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Cards were undefeated, following up a 48 - 23 win over the Bears with an even more impressive 47 - 7 thrashing of division-rival Forty Niners. Rams were 1 & 2 - though their sole win was over the Seahawks. The "6-Burger" the Rams put up against the Steelers and the 10 points posted the previous week vs, Washington were especially vexing to Ram HC Jeff Fisher (You don't win many games when you only score 6 - 10 points).
Rams Outhit Cards in 24 - 22 Win.
The Bottom Line:
It's always a bad omen when your kick returner is stripped of the ball on the opening kickoff. Rams took an early lead; never let the Cardinals regain it and hung on to win a 24 - 22 squeaker. Low points were (1) the fumbled KO, (2) the inability of DC Bettcher and his men to account for the one Ram home run threat, waterbug Tavon Austin (3) two consecutive blown calls by the refs on fumbles that should have been ours and (4) BA calling 3 straight pass plays late in the game with 2-yards to go; when a 1st down would have put us on the fringe of FG range and a chance to win ite game. And, oh yeah, (5) the Rams outhit us pretty much throughout the entire game. Jeff Fisher (as we predicted) kept it simple, relied on physical straight-ahead conservative, mistake-free football with Tavon Austin doing most of their long-range damage. (No rap on the Cardinals who played hard - got to tip your hat to StL and understand that, if we want to beat them, we'll have to hit harder).
Cards received. David Johnson fumbled the KO. Rams recovered at the Card 17. Three plays later. Foles hit Tavon Austin on a slant over the middle for a 12-yard Ram TD. Rams 7 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. Cards managed to move to their own 46, but a 5-yard false start penalty on Massie and a minus-7 yard sack (by Long) forced them to punt from their own 23. Cards held Rams to 3 & out (key play - a minus-7 yard sack shared by Golden and Campbell...Peterson returned the punt to his own 34. Card drive resulted in a FG. Possession mainly involved a bunch of touches by "Johnson & Johnson" (Chris and David). Key plays were a 20-yard pass/run by David Johnson and an interference call on a pass intended for Floyd. Cards reached the Ram 4, but couldn't punch it in on three attempts and settled for a 21-yard Catanzaro FG. Rams 7 - Cards 3.
- Return net penalty gave the Rams the ball on their own 8. An offside call on Okafor nullified an interception by Jefferson, but Rams were boxed in anyway and punted from their own 12. Fair caught by Peterson at the Card 40. They reached the Ram 47 as the quarter ended.
1st Quarter Score: Rams 7 - Cards 3.
Cards continued their 13-play march to the Ram 7, but Johnson was stoned by Donald on 3rd & goal and Catanzaro kicked his second FG. Rams 7 - Cards 6.
Rams returned the KO to their own 35. Card defense held them to 3 & out and they punted from their own 41. Peterson returned it to his own 17. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Palmer's pass over the middle (for John Brown) was intercepted by Jenkins in the end zone for a touchback. A 47-yard completion to Austin helped set up a 42-yard FG by Zuerlein. Rams 10 - Cards 6..
TB on on the KO. CArds reached the Ram 24 in 8 plays but had to settle for another Catanzaro FG (from 42 yards out). Rams 10 - Cards 9.
1:13 left. Rams returned the KO to their own 15 and went 3 & out. Hekker's 57-yard punt was returned to the Card 23 with 0:35 left. Cards couldn't get anything going, and Palmer took a knee at his own 25 as the haalf ended.
First Half Score: Rams 10 - Cards 9.
TB on the the KO. Ram drive stalled after 8 downs at midfield. Punt was fair caught by Peterson at the Card 8. 3 plays after Palmer hit Fitz for +22 , he hit Fitz again (deep-right, but - after he caught it and ran a few steps the ball was separated from him by McCleod. Fumble was recovered by T Johnson at the Ram 42. Five plays later, Foles hit Steadmon Baileyt in the right corner of the end zone for an 1-yard TD. Rams 17 - Cards 9. .
TB on the KO. Carfds moved to the Ram 14 in seven plays, but Palmer was sacked by McDonald for minus-6 and Cards settled for another FG (this one for 38-yards) by the Cat Man Rams 17 - Cards 12.
