The week before, the Rams allowed SF to stage a late comeback and succumbed to the heroics of Colin Kaepernick and a 2-pt conversion on the final Niner TD to lose a squeaker to SF 22 - 21. Meanwhile in Seattle, the Cards built a 14 - 0 lead on the road over the division-leading Seahawks and held them at bay just enough for Catanzaro to kick a game-winning FG as time ran out. The Cards have to be feeling pretty good about themselves despite the lack of playoff significance. Ram fans have to be shaking their heads. Rams are still trying to establish themselves in LA and recently fired long-time HC Jeff Fisher. It's hard to say whether Rams would "play for pride" or mail it in. The same could be said about the Cardinals (hough at least they did't have to face the continued uncertainty of settling into a new city under the leadership of a young QB & under the supervision of a new head coach).
Cards Put Exclamation Point on Meh Season
The Bottom Line:
Cards posted 44 points, Larry got his League leadership in receptions, Card defense sacked Goff 7 times and held the Rams to zero TD's and the Cards wound up 4 - 1 - within their division, but fans, coaches and management left the Coloseum with the sour taste in their mouths that you get when you're supposed to make the playoffs....but you don't.
Once again, the Cardinal defense looked "All World" especially in the 3d quarter and then coasted to a lopsided 44 - 6 win over their LA hosts. In some ways, victory had to be sweet - especially if reports of an altercation between the two teams in the tunnels at halftime are true. (For at least a few years) there had been buzz on the fan message boards noting that there have been a higher-than-average number of season-ending injuries to key Cardinal players in Ram games under the oversight of DC Gregg " Place a Bounty on Their Heads" Williams and Cardinal players could not have been happy with the first quarter knee injury to their star RB David Johnson).
(Note: Johnson's injury looked like a knee, and he was carted off the field in obvious pain. The severity of his condition was unknown, but there was 3rd quarter TV footage of David standing, smiling on the sideline).
With Johnson out, Carson Palmer relied on RB' Andre Ellington and Kerwynn Williams to lug much of the Cards' offensive water along with WR's JJ Nelson and John Bown along with 's TE's Jeremy Gresham and Darren Fells.
Cards posted 3 first quarter points and gave up a couple of FG's in the second quarter though expanding their lead to 16 - 6 at halftime. The Cardinals then shut out the Rams in the second half, while tacking on 14 points in both the 3rd quarter and 4th quarters to ice the game.
The Cardinals pretty much played all their healthy starters well into the second half (No doubt, there will be a lot of 20-20 hindsight regarding their willingness to start David Johnson). Drew Stanton got a looksee in the 4Q but didn't show much and in fact threw one pick. No sign of Dysert.
Congrats to Fitz for leading the NFL in # of receptions. JJ Nelson had a huge game (including that circus catch on his back. Props to Justin Bethel (back to last seasons' form, including his pick six). C Jones, C Campbell and M Golden (on their consistent pass rush pressure). Catanzaro on his 4 FG's (hat a Ram penalty turned into 3). H Miller (continuing to flash at his "new" safety position including the pick). And S Moore (playing hurt but stil balling).
Good way to go out, guys. All the more reason to "keep the band together" next year.
Cards received again! (have they ever kicked off to start a game this year?). TB on the KO. Palmer led a 10-play drive that stalled at the Ram 14. Catanzaro "good" from 32. Cards 3 - Rams 0.
TB on the KO. Three & out. Six-yd sack by Golden. Peterson's return (net fair catch penalty) gave Cards the ball on thei rown 27. Three & out. Austin muffed (but recovered) the punt at the Ram 25. An interception by Swearinger was nullified by a roughing flag on Minter, but Rams couldn't capitalize on the break and punted 4 plays later. Fair catch; Cards 17. A short pass to D Johnson for +17 helped move the Cards to their own 38 where their drive sputtered and Wile's 54 yd punt was returned to the LA 26. (Two plays after Johnson's 17-yd reception, he was injured on a run around LE - severity of injury is unknown but could be serious). After Golden sacked Goff for minus-10, and invalid downfield kick penalty on a trick play was offset by another fair catch infraction by Peterson. Two plays later, Hekker punted 73 yards to Peterson who returned it 14-yds to the Card 27.
- Cards reached their own 30 as the first quarter ended.
1st Quarter Score: Cards 3 - Rams 0.
Starting out the second quarter, the two teams exchanged interceptions - Alexander's interception of a pass for Nelson was followed by a pick - at the Card 13 - by Harlan Miller who ran it back 52 yards to the Ram 35. Card drive fizzled at the R where Catanzaro was "good" from 34. Cards 6 - Rams 0.
KO returned to the Ram 9. Card hold them to 3 & Out. Punt fair caught (wthout penalty) by Peterson at the Card 35. A 16-yd pass to Brown, a 21-yd run around LE by K Williams and a 20-yard completion to Nelson set up s 4-yd TD pass: Palmer to Ross. Cards 13 - Rams 0.
TB on the KO. Goff moved his team to the Card 18 where on the 9th play of the possession. 38-yd TD on another trick play (featuring Austin on a direct snap) was called back because Goff went in motion but didn't stop to get set). Zuerlein was good from 37-yds. . Cards 13 - Rams 3.
