Setting the Stage:
Cards won their tenth game when they edged out KC (denying them a 2H point) 17 -14. They round out the season with three games each vs. a division opponent. Rams are first up. Game is in StL. The Rams are coming off 2 record-setting shutouts - a 52 - 0 shellacking of Oakland and 24 - 0 win over Washington. The Rams - at 6 & 7 - have been all but eliminated from playoff contention. The Cards at 10 & 3 are one game away from securing a lock on a playoff berth. Cardinals are a beaten up football team physically. Rams are just starting to hit stride.
Opponents' Last Game:
St. Louis beat Washington like a drum, 24 - 0.
Washington received. KO was returned to the Wash 23. Washington made use of gains of 10, 12, 11 and 13 yards to get to the Ram 35, but on the 9th play of the drive, McCoy's deep pass was picked off by McLeod who returned it to the StL 17.The Rams moved to the Wash 42 in 11 plays but had to punt away and the ball was out of bounds at the Wash 6 to end the quarter.
First Quarter Score: Rams 0 - Washington 0.
It took five plays for the Rams to score their first TD (on a 35-yard pass to J Cook up the seam. Play was challenge but TD upheld. XP was no good. Rams 6 - Washington 0.
Roberts returned the KO to the Wash 11. A sack by Barron forced them to punt from their 17. Austin returned it 37 yards to the Washington 30. First 4 plays were runs by Mason. Next 2 were sacks of Hill for no gain and minus-4. Zuerlein's 28-yard FG attempt was wide right.
Washington was held to 3 & out. On punt return, Austin penalized for invalid fair catch. Ram ball on their own 26 with 3:20 till halftime. They manage to move to the Wash 37 before Hill was sacked for minus-6 yards and Dekker's punt was for 27-yards, being fair caught by Roberts at the Wash 16 with 1:39 left. Wash - underminedby a couple of penalties - went 3 & out Austin returned the punt to the Wash 47.
0:32 till halftime. Zuerlein was bad-again; this time from 38 with 0:02 on the clock.
First Half Score: Rams 6 - Washington 0.
Rams received. Cunningham returned the KO to the StL 20.
It took 13 plays and 7:21 for StL to expand their lead to 9 - 0; moving it out to the Wash 26 before Zuerlein kicked a 34 yard FG . Rams 9 - Washington 0.
Roberts returned the KO to his own 28. Rams held Wash to a 3 & out. On a 4th & 5 at the Washington 33, Washington "went for it" but didn't get it/ Rams took over on downs at their own 35.
A short completion from Hill to Bailey turned into a 36-yard scamper and put the ball at the Washington 1. Hill then hit Cook for a one-yard TD. Two point attempt off a fake XP was goo with Harkey's catching a pass from Hekker. Rams 17 - Washington 0.
Roberts returned the KO to the Wash 18. Rams held Washington to 3 & out and Austin returned the punt 78yards for a StL touchdown. Rams 24 - Washington 0.
TB on the KO. Washington moved to their own 29 in 4 plays before the quarter ended.
Third Quarter Score: Rams 24 - Washington 0.
A holding penalty forced Washington to punt from their own 35. Punt was downed at the 22 and a penalty knocked StL back to their own 12. Two STL penalties and one penalty on Wash Stalled the StL possession. Roberts could only return the punt to his own 4 but a roughness penalty on Washingron moved STL out to its own 19.
Onthe 12th play of the StL possession, McCoy's deep-middle for Reed was intercepted by McDonald and returned 20 yards to the StL 22.
5:15 left. StL went 3 & out and punted from their own 21. Roberts was pushed out of bounds at the Wash 32. On the first play of the series, McCoy was sacked by Hayes for minus-12 yards and wound up driving into territory before running out of time and real estate before giving up the ball to STL with 0:33 to go on the StL 33.
One knee. Game over.
Final Score: Rams 24 - Washington 0.
Hill was 16 for 22 for 213 yards, 2 TD's and 0 interceptions.
Mason carried 19 times for 60 yards Austin picked up 46 yards on 5 carries (to add to his 78 yard punt return).
Cunningham and Cook led Ram receivers wth 5 and 4 catches respectively. Cook caught 2 TD passes.
Zuerlein was one of three in the FG dept., pooching FG tries of 28 and 38 yards.
Ram Turnovers:+ 0 (Rams intercepted two McCoy passes, but the STL offense lost two fumbles).
Rams sacked Wash QB's 8 times and gave up 4 sacks of their own.
- T Johnson led the Rams in tackles with 8; followed by Laurinaitis with 6.
St. Lous gained 131 net rushing yards.
They gained 198 yards through the air.
StL was penalized 11 times. Wash was flagged 5 times.
