Last MInuteNews, Rumors etc.:
(Updated regularly if or when needed) - TBD..
Setting the Stage:
Cards are undefeated, following up a 48 - 23 win over the Bears with an even more impressive 47 - 7 thrashing of division-rival Forty Niners. This week they face another division rival - a Ram team that beat the Seahawks in Game #1 only to be upset (24 - 10) by the Redskins and losing narrowly (12 - 6) to a Steeler team missing its field general (Ben Roethlisberger) for a siignificant part of the game. The "6-Burger" the Rams put up against the Steelers and the 10 points posted the previous week vs, Washington has to be expecially vexing (You don't win many games when you only score 6 - 10 points).
Opponent's Last Game
Rams fell behind 9 - 3 at halftime and traded 2nd half FG's with a Roethlisberger-less Steeler team to wind up on the losing end of a 12 - 6 "pitcher's battle"
Pitt received. TB on KO. Roethlisberger led them on a 13-play drive that stalled at the Ram 3 with a 21-yard Scobee FG. . Steelers 3 - Rams 0.
TB on the KO. Foles got the Rams out to their own 48 but StL had to punt, Fair Catch: Steeler 8. Completions of +19, +16 and +15 yards moved Pittsburgh to the Ram 15 as the quarter ended. .
First Quarter Score: 3 -0 Steelers.
A 9-yard run by Bell and an interference call on Joyner set up a one-yard TD run by Bell. 2-point conversion failed. Steelers 9 - Rams 0.
TB on the KO. Rams made it across midfield on 8 plays but had to punt. (Fake punt failed. Steelers took over on their own 48 but a pass intended for Wheaton was picked off by Jackson who was tackled at ther StL. Foles dinked and dunked his offense to the Steeler 31 where the drive fizzled and Zuerlein kicked a 49 yarder. Steelers 9 - Rams 3
2:05 till the half. Pittsburgh returned the KO to their own 18. An offensive holding call and a minus-9 sack forced them to run out of time at their own 24 as the quarter ended.
First Half Score: Steelers 9 - Rams 3.
Cunningham returned the punt to the Ram 18. Foles completed passes for +12, +15 and +12 yards only to be sacked for minus-8. They punted from the Pitt 42. The Steelers were able to move to their own 40, but Roethlisberger was sacked twice in a row (the first by Donald and the second by Barron - injuring Roethlisberger's knee). Vick in for Roethlisberger. Punt was returned to the Ram 15. Touchback. A 26-yard completion to Britt helped move the Rams to their 48 where the drive fizzled. Fair Catch: Steeler 18. After Bell ran for +20-yards, the quarter ended with Pittsburgh at their own 38.
Third Quarter Score: Steelers 9 - Rams 3.
Vick was sacked (by Quinn) for minus-8 yards (& then again for no gain) to set up a Steeler punt from their own 27. A holding call on Joyner pushed the Rams back to their own 12-yard line. The two teams exchanged 3 & outs. StL ran the punt back to their own 29. An interference call and a 24-yard run by Givens put the ball on the Steeler 11 where the drive stalled and the Rams settled foor a 27-yard Zuerlein FG. . Steelers 9 - Rams 6.
5:38 lef. TB on the KO. Penalty moved Steelers to their own 25. A 23-yard run by Bell moved Pittsburgh close to midfield where they were forced to punt. Fair Catch: Ram 17. On the first play from scrimmage, Foles pass for Kendricks was picked off by W Allen. Steelers ball at the Ram 31. 2:51 to go. They kept it conservative, running Bell twice and then hitting Heyward-Bey for +7. FG attempt was "good" from 41-yards. erger to Wheaton. Steelers 12- Rams 6.
1:56 left. KO was returned to the StL 21. Rams went for it on 4th & 5; but a 7-yard completion (Foles to Britt) was reviewed and reversed as "incomplete. Steelers took over at the Ram 39 with 1:15 on the clock. Two knees; Game over.
Final Score: Steelers 12 - Rams 6.
Passing - Foles was 19 for 28, 197 yards, no TD's and threw one pick.
Receiving -Britt caught 7 throws for 102 yards (26-yard long gainer). Austin caught 5 for 38 yards.
Rushing - Mason carried the ball 9 times (for 16 yards; Gurley carried 6 times (for 9 yards).
Pass Defense - Roethlsberger was a near-perfect 20 for 24 but for only 192 yds, no TD's/One pick). Vick was 5 for 6 for 38 yards (no TD's or picks)
Run Defense - Bell gained 62 yards on 9 carries (one TD)
Receiving - A Brown caught 11 throws for 108 yards
Turnovers - Even-up. No fumbes lost. Foles and Big Ben each threw one pick.
Tackles - Ogletree and J Jenkins were tied with 9. McDonald and Laurinaitis followed with 8. McLeod had 7.
Sacks - Rams had five sacks. Ogletree had ; Donald, Barron and Quinn had one apiece. Pittsburgh had two sacks.
Third Down Efficiency - 2 for 10 (20%). Pitt was 6 for 12 (50%.