2:34 till halftime. TB on the KO. Cards held to 3 & out. Just before the Card punt, I knew the punt would be blocked...and it was. Ram ball on the Card 19 (This point in the game is where the Cards have lost momentum in the past). Fortunately, an offensive holding call forced Zuerlein to boot a 36-yarder to make it a one TD game. Cards 13 - Rams 6.
0:48 on the clock. TB on the KO. Palmer led the Cards to the Ram 48 in 5 plays with 0:07 on the clock. Ellington picked up 4 yds on a pass from Palmer . A roughness flag on LA moved the ball to the Ram 29 where - with one second left on the clock - Catanzaro was good from 47. (Note - Answering that Ram FG with one of our own to end the half was a momentum-killer for LA). Cards 16 - Rams 6.
First Half Score: Cards 16 - Rams 6.
- (First drives of the second half often determine who wins football games). Rams received. KO returned to the LA 24. Cards held Rams to 3 & out. Instrumental play - split sack between Campbell and C Jones. Punt returned to the Ram 37. On the first play from scrimmage, Palmer hit Fells deep left for a 37-yard TD. Cards 23 - Rams 6.
KO returned to the Ram 18. Ten-yd sack by C Jones instrumental in holding LA to 3 & out. Punt muffed (but recovered by Peterson) at Card 43. After K Williams ran for +15 yds, an acrobatic catch by JJ Nelson at the LA 4 set up a 1-yd TD run up the middle by K Williams. Cards 30 - Rams 6.
KO returned to the LA 19. The Rams managed to survive an 8-yd sack by Campbell to reach their own 45, where an 8-yd sack (split by Gunter and Golden) forced Hekker to punt from his own 37. Punt fair caught at the Card 20. Cards reached their own 41 to end the 3rd quarter.
Third Quarter Score: Cards 30 - Rams 6.
A holding call on Watford forced the Cards to punt from their own 31. Returned for no gain to the Ram 22. On the first play from scrimmage, Swearinger sacked Goff for minus-13 yds. On the next play, Austin caught a 10-yd pass but Sio Moore forced a fumble. Bethel recovered. Card ball on the LA 19. Cards went 3 & out. But a 34-yd FG by Catanzaro was nullified and 3 pts taken off the board when C Davis was flagged for "leverage." Three plays later, Plamer hit Fitz for a 5-yd TD. Cards 37 - Rams 6.
TB on the KO. (Mannion in for Goff). Rams made it to the Card 34 in five plays but Bethel then stepped in front of a short-right pass for P Cooper and ran back interception 66-yards for the final Card TD. Cards 44 - Rams 6.
8:06 left. Rams ran 5 consecutive times and turned the ball over on downs. (Stanton in for Palmer). On the sixth play of the possession, Stanton's throw for Golden was intercepted. Rams ran 3 plays before time ran out.
Cards 44 - Rams 6.
Notable Game Stats.
Palmer threw 38 times completing 20 for 255 yards, 3 TD's and 1 interception. (Goff was 13 for 20 for 120 yards, 0 TD's and no picks).
K Williams picked up 60 yards on 12 carries. Had one TD. Entire Ram offense gained 52 yds on 22 carries.
Fitz had 5 catches for 43 yds and a TD. Nelson had 4 catches for 75. (Cooper and Gurley led LA with 4 grabs).
Rams won the turnover war 3 - 2.
Run/Pass Ratio: (Cards: Runs: 24 /Pass: 42. LA: Runs: 22/Pass 28).
Catanzaro made all 3 XP attempts (& would have been 4 of 4 if it weren't for a Ram penalty). He made all his XP attempts
Wile had one punt blocked, and was outpunted by the Ram punter 25.8 to 44.4 in net yardage.
Sio Moore led Card tacklers with 7 followed by Bethe, Minterand Swearinger with 6 apiece
Palmer was sacked once. Cards defense was credited with 7sacks - Golden was credited with 2.5, C Jones and C Campbell with 1.5
Cards were 4 for 14 (28%) in Third Down Efficiency. LA was 2 for 14 (14%).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards 3 for 5 (60%). Rams 0 for 2 (0%)
Penalties: Cards were penalized 4 times (compared to LA's 9)
Time of Possession: Cards 27:58 - LA 32:02
Card defense gave up an average of 2.4 yds per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 3.5)
The Cardinal defense picked up from its Seattle successes and continued to be breathtaking - as good as it gets.
The Cardinal secondary - despite the multitude of injuries lived up to its potential. Shout outs to Swearinger, Miller and Bethel (who played the way he was expected to).
JJ Nelson delivered consistently.
Sio Moore - despite being doubtful due to injury, led the team in tackles and forced a fumble.
Catanzaro was perfect.
Wiley played hurt and did what he had to as punter and holder.
The Dark Side
Who can we keep? Who is likely to leave?
It must be a bitter pill to know how well we played and watch lesser teams compete in the playoffs. That's what happens when you ignore the details and take things (like ST play) for granted - - a hard lesson earned - but an important one.
The last two games were what we had expected them to be. It gives every player the opportunity to see how good we can be when we apply ourselves on every assignment of every play of every game.