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3 things we learned about the Cardinals

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals might be on the verge of solving their losing ways on “Monday Night Football.” The Baltimore Ravens, meanwhile, still have their issues.

The Cardinals got two touchdown passes from quarterback Carson Palmer and a 122-yard rushing effort and a touchdown from running back Chris Johnson in a 26-18 win over the Ravens on Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Entering the game, Arizona was 2-8 in its previous 10 Monday night appearances.

The Cardinals (5-2) maintained control in the NFC West. They head to Cleveland next week before getting to rest up for their bye in Week 9.

Baltimore (1-6) lost its third consecutive game but once again had a chance to make something happen at the end, even though it was outgained by the Cardinals by a two-to-one margin.

“I thought we executed extremely well, played until the final whistle and made a big play at the end,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “We wanted this type of game, and we needed to be in one of these types of games — win it, and kind of exorcise that ‘can we win it at the end?’ type thing. I was very, very pleased with our football team.”

A blocked punt and recovery set up a 1-yard touchdown pass from Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco to fullback Kyle Juszczyk with 4:26 to play, and a successful two-point conversion cut Arizona’s lead to eight points.

After forcing the Cardinals to punt again, the Ravens got the ball back at their own 24-yard line with 1:53 remaining.

They would need to score a touchdown and convert another two-point attempt to at least force overtime, and they had gained just 204 total yards of offense compared to Arizona’s 409 at that point.

Baltimore drove to the Cardinals’ 4-yard line. With 13 seconds to go, Flacco looked for tight end Crockett Gillmore in the end zone, but Cardinals defensive back Tony Jefferson intercepted the pass. It was Arizona’s league-leading 12th pick of the season.

What we learned about the Cardinals:

1. Arizona can finish, which is something coach Bruce Arians worried about in the team’s two losses — to St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The Cardinals did it despite having a punt blocked and quickly converted into a touchdown by the Ravens and by holding off a furious Baltimore comeback in the closing seconds. “It was nice,” Arians said. “It was a very good combination tonight because the offense killed a lot of the clock and took all of their timeouts. And the defense held up.”

2. Justin Bethel can be a starting NFL cornerback for just about any team. Although he gave up a 31-yard completion to wide receiver Chris Givens down the right sideline that let Baltimore have some last-minute hope, Bethel did a bang-up job stepping in after Jerraud Powers went down with a pulled hamstring. “I was prepared to play corner and have enough practice for it and know I have the skill set for it,” said Bethel, who forced one fumble and recovered two. “There was one play I wish I could take back, but other than that, I was prepared for it.”

3. Arizona has put itself in decent position to enter its bye week on a positive note. Up next is what the Cardinals should consider a very winnable game at Cleveland before the week off. A win against the Browns would improve Arizona’s record to 6-2 with some time off to rest. If the Seahawks truly are making their way back from a tough start to the season and the Rams are as good as they have looked on occasion, a 6-2 mark is essential for the Cardinals in their quest to host an NFC playoff game come January.

Etc.

–QB Carson Palmer, with his 35-yard completion to WR John Brown in the third quarter Monday night in a 26-18 win over the Ravens, moved ahead of Donovan McNabb (37,276) for 20th place on the NFL’s all-time passing yards list. Palmer now stands at 37,377 passing yards. He ended the night 20-for-29 for 275 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions.

–RB Chris Johnson, who finished with 122 rushing yards Monday night, became the first Cardinals running back since Edgerrin James in 2007 to rush for 100 or more yards at least three times in the same season. He carried the ball 18 times and scored a touchdown against the Ravens.

–LB Dwight Freeney registered his first sack since signing with the Cardinals just before last week’s game against the Steelers. The sack of Ravens QB Joe Flacco on Monday gives Freeney 112 1/2 sacks in his career, leaving him half a sack shy of Robert Mathis for 20th on the NFL’s all-time list.


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