Fourth Down Efficiency - 0 for 2 (0%). Steelers didn't "go for it" on any 4th downs.
Net Rushing Yards -71. (Rams held Pitts to 62)
Net Passing Yards - 187 Yards. (They allowed Pitts to rack up 197)
Run/Pass Ratio: 18/29(Steelers were 22/30)
Net Punting Average - 37.5 (vs. 41.0 for Pitts)
Penalties - Rams were flagged 7 times; Steelers 4.
Red Zone Efficiency: Rams - 0 for 1 = 0%. Steelers - 1 for 2 = 50%)
Time of Possession: Rams: 27:41. Steelers: 32:19.
WR 18 Britt ...............12 Bailey.............19 Givens
TE.....89 Cook..............46 Harkey
LT.....73 G Robinson....63 D Williams
LG....68 J Brown.........71 G Reynolds....69 Wichmann
C 61 Barnes...........65 Rhaney
RG 76 Saffold..
RT.....79 Havenstein....64 Donnal
WR2.11Austin.............83 Quick............15 Marquez
QB 05 Foles.............17 Keenum........14 Mannion
RB....27 Mason...........30 Gurley...........36 Cunningham......34 C Reynolds
TE.....88 Kendricks.....46 Harkey
DE 93 Campbell..........90 Redding
NT 95 Gunter...............69 X Williams
DT 92 Rucker..............73 Mauro........72 Stinson
SLB 52 Woodley.......... 44 Golden
ILB 55 Weatherspoon..54 Demens
ILB 51 Minter...............59 Fua
WLB 57 Okafor...............96 Martin.......56 Riddick
LCB 21 Peterson
RCB 25 Powers.............28 Bethel
SS 36 Bucannon.........22 Jefferson
FS 32 Mathieu............26 R. Johnson.....29 Clemons
Matchup: Ram Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
KaFoles (who came over to the Rams via the controverial trade with Philly for sam Bradford) is completing 62.1% of his passes. During the brief period the stats cover, he's been sacked 5 times but thrown only one interception. His YPA is 7.4. His QBR is 87.5. Foles spreads it around pretty well - his primary targets are his TE (Cook with 11 ), Britt (11) and Cunningham (10) with Austin (8) right behind. Britt gets most of the deeper stuff (16.6 yards per reception). Foles (6 carries/0ne TD) isn't afraid to beat you with his feet.
The Rams seem to be built for conservative, low-risk football, but - as Fisher recently observede - You're not going to win many games if you only score 6 - 10 points. We'd therefore expect Fisher to open up his offense, take more chances and test the Cardinals deep (I'd especially keep my eye on their waterbug, Austin).
Cardinal pass defenders are coming off an "in your dreams" type performance vs. the Niners. They can follow it up in either of two opposite ways: (1) playing with additional confidence and swagger (a good thing) or (2 becoming legends in their own minds and getting overconfident and lazy (not so good).
Key Matchups: Cardinal pass rushers vs. Ram pass defenders. Peterson vs. Britt. Mathieu vs. Cunningham. Bethel vs. Austin, Jefferson/R Johnson vs. Cook. .
Matchup: Ram Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Card run defense has been very hard on the Saints, Bears and Niners (especially the latter two opponents who had been singing the praises of Forte and Hyde until the Cards held them to well below 100 yards). Till now, the Rams had been handing off the ball to Cunningham (3.2 ypc) and Mason (2.6 ypc) with Austion (71 ypc) toting the pig 8 times. But their rookie phenom (Gurley) has returned to action and the Rams gave up a lot to draft him; so we'd expect Fisher to give him every opportunity to have a breakout game.
Cardinal run defense is characterized by (1) improved physical play across the board, (2) the return to form of the Honey Badger, (3) the emergence of Minter as a lockdown run stopper and the mobile, agile and hostile, penetrating play of its Front 7. Two nitpicks - (1) Okeafor occasionally will get sucked inside and blow contain and (2) Cardinal defenders will occasionally get a little complacent and miss tackles.
Key Matchups: Minter vs. Gurley. Mathieu vs. Austin. Pass rushers shouldn't overrun Foles.
WR1 11 Fitzgerald..13 Jar Brown......10 Golden
LT 68 Veldheer....79 Sowell
LG 76 Iupati.........62 Larsen
C 63 Sendlein....53 Shipley
RG 61 Cooper
RT 70 Massie.......78 Watford.........74 Humphreys
TE 85 Fells...........87 Niklas
WR2 15 M. Floyd.....12 John Brown...14 Nelson
QB 03 Palmer........05 Stanton.........09 Barkley
RB 38 Ellington.....27 C Johnson.....31 D Johnson.....30 Taylor,
TE 84 Gresham
LDE.......91 Long............95 Hayes
LDT.......99 Donald.........98 Fairley
RDE......94 Quinn...........97 Sims
ROLB....56 Ayers...........54 Hager
MLB......55 Laurinaitis...53 Bates
LOLB.....52 Ogletree.....50 Lynch
LCB.......22 T Johnson..20 Joyner
RCB .....21 J Jenkins....47 M Roberson
FS ......23 McLeod......38 C Davis
SS.........25 McDonald...26 Barron.....31 Alexander
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Ram Pass Defense
Palmer has been playing lights out, (finding the open man, throwing through small windows etc.). His blockers have, by and large, kept him clean and upright. Fitz has been enjoying a career year. Floyd has demonstrated on the field that his injured hands are as good as ever - only a penalty stood in the way of his making the highlight reels with a spectacular jump ball grab last week vs. SF that unfortunately was nullified. John Brown has added a combination of blazing speed, terrific inside route running and good hands that has opened things up for Fitz and other Cardinal receivers, The Big Red is getting more production from its TE's of late with the emergence of Fells and the return to action of Gresham. And every one of the four Cardinal RB's are productive in the passing game.
