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Cardinals survive Stanton injury, hold onto best record

In a Thursday night game that featured nearly as many punts as points, the Arizona Cardinals held onto the NFC's No. 1 seed, handing the St. Louis Rams a 12-6 defeat. Our takeaways:

  1. Arizona's quarterback problem was exacerbated when Drew Stanton sustained a game-ending knee injury in the third quarter. Ryan Lindley, on the Chargers' practice squad until last month, completed just 4 of 10 passes for 30 yards over the final quarter and a half. If Stanton can't play in a pivotal NFC West showdown with the Seahawks next week, coach Bruce Arians might have to consider giving rookie Logan Thomas a shot over Lindley.
  1. On a more positive note, the Cardinals have enjoyed their two best rushing games of the year since Andre Ellington went down with a season-ending sports hernia. Whereas Ellington had averaged a feeble 1.9 yards per carry and 25 yards per game from Weeks 10-13, a more impressive Kerwynn Williams is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 87.5 yards the last two weeks. The Williams-Stepfan Taylor tandem is a major upgrade on an injury-weakened Ellington.
  1. The final score is reflective of backup quarterbacks facing two of the blitz-happiest defensive coordinators in the league. Whereas Arizona defensive boss Todd Bowles frustrated Shaun Hill and St. Louis' offensive line all night, the Rams' previously scorching pass rush was a non-factor. Robert Quinn and Co. managed just one hit on Stanton and Lindley, who were off target throughout.
  1. If Thursday's game bolstered Bowles' already strong case for a head-coaching job, Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will want to hide the tape. He turned away from the run in key short-yardage situations and oversaw eight consecutive possessions that ended with punts in the second and third quarters. St. Louis has the talent and roster depth to contend in 2015 if they can upgrade on Hill and Schottenheimer.
  1. Down to his fourth quarterback of the season, Arians stayed aggressive on offense and defense while Jeff Fisher remained overly conservative, bypassing several opportunities to keep his offense on the field for fourth-and-short opportunities. A team in the best sense of the word, the Cardinals have found their way to 11 wins in large part because Arians and Bowles have done masterful work as coaches this season. That will be put to a serious test with the NFC West title on the line versus the Seahawks in Arizona next week. Even if the quarterback disadvantage is too much to overcome, Arians can take solace in the fact that his club is in the playoffs barring a tie between the Eagles and Cowboys on Sunday.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews the Week 15 schedule and recaps the Cardinals' win over the Rams. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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