GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — A kicker scored Arizona’s first touchdown in three games. Jay Feely’s scamper was the kick-start the Cardinals sorely needed.
Feely became the fourth kicker in 40 years to run for a touchdown and matched his career best with five field goals, including a 55-yarder, in the Cardinals’ dominant 43-13 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday that ended the Cardinals’ seven-game losing streak.
Rookie quarterback John Skelton had a poised, if statistically unspectacular, performance in his first NFL start and Arizona’s Tim Hightower ran for a career-best 148 yards, including touchdown runs of 8 and 35 yards in the fourth quarter.
“It’s been a rough year,” Hightower said. “It’s good to kind of get things back in the right direction.”
Skelton completed 14 of 36 for 141 yards with no interceptions and had at least four passes dropped.
“I played decent,” he said. “It’s something to build on.”
The Broncos (3-10) committed six turnovers, three of them interceptions by Kyle Orton, in their eighth loss in nine games, an uninspired debut under interim coach Eric Studesville, promoted from running backs coach when Josh McDaniels was fired last Monday. The Denver offense seemed lost without McDaniels, who called the plays.
“There is no excuse the way we played,” Orton said. “There is no excuse the way I played.”
Feely’s 5-yard first-half scoring run on a fake field goal ended a nine-quarter touchdown drought for Arizona (4-9).
He kicked field goals of 36, 48, 55, 23 and 49 yards. Feely was wide left on a 49-yarder, just his second miss in 22 attempts this season.
The 55-yarder, with 2 seconds left in the first half, matched the longest of his 10-year NFL career.
According to the Cardinals, the last kicker to run for a score was Tim Seder of Dallas against Oakland on Oct. 7, 2001.
Feely’s touchdown came after Orton threw right into the arms of safety Kerry Rhodes, with no Denver receiver in the vicinity. Rhodes, who also recovered a Denver fumble, returned the pick 33 yards to the Broncos 24.
A successful challenge of what was ruled an incompletion resulted in an 11-yard pass to Early Doucet, but the drive stalled at the 5-yard line and Arizona set up for yet another field goal.
Holder Ben Graham flipped the ball to Feely, and the kicker outran the defenders to the right corner of the end zone for the Cardinals’ first TD in nine quarters.
“As soon as I caught the ball I kind of knew I was going to make it,” Feely said, “because they rushed pretty hard on that corner. I was able to get in the end zone and have a little fun.”
The play, Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said, “kind of sucks the life out of you.”
Orton played much of the game with sore ribs, but Studesville stayed with him rather than put in rookie Tim Tebow.
“We did not feel like Kyle was in a position that we needed to do that,” said Studesville, who vowed to “evaluate everything from top to bottom” after the one-sided loss.
Arizona scored 24 points in the fourth quarter.
“We got beat by a team that showed more energy and more will,” Broncos linebacker Mario Haggan said. “We gave some effort for a little while, but at the end, it got out of hand.”
Denver scored on its opening possession when replacement kicker Steve Hauschka’s 32-yard field goal try careened off the right upright and was good. Hauschka also had a 30-yard field goal with 11:20 to play and missed a 40-yarder.
The Broncos’ touchdown came on Knowshon Moreno’s 1-yard run with 3:31 to play. Orton was 18 of 37 for 160 yards.
Arizona rookie Daryl Washington intercepted Orton late in the game and ran 39 yards, foolishly holding the ball high in one hand as he approached the goal line. Denver’s Lance Ball stripped it from behind and Arizona’s Darnell Dockett recovered in the end zone for the final score. Coach Ken Whisenhunt gave Washington a tongue-lashing on the sideline.
Broncos rookie cornerback Perrish Cox, arrested on Thursday for investigation into an alleged sexual assault, did not start but entered the game in the first quarter. Cox could face punishment by the NFL. He is free on $50,000 bail.
Derek Anderson was out with a concussion and backup Max Hall a season-ending shoulder injury, leaving the job to Skelton, a 6-foot-6 fifth-round draft pick out of Fordham.
“I’m very pleased with how he handled himself today,” Whisenhunt said. “That goes a long way. I think the guys in the huddle feel the same way. It’s exciting to think we have a young guy that shows some promise. But listen, we have a lot of work to do still with him.”
Whisenhunt wouldn’t commit to Skelton as the starter for next Sunday’s game at Carolina.
“There’s no reason for me to sit here and make any kind of decision like that right now,” the coach said. “We’re still going to look at the tape and evaluate it going forward.”
Larry Fitzgerald caught six passes for 72 yards to break the franchise career reception record he shared with Anquan Boldin. Fitzgerald has 592 catches in seven seasons.
Notes: This is the first time that the Cardinals have beaten the Broncos. They entered the game 0-7-1 against Denver. … Arizona inside linebacker Gerald Hayes, previously a starter, was inactive even though he was not hurt. Washington replaced him. … Arizona RB Beanie Wells left the game with a stomach ailment. … Denver lost LB Kevin Alexander (ankle) and safety Kyle McCarthy (knee) in the first half. … Feely’s other miss this season was from 54 yards in Game 2.
By BOB BAUM – AP Sports Writer
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