Rams won Time of Possession 32:49 to 27:11
What the Season Stats Do (or Don't) Tell Us
(Note - Published team statistics may not reflect a team's most recent game or two).
The Rams rank 17th in points per game.
They rank #11 in rushing yards per carry
They rank #14 in rushing TD's
They're minus-3 in turnovers.
First Downs: Rams 237/Opponents 253.
First Downs by Rush Pass Penalty: Rams 69-151-17/Opponents 65-163-25
Third Down Conversions: Rams 60/159/Opponents 62/164
4th Down Conversions: Rams 4 of 8/Opponents 0 of 9.
Offensive Yardage: Rams 4,123/Opponents 4,484
Rushing Yards: Rams 1,418 (4.2 YPC)/Opponents 1,362 (4.2 YPC)
Passing Yards: Rams 2,705 /Opponents 3/122
- Sacks: Rams 35/Opponents 39.
Field Goals: Rams 18/24/Opponents16/19.
- Time of Possession: Rams 29:49/Opponents 30:10
Turnover Ratio: +4.
WR....81 Britt.............13 Givens
TE......89 Cook...........46 Harkey
LT 79 G Robinson 73 Person.............70 B Washington
LG 76 Saffold
C 63 S Wells.........61 Barnes............xx B Jones
RG 69 Joseph
RT 72 Barksdale
WR2 11 Austin..........12 Bailey
QB....14 Hill................09 Davis............14 Hillngham....27 Mason......42 Watts
xx Mason...........xx Stacy............xx Cunningham
TE.....xx Kendricks......xx Bayer
DE 95 Kelly...........96 K,Martin
NT 92 D. Williams 66 Ta'amu
DT 98 Rucker 72 Stinson
SLB 57 Okafor........53 Keiser
ILB 50 Foote..........54 Demens
ILB 51 Minter..........97 Alexander 56 Carson
WLB 94 Acho...........59 Benard
LCB 21 Peterson.....28 Bethel
RCB 31 Cromartie....25 Powers
SS 22 Jefferson.....36 Bucannon
FS 26 R. Johnson..32 Mathieu.
Matchup: Ram Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Hill started last week. He has a 62.0% completion percentage, 6 TD's and 3 interceptions (2.5%). He's been sacked 10 times and has a 90.8 QB rating. A TE (Cook) leads the Rams with 41 catchs. A backup RB (Cunningham) is next with 33 catches followed by WR's Britt and Austin with 30 and 26 catches respectively. Kendricks leads receivers in touchdowns with 5.
Cardinal pass rushers (led by Okafor) have seemed to have regained their mojo, sacking opposing QB's 31 times (vs. just 21 by Card opponents). Cardinal pass coverage guys have intercepted 17 passes (while Cardinal QB's have thrown just 8).
The Cardinal "million-dollar" secondary has been dented by Cromartie's ankle injury and Mathieu's broken thumb.
Rams like to throw a lot to their TE's. Cook and Kendricks are Ram TD-makers. Cards are still learning how to contain opposing TE (or multi-TE) threats and it could come back to haunt us if we don't take this seriously. LIke Stanton, Ram QB's like to spread the ball around a lot, though one thing that leaps out at you is their lack of a Megatron-type dominant WR.
Key Matchup: expect the Rams to attack Bethel with Austin. Cook vs. R Johnson. Kendricks vs. Jefferson.
Matchup: Ram Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Mason is the leader of their bell cow by committee with 625 gained on 142 attempts (4.4 YPC). Stacy is next with 284 yards on 72 carries (3.9 YPC) and Cunningham 233 yards on 59 carries (3.9 YPC). Mason has breakaway ability; the other two guys are more plodders. Cunningham can catch out of the backfield.
The Cardinal defense has been tough against the run, with Foote and R Johnson leading the team in tackles with 77 and 76 respectively followed by Jefferson with 67 and Bucannon with 66. But there are also a bevy of unsung defenders (like Powers or Campbell) who step up to make key tackles at key points in most games. The Cardinals' one potential Achilles rests in their annoying tendency to give up an occasional long run (as in Steve Jackson's 55-yard scamper) or to allow opposing runners to convert 3rd & long situations too often.
Key Matchup: Mason vs. Foote, Minter and/or Bucannon. Rams may try to open up the Cardinal front 3 like a can-opener to give Mason gaps to run through.