When you think of the Rams, the first thing you think of is its gritty, tough defense. (Rams have 13 sacks (to its opponents' 5). Donald leads the team with 3.5; Quinn's got 3.0. Ogletree's got a couple. Barron has the reputation as a QB-Killer - he was the one who took out Roethlisberger and there has been (uncorroborated) buzz that he contributed to the demise last year of both Palmer and Stanton. (Just another way of saying that a top priority on Sunday must be Pass Pro.
Key Matchups: Cardinal OL, TE and/or RB vs. Bowman, Brooks and Dorsey. Fitz and John Brown vs. Brock and Acker. C Johnson or D Johnson vs. Bowman, Fells vs. Reid
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Ram Run Defense
C Johnson gained 120 yards vs. SF. Cards running attack is starting to play up to preseason expectations. This week we should get our road-greader (Iupati) back - both he and Massey are considered better run blockers than protecting the QB. We could see a bit of spot-rotation on running and passing downs - with Watford replacing Massey on run downs and Larsen spelling Iupati on passing downs.
Rams defensivety are formidable across the board - How about a Front Four of Long, Donald, Brockers & Quinn and LB's consisting of Laurinaitis surrounded by Ogletree and Ayers, In the back end, T Johnson and Jenkins are strong corners. McDonald is solid. Their nickel guy (Joyner got exploited a bit and drew a couple of penalties last week. Rams can beat you with that defense - especially if we go up against them man on man. Best way to beat them is to (1) stay balanced but (2) remain unpredictable and (3) don't let mistakes put us in a hole. (Typical Fisher wins usually involve closely-played games where the Rams are allowed to stick around until it's suddenly the 2:00 warning and you're 6, 9, 12-points behind). One way to slow down a pass rush is to run directly at a pass rushing dude or tire him out with screens and flares on the perimeter.
Key Matchups: OL vs. Ram DL. RB's vs. Ogletree, Ayers and Ram safeties. Gresham (as a blocker) vs. McLeod
P 06 Hekker
K 04 Zuerlein
H 06 Hekker
LS 44 McQuaid
KR 36 Cunningham
PR 11 Austin
K 07 Catanzaro
P 02 Butler
H 02 Butler
LS 82 Leach
KR 31 D Johnson.....10 Golden
PR 14 Nelson...........10 Golden
Matchup: Niner Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Zuerlein is perfect thus far and has drawn blood from all distances. Hekker.s punting average is equal to those of Ram opposing punters. The ever-dangerous Austin (with one TD to his credit) is averaging twice as many yards (23.4) on punt returns as the Rams are giving up (10.7). Although the home run potential is there, Peterson, Mathieu, Golden, Nelson. D Johnson & Co. are not consistently breaking off long returns. We're still a bit skeptical over Butler. We like the way Cat Man has consistently put the ball into the back of the end zone.
Key matchups: Bethel and Campbell vs. Austin. Catanzaro vs. the back of the end zone. Butler vs. the sideline - keep the ball away from Austin.
SF: The Rams are 1 & 2 and certainly not out of the picture by any means> Jeff Fisher is HC> Former Cardinal HC Dave McGinnis is his right-hand assistant. Gregg (Bounty Man) Willams is DC, Frank Cignetti is OC and John Fassell is ST coordinator.
AZ: Bruce Arians comes across as having an "old school" coaching style but unafraid of new approaches or to stretch the play-calling envelope. HIs motto: "No risk-it/no biscuit." A fun guy to follow - and he backs it up with solid coaching fundamentals (he has a huge staff of teaching-coaches from diverse backgrounds) anda record of proven success. So far he's 3 & 0, and one of his challenges remains keeping his players grounded and not victims of their own success.
As we mentioned earlier, the strength of the Rams is in its physical. badass defense, but their offense has posted fewer than 10 points on the board two games in a row and Fisher understands that they'll have to score more if they're going to post a win. The challenge for Jeff wil be (a) opening things up without (b) sacrificing that which brung ya. Should be an interesting chess match.
The SF game was Huge. This one is almost as huge - a division game game at our house - the second of six division "wars" where anything can happen and where the bouncing ball, a breakdown in coverage or a maverick official can determine the outcome of the game. A main concern - Carson Palmer's safety. You can't "play timid" but the Ram defense (under the aggressive eye of Gregg Williams) can go out and getcha. Accept the challenge but "play smart."