Cunningham returned the KO 39 yards to the Ram 12, and a penalty moved them back to the five. They anaged to move to their own 11 as the quarter ended. Cards are still within a TD of tying the game.
Third Quarter Score: Rams 17 - Cards 12.
Peterson fielded the punt for no gain at the Cardinal 48. A 13-yard pickup by John Brown on an end around and a pass up the middle for +20 by Jaron Brown helped set up a 29-yard Catanzaro FG to narrow the Ram lead to 2 points. Rams 17 - Cards 15.
TB on the KO. A 52-yard run by Gurley off left guard helped set up a 12-yard TD run by Austin (Makes you wonder why they made X Williams inactive when they could have used him to relieve a tired Cardinal "D" late in the 4Q). Rams 24 - Cards 15.
8:16 left. Completions to Floyd (+22) and David Johnson (+19) and Fitz (+14) helped set up a pretty pass over the middle to David Johnson for a 23-yard TD. (We're only 2 points down). Rams 24 - Cards 22.
4:38 left. KO was returned to the Ram 14. Cards held them to 3 & out Punt was returned to the Cardinal 37.
2:57 left. Cards reached the Ram 43 (2nd and 2). All we needed was 8 or 9 yards to be in the position to kick the winning FG. But three straight passing attempts by Palmer were incomplete. Ram ball. Game over.
Final Score: Rams 24 - Cards 22.
Passing: Palmer was 29 for 46, one TD and one interception (Foles was 16 for 24; 3 TD's and no picks).
Takeaways: Rams buried the Cardinals netting a +1 in picks and +2 in fumble recoveries for an overall takeaway advantage of +3.
Rushing: Chris Johnson gained a respectable 83 yards on 16 carries; but Todd Gurley blacktopped Card run defenders, gaining 146 yards on 19 carries
Receiving: Fitz (99 yards) and John Brown (75 yards) each had 7 catches. David Johnson caught 4 for 63 yards and a TD. On the Rams side of the ledger. Tavon Austin caught 6 passes for 96 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: . (21 Runs: /46 Pass: ). Ram Run/Pass Ratio: 26 Runs/ 24 Passes).
Tackles - Campbell led the Cards in tackles with 11 followed by Buccannon (8)and Mathieu (6).
Sacks - Golden and Campbell shared a sack. Cards lost the sack battle 4 sacks to 1.
Situational Efficiency: Cards converted 2 of 11 3rd downs (18%). Rams converted 5 of 13 (for 38%). Cards were 1 for 5 (20%) in the red zone. Rams were 3 for 5 (60%).
Penalties: Rams were penalized 7 times/Cards 3.
Time of Possession: Cards 33:13/Rams 26:47.
Cards played (what was for them) a putrid game and still only lost by 2.
Chris Johnson and his run blockers were consistent. On the heels of a 120-yard outing vs. SF, he managed to gain 83 yards (against a tough Ram defense).
Cat Man was 5 for 5.
We didn't implode right before halftime.
The Dark Side
Palmer was not accurate on that final offensive drive.
Gotta question Arians' play calling on that final drive . All he needed to do was gain 2-yards to pick up a 1st down and have a shot at moving into field goal range, but instead of running the ball (at least once) he opted to dial up 3 passes; all of which were incomplete.
The O-line gave up 4 sacks and too often made Palmer have happy feet. Veldheer was beaten too often and was penalized at least once (nullifying a 24-yard completion to John Brown near the end of the 1H).
Our pass rushers seldom got to Foles.
Coach Bettcher failed to pay enough attention on their one home run hitter (Austin).
Bad karma (On two consecutive plays, the officials denied fumble recoveries).
We were outhit.
We're still 3 & 1; but Detroit (in Detroit) next week ain't exactly a cake walk. Niners lost again. Seattle didn't play a Sunday game. So we're still in it. What this game teaches us is that we're not as amazing as we think we are and a team that hits harder and makes fewer mistakes can beat you on any given Sunday. Goes to show you - no matter how good think you are and what you accomplished to date, there are all kinds of things that can rise up and beat you - whether it be turnovers, injuries, the refs, complacency or another team that outplays you. Time to regroup and focus on the Motor City. Onward!