Fittingly, they came against the St. Louis Rams.
In Arizona’s 31-10 victory on Sunday, the 38-year-old quarterback joined Fran Tarkenton as the only players in NFL history to throw 100 TD passes for two teams. He had 102 with St. Louis in his rise from nowhere to league MVP and two Super Bowls.
The Rams (1-14) have fallen on hard times since then.
Warner threw for 313 yards—his 52nd career 300-yard game—with 196 of them and both touchdown passes coming in a magnificent second quarter. Only once, late in last year’s debacle at the New York Jets, has Warner thrown for more yards in a quarter.
Earlier this season, he became the second player, with Tarkenton, to throw for 14,000 yards with two teams.
“I think that has huge significance in my career and what my career has been all about,” Warner said. “I was able to have that success in St. Louis and then turn around later in my career and have the same kind of success here, and more importantly help to turn the culture of an organization and the attitude of an organization around.”
The Cardinals (10-5) reached 10 regular-season wins for the first time since 1976, 12 years before the franchise moved from St. Louis to Arizona.
The team had clinched its second straight NFC West title the previous week.
“They’re all neat accomplishments at this point in time in the season,” Warner said, “but after last year we’ve set our standards a lot higher than just 10 wins in the regular season.”
A year ago, Arizona was blown out in the snow of New England 47-7 in its next-to-last regular-season game, but regrouped to beat Seattle, then made a stunning run to the Super Bowl.
“As great as 10 wins is, I think we’ll remember the season by what we do come playoff time,” Warner said.
Boldin had seven catches for 100 yards by halftime and finished with eight for 116.
The victory kept alive the Cardinals’ slim chance of being the NFC’s No. 2 seed and assured the team of avoiding consecutive losses in a season for the first time in 34 years.
In Arizona’s three seasons under coach Ken Whisenhunt, the team has gone from 8-8 to 9-7 to 10-5, with one game remaining at home next Sunday against Green Bay.
The Rams (1-14), ravaged by injuries all season, were without the league’s second-leading rusher Steven Jackson because of a sore lower back.
It was the first game missed this season by Jackson, one of four St. Louis starters out because of injuries.
“The back was giving me a lot of problems. It wasn’t loosening up,” Jackson said. “I was getting pain down my legs. It was all clear signs telling me that I wasn’t ready to go today.”
Although Kyle Boller(notes) was active, the Rams went with rookie Keith Null(notes) at quarterback for the third straight game. Null completed 20 of 31 for 171 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted three times and sacked four.
With his sack of Null with 1:52 to play, Adrian Wilson(notes) became the 10th player in NFL history to have 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in a career. He got his 23rd interception earlier in the game.
“Before I even started in the NFL, that was a career goal of mine,” Wilson said. “At the time I believe there was only seven guys in it. To be a part of that group is very special.”
Warner said this should help Wilson be recognized as the player he is.
“We’ve all known he’s a great player for a long time here,” the quarterback said. “The one thing about guys like that is they never get the attention they deserve until they accomplish those kinds of records.”
Warner’s second-quarter masterpiece featured three long scoring drives that included touchdown passes of 10 yards to Larry Fitzgerald(notes) and 18 to Early Doucet(notes) as Arizona took a 17-0 halftime lead. It was the first scoring catch for Doucet, in his second pro season.
St. Louis needed to challenge an official’s call to get the touchdown that cut the lead to 17-7. Brandon Gibson(notes) was ruled out of the end zone on a 21-yard reception, but a review showed one foot and a knee had come down inbound.
Punter Ben Graham(notes), a former Australian rules football star, forced Danny Amendola’s(notes) fumble that Reggie Walker(notes) recovered at the Arizona 43. The Cardinals went 57 yards in nine plays with Tim Hightower(notes) bowling over from the 2 for the touchdown that made it 24-7 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo pointed to what might have been.
“Two plays don’t make a game, don’t get me wrong,” Spagnuolo said. “… It was kind of a 14-point swing, but that’s the way the game is.”
^Notes: The roof at University of Phoenix Stadium was open for the first time this season. … Arizona rookie CB Greg Toler(notes) got his first career interception. … Boldin had 100 yards receiving in the first half for the third time in his career. … Rams CB Ron Bartell(notes) left the game with an elbow injury.