Cardinals get strong performance from RB Kerwynn Williams; get 10th win, 17-14 over Chiefs

GLENDALE, Ariz. – On the Kansas City Chiefs’ third play from scrimmage, running back Jamaal Charles took it 63 yards to the house. Charles was electrifying on that run. That play energized the Chiefs fans at University of Phoenix Stadium, and hit the Cardinals and their fans like a sledgehammer.

Charles and quarterback Alex Smith could do no wrong in the first half. Charles got bent backwards on their second possession in the first quarter and had to leave the game. That didn’t stop his effectiveness. Smith was able to link up with Charles on an 18-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter, which gave Kansas City a 14-6 lead at the time.

The Chiefs wouldn’t score again.

The Cardinals made the necessary adjustments on defense during the intermission, and came out on fire in the second half. Smith and Charles were completely erased from the equation, while little-known running back Kerwynn Williams – fresh off his elevation from the practice squad to the active roster – cracked the 100-yard rushing barrier. It was running back by committee for the Cardinals, with Williams leading the charge, as Arizona got back to its winning ways with a 17-14 comeback victory over the Chiefs.

The win gives Arizona 10 on the season. It assures the Cardinals of having back-to-back double-digit win seasons for the first time since 1975-1976.

“This was another typical Cardinal football game,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “We played hard and made a mistake or two, but when it comes to second half football, this team has shown its resiliency, especially at home.”

The Cardinals continue to stay perfect at home. They’re now 7-0. That’s the most home wins the organization has ever had at home during a 16-game regular season. University of Phoenix Stadium is turning into a chamber of horrors for opposing teams.

Running back Andre Ellington missed the game with a hernia, giving Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Marion Grice and Robert Hughes chances to make things happen with their hands and their legs, and they all performed quite well.

Williams didn’t know what his role was going to be coming into the game, but it didn’t take him long to figure it out to the tune of 19 rushes and 100 yards. In hitting the century mark, Williams is the first Arizona running back to do so this season.

“I just wanted to be prepared for whatever it was,” Williams said of his role. “[Running backs coach Stump] Mitchell does a great job preparing us all like we’re going to play every week. He didn’t treat me any different than he treated anyone else that was inside the running back room. He had us dress nicely and prepare ourselves mentally to be ready to play.”

Williams found out on Friday that he was going to play against Kansas City, and he of course was excited about the opportunity.

“I felt that that definitely added a different dimension to the offense, being able to run the ball,” Williams said. “I think we just need to continue doing what we did today and try to string some wins together.”

Taking a look at the official numbers, the Cardinals outgained the Chiefs on the ground 141-126. The 141 yards rushing was a season high for Arizona.

Charles had three rushes for 74 yards and the touchdown in the first quarter. In the last three quarters, Charles ran the ball seven times for 17 yards. Do the math and that’s 10 rushes for 91 yards. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and his defense made a complete 180 against him and Smith as the game wore on, the operative word being “wore,” because the Chiefs offense probably felt worn out with the dogs being set loose on Arizona’s defensive side.

Outside linebacker Alex Okafor had another outstanding game. He had two tackles [one for loss], two hits on Smith, an interception, a sack and a pass defensed.

Okafor says he just punches the clock and goes to work.

“It’s really just what I have to do. If they put me in the game, I have to produce,” Okafor said. “This is the NFL. There are no gimmes or feel-good plays. You’re just doing your job, and that’s what I get paid to do.”

The defense pitched their fourth second-half shutout of the season against the Chiefs. Kansas City was only able to muster 191 yards of offense in the third and fourth quarters. They were a measly 3-of-10 on third downs in the second half.

“That is the story of our season. Playing hard in the first half, but cranking it up in the second half, especially at home,” Okafor said. “It held true today. We made adjustments in the locker room and we turned it up on them and made plays.”

Quarterback Drew Stanton had a serviceable day. He threw for 239 yards and one touchdown – a 26-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jaron Brown, which proved to be the game winner. Stanton threw five interceptions in the last three games. On Sunday, he threw none.

Stanton points to the team’s resiliency, which helped them survive yet another tough opponent.

“You just keep going and you trust the game plan. You trust your eyes and what you’re seeing,” Stanton said. “They’re the No. 1 red zone defense in the league, so we knew it was going to be difficult. They do a good job of switching looks up. They don’t want to let you run the football, especially when you get down in there tight. We were conscious of all those things.”

The offense had some major lulls in the third quarter, which carried over to the fourth. At one point, Arizona had three straight three and outs while clinging onto that 17-14 lead. Leave it up to Williams and Hughes to make play after play down the stretch to at least keep Smith and Charles on the sidelines for a longer period.

“Kerwynn [Williams] is a professional. You see guys like that, especially as a practice squad running back that gives it everything he has every single day,” Stanton said. “I think all of us were excited about that opportunity for Kerwynn. It’s one of those things where you want to see a guy like that have success because of how much it means to him and how much time and effort he puts in to try and perfect his craft.”

It was a win the Cardinals needed to have, especially with a short workweek coming. The team will head to St. Louis, Mo., this Thursday night to take on a red-hot St. Louis Rams team who has pitched two straight shutouts.

Before they jump on that charter on Wednesday, they’ll let this tenth win soak in a little bit. They deserve it.

“Tenth win is a big win,” Arians said. “Anytime you get to double digits, it speaks volumes about the leadership and the players that we have and the roster that [general manger] Steve [Keim] has built for us.”

“We’re not settled with ten this year, though. This team I think has something special about it and we’ve got a really tough stretch down the road, but I like where we’re at,” Arians said.

Injury news: Arians delivered some tough news in his postgame press conference. He said Ellington would have hernia surgery in Philadelphia, Pa., sometime next week and will go on injured reserve. Arians said the injury Ellington was dealing with wasn’t a hip pointer, but it was a hernia.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent Achilles injury and would not return. Arians confirmed that it was in fact not an Achilles injury.

“We were fearful that it was an Achilles, but we don’t know quite what it is yet,” Arians said. “They are doing ultrasounds and things on it, but it’s not his Achilles.”

“His Achilles looks in good shape, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed for him there,” Arians said.

 

 

 

 

 

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