WR1 11 Fitzgerald....19 Ginn...............13 John Brown
LT 68 Veldheer......79 Sowell
LG 62 Larsen..., ....61 Cooper
C 63 Sendlein......62 Larsen
RG 74 Fanaika.......78 Watford
RT 70 Massie........79 Sowell
TE 87 Niklas..........85 Fells
WR2 15 M. Floyd.....13 Jaron Brown
QB 03 Palmer........05 Stanton.........06 Thomas
RB 33 Williams.....30 Taylor)............39 Hughes....xx Grice
TE 89 Carlson.......84 Housler
LDE....xx Long...........95 Hayes.........93 Westbrooks
LDT.....99 Donald.......98 Langford
RDT.....90 Brockers....92 Carrington
RDE....94 Quinn.........97 Sims
ROLB.58 Dunbar.......54 Herring........59 Toomer
MLB.. 55 Laurinaitis...53 Bates
LCB 33 Gaines........22 T Johnson
RCB..21 Jenkins.......47 Roberson
FS 23 McLeod.......20 Joyner..........26 Barron
SS.....25 McDonald...38 C Davis......31 Alexander
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Ram Pass Defense
Rams have 35 sacks (Their opponents by comparison have 39). Quinn is the Ram Sackmeister with 10.5 followed by the rookie DT Donald. Hayes is next with 4.0 folllowed by Laurinaitis with 3.5.leads Rams have 14 fumble recoveries (compared to the opposition's 11).
Ram defenders have the same number of interceptions (12) as Ram opponents. Trumaine Johnson leads the Rams with 3 picks. Four other Ram defenders have 2 apiece.
Stanton cut down on errant throws this past Sunday and...he beat the Chiefs. He's got to continue to cut down on interceptions and at the same time, display betterf accuracy in clutch situations. His completion percentage hovers around 54.3 % and (regardless of how consistent the Cardinal defense can keep us in games) this may not be good enough to win big late -season and post-season games. I suspect his buggaboo is inconsistent mechanics (sometimes he comes out all geeked up and just slings the ball without making sure his footwork, release-point etc. is all in synch). Proper mechanics can be drilled into a QB. I hope Tom Moore (aka "the horse whisperer") can help point Drew in the right direction.
Fitz came back last week to catch 4 clutch passes and his presence out their on the field is settling. But how much can we ride the Fitzgerald Pony without subjecting him to risk of further injury. Floyd has had his moments but hasn't many (if any) big, multi-reception games. Which means that (if we can't or won't overload Larr) we have to look for Jarod to continue stepping up to make clutch plays. I'm not sure about the status of John Brown. Housler made a key catch last week. So did Carlson. Which suggests that Stanton will spread the ball around to whoever looks like the open dude.
Key Matchup: Massie vs. Quinn. Sendlein, Cooper and/or Larsen vs. Laurinaitis
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Ram Run Defense
Last week Kerwynn Williams was elevated from a brief stint on the practice squad to gain over 100 yards in his debut as a Cardinal ballcarrier. He now becomes all the more important with Andre Ellington on IR. Arians was not shy about running his ground forces over and over last week. We expect to see Williams, Step Taylor and Hughes pounding the rock if only to keep Quinn and his pass-rushing partners in crime honest.
Key Matchup: K Williams and Hughes vs. Ogletree and Laurinaitis.
P 06 Hekker
K 04 Zuerlein
H 06 Hekker
LS 44 McQuaide
KR 11 T Austin
PR 36 Cunningham
K 07 Catanzaro
P 02 Butler
H 02 Butler
LS 82 Leach
KR 19 Ginn 12 John Brown
PR 19 Ginn 21 Peterson 12 John Brown
Matchup: Ram Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Zuerlein has missed 5 of 24 FG attempts (many of them chip shots). Hekker is adept at directional punting and dropping the ball in ways that pin opponents deep in their own territory. Opponents return punts an average of less than half the average of Ram punt returners. Their KO returners are pretty even with opposing kick returners. Austin is one of a handful of really scary breakaway guys.
Catanzaro had his first "really bad hair day" vs KC when he banked 2 chip-shots off either upright. Ram KO returners have been gashing opposing coverage squads. Best way to prevent this: Boot 'er out of the end zone (Cat Man can do that). Butler remains vulnerable to punt-blocks. If Catanzaro has a bad day and Zuerlein has a good one (or vice versa) it could very well decide this football game.
Key matchups: Ginn vs. Austin. Catanzaro vs. Zuerlein.
Fisher is adept and creative with the x's and o's and on the League competition committee. Rams have little to play for but pride (& so far, Fisher has them playing lights-out. Arians has had to balance the priorities of (a) holding his team together in periods of adversity while (b) also reading the riot act when some members of the team aren't executing properly (so far he seems to have done a very good job (but ask me after we play 3 tough games with the urgent need to win one of them to secure a spot in the playoffs.
We need this one. A "W" will make us 11-game winners and put us in the playoffs for sure. What else needs to be said?