Cards steam into offseason with win over miserable Rams - Tucson News Now

Cards steam into offseason with win over miserable Rams

LOS ANGELES (AP) -

Carson Palmer threw touchdown passes to Jeremy Ross, Darren Fells and Larry Fitzgerald, and the Arizona Cardinals wrapped up a frustrating season with a 44-6 victory over the freefalling Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
    
Fitzgerald caught five passes and took the overall NFL lead with 107 catches in perhaps his final game for the Cardinals (7-8-1), who missed the playoffs one year after reaching the NFC championship game despite an offense and a defense ranked in the top quarter of the league.
    
Arizona still finished the year strong with wins over NFC West champion Seattle and Los Angeles (4-12), which has lost seven straight.
    
The Cardinals' defense sacked Jared Goff seven times and allowed just 122 yards by the Rams, who wrapped up their homecoming season with their worst record since 2011.
    
David Johnson left the field on a cart in the first quarter with an injured left knee, but Arizona's star running back appeared to be able to put weight on his leg when he returned to watch the second half from the sidelines. Johnson failed to gain 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time in his spectacular season.
    
With a blowout win capped by Justin Bethel's 68-yard TD return of Sean Mannion's interception with 8:06 to play, the Cardinals also avenged their 17-13 loss to the Rams in Week 4, one of several early flubs that doomed an injury-plagued roster to an early winter.
    
Los Angeles was 3-1 after that road victory, but lost 11 of its final 12 games in an incredible pratfall. Interim coach John Fassel went 0-3 after replacing the fired Jeff Fisher, who presided over the Rams' relocation and the franchise's 13th consecutive non-winning season.
    
Despite managing just 77 yards of offense in the first half, Los Angeles kept Arizona's lead to 16-6 with a handful of big plays, including a blocked punt by Chase Reynolds.
    
Palmer then hit Fells for a 37-yard score on the Cardinals' first snap of the second half, and Kerwynn Williams rushed for a 1-yard TD moments later.
    
LARRY'S FINALE?
    
Fitzgerald had 43 yards receiving and that fourth-quarter TD in what might have been the superstar receiver's last game. His scoring grab moved him one catch ahead of Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, who sat out while holding the NFL lead heading into the final Sunday, and New England's Julian Edelman. Fitzgerald hasn't decided whether to retire after his 13th NFL season.
    
GOFF'S FINISH
    
Goff wrapped up his winless rookie season by going 13 of 20 for 120 yards while getting physically clobbered by yet another defense. The No. 1 overall pick went 0-7 with seven interceptions and five TD passes for the Rams, who lost their final six home games after winning their ballyhooed opener in September.
    
THE WORST
    
The Rams managed 482 yards in their final three games under Fassel, including 81 yards in the first three quarters against Arizona. They will finish as the NFL's 32nd-ranked offense for the second straight season.
    
HEISMAN RETURN
    
Palmer went 20 of 38 for 255 yards in a solid return to the stadium where he won the Heisman Trophy 14 years ago with Southern California. He hadn't been back inside the Coliseum since throwing four touchdown passes to beat Notre Dame in November 2002.
    
TYPICAL STRUGGLES
    
The Rams went nowhere on offense for their first 5 1/2 drives before back-to-back big gainers, but even that went wrong. After Todd Gurley caught a 29-yard pass, Tavon Austin ran 38 yards for a TD on a direct snap to the wideout - but it was wiped out by an illegal motion penalty against Goff, of all people.
    
INJURIES
    
Johnson's knee injury while getting tackled by Eugene Sims and Alec Ogletree put an uncomfortable end to the Arizona running back's incredible season. Johnson gained 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the first 15 games for the Cardinals while compiling the franchise's first 2,000-yard season.
    
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

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