Cardinals’ offense must get on the same page, know their assignments and move past the growing pains suffered in St. Louis.
Max Komar – Three fumbles -- two on special teams, one after a reception in the red zone -- what a way to kickoff a NFL career. Komar did redeem himself with a 20-yard reception from Anderson during fourth-quarter action.
Beanie Wells (knee) is expected to return to practice this week and should play against Atlanta this Sunday.
Receiver Early Doucet (groin) and safety Hamza Abdullah (hamstring) suffered injuries during the game. Their status for Sunday’s game against the Falcons has yet to be determined.
The Cardinals must hang on to the ball and the offense needs to get in sync sooner rather than later. Only half the team seemed to bring their ‘A’ game to St. Louis and the Big Red still managed to pull out a close win. New challenges will arise in the coming weeks -- a second straight road contest and a trap game against an improved Raiders team -- and Arizona needs to get its act together quickly to avoid a slow start to the season.
Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52