Beanie Wells (Christian Petersen/Getty)
The Cardinals won a suppose-to-win game against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at home, but the victory was more meaningful to the organization than usual. The Cardinals have won 10 games in a season for the first time since 1976.
Since 1976, the franchise lost at least 10 games 18 times.
"I've been on two 3-13 teams, one 6-10 team, so guys actually have been through here and see in at its worst," defensive end Darnell Dockett said. "The young guys really don't know because it's their first year coming into the league or their second year. But for guys who have been around here, playing at Sun Devil Stadium with those terrible old uniforms, locked up in a little box locker room, it means a lot to us."
The Cardinals put together a workmanlike effort in beating the Rams, 31-10, and showed considerable maturity compared to last season. After they clinched the division last season, the Cardinals let down and were blown out against the Vikings and Patriots.
This season, the Cardinals have avoided consecutive losses and generally have followed a lackluster effort with an efficient one.
"It shows the progress we're making, that we're doing things the right way, that we're building and that Coach Whiz and his staff have come in and done a great job," quarterback Kurt Warner said, referring to coach Ken Whisenhunt. "It's fun to be a part of and they're all neat accomplishments for this point in the season."
To Warner, that's an important qualifier: at this point in the season. After a Super Bowl appearance last year, expectations for this team have risen. A 10-win season is nice, but a first-round exit in the playoffs will take the shine off that.
"I think what we'll remember this season by is what we do come playoff time," Warner said.
It's hard to say if the Cardinals are primed for a playoff run. They are healthy, at least by NFL standards, and they played efficiently against the Rams.
But it's also true that the Cardinals haven't met a playoff-caliber opponent since beating Minnesota on Dec. 6. They didn't play well in road games at the 49ers and Lions, and even against the Rams, there were blemishes. Offensive tackles Jeremy Bridges (left) and Levi Brown were shaky in protection. If the Cardinals can't protect Warner, their appearance in the playoffs will be brief.
BY THE NUMBERS: 20-20 -- Strong safety Adrian Wilson carved out a small spot in league history by becoming the 10th player to have at least 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in a career. Wilson had a sack in the fourth quarter against the Rams, giving him 20.5 sacks. His interception against the Rams was his 23rd. Wilson received a ball to commemorate the moment and former Cardinals great Larry Wilson, a Hall of Fame safety, congratulated Wilson in the locker room afterward. Adrian Wilson credited Larry Wilson for revolutionizing the game by introducing the safety blitz, and the two have been friends for several years.
TRENDING: Beanie Wells continues to receive considerably more carries than Tim Hightower, although Hightower remains the starter. Wells carried 17 times against the Rams, seven more than Hightower. That continues a trend that started a month ago. Hightower remains a viable weapon, however. He's become excellent at picking up the blitz and he is a solid receiver. Wells also has proven he can catch the ball, and his ability to make big plays gives him the edge over Hightower in run attempts.
--K Mike Nugent has filled in well for the injured Neil Rackers. Nugent is 2-for-2 in field goals but his kickoffs are short.
-- WR Anquan Boldin caught eight passes for 116 yards, leading the team in receiving for the third consecutive game. Boldin is 9 yards short of the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has three interceptions in his last two games, despite playing with a painful turf toe condition.
--K Neil Rackers kicked a little last week and could return this week after missing two games with a torn groin muscle. More likely, Rackers will miss the season finale and return for the playoffs.
--CB Greg Toler intercepted the first pass of his career. Toler, a rookie, was in the game only because Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had taken himself out because of a sore toe.