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Last week, the Cards had what was arguably the worst outing since Bruce Arians became head coach, losing to the Bills 33 - 18 and going 1 @ 2. Meanwhile the Rams took a chunk out of Tampa Bay's hide, riding the crest of five take-aways to win on the road and go 2 & 1.
You'd think that the Cards' second loss of the season (& the way they did it) would grab the attention of BA and his coaching staff
Jeff Fisher's task figured to be less challenging - all he needed to do was manage his team's success (getting his players to buy into the "nose to the grindstone"/"one game at a time" ethic).
Would the Cards get angry and rise to the challenge? Would the Rams build on their momentum?
Stats Lie - Cards Lose (Again): 17 - 13
The Bottom Line:
All Jeff Fisher had to do was to play physical and conservative, keep things close and then step back and let the Cardinals beat themselves. Worked like a charm - Cards are 1 & 3. Even worse, they played like it. While it is certainly possible the Cardinals could conceivably "get lucky" and scratch and claw their way to 9 wins this season, it's more likely that they'll play King of the Hill with other teams in the middle of the NFL pack and wind up somewhere between 7 & 9 and 9 & 7.
Check the game stats: The Cardinals dominated almost every statistical category ((Passing Yards, Rushing Yards, Time of Possession, held Gurley to 33-yds) but still found a way to lose. Why? All you have to do is dissect some of the less visible numbers (like takeaways - where the Cards coughed up 5 fumbles/interceptions, missed open field tackles, gave up a long punt return or blew up a drive or TD with costly penalties).
Bottom Line: The Cards are not playing anywhere near the creme de la creme of NFL teams (not even close). They're not especially dominating in any aspect of play, and they make too many mistakes. (Note - In the play-by-play, I've highlighted key Cardinal miscues in orange).
Rams took an early 7 - 0 1Q lead - on Cooper's open field whiff on Quick. Cards managed to come back and tie the score 10 - 10 at halftime and then grab a 13 - 10 lead going into the 4Q. But the Cards ST allowed Tavon Austin to break a long punt return late in the 4Q to set up the winning TD. Rams then held off the Cards 17 - 13 to end the game.
Carson Palmer had to leave the contest late in the 4Q under concussion protocol. A couple of other Cardinals were forced to leave the game - their outlook both for Thursday's Niner game & outforward - is iffy at this time,
Cards received. TB on KO. Another patented Floyd 3rd down drop forced a 3 & out. AZ to punt from its own 26. Punt fair caught at Ram 37. Cards bottled up Gurley and Rams were held to 3 & out. Punt went out of bounds at Card 14. A minus-9 yard sack by Alexander blew up an 11 play Cardinal drive at the Ram 41 where they were forced to punt. (6 of the 11 plays were runs by D Johnson). TB on punt net 10-yd penalty. Rams ball on their own 10. Three plays after a holding penalty on Peterson negated a minus-3 yd sack by Bucannon, Keenan hit Quick in the right flat. Cooper whiffed on the open-field tackle and allowed him to ramble 65-yards down the right sideline for a score. Rams 7 - Cards 0
TB on the KO. A couple of short catches by Fitz helped move the Cards to their own 37 as the quarter ended.
1st Quarter Score: Rams 7 - Cardinals 0.
An 18-yard run by D Johnson with a penalty tacked on helped move the Cards to the Ram 13, where a 13-yard TD run by D Johnson was nullfied by a penalty on Gresham. Cards settled for a 25-yd FG by Catanzaro. Rams 7 - Cardinals 3.
TB on the KO. A wide-open Kendrick turned a short pass over the middle into a 23-yard gain. Keenan hit Britt for 34 yrds. Cards stopped the LA drive at their own 11. Zuerlein was good from 29. Rams 10 - Cardinals 3.
Ellington returned KO to his own 25. D Johnson circled RE for +31 yards.Cards reached the LA 38, but Shipley was flagged for a false start to negate a +10-yd gain. Quigley punted from the Ram 43. Ball downed at the Ram 3. Cards held LA to 3 & out, and Rams punted from their 9. Jo Brown returned punt to LA 45. Cards moved to LA 33, where Palmer's pass for Jo Brown in the end zone was picked off by T Johnson. Ram ball on their own 20 with 2:53 till halftime. Rams forced into a 3 & out. Punt fair caught at the Card 20 with 1:48 till halftime. Three completions (for +15, +20 and +18) to Jo Brown followed by a +16-yard pass to Floyd set up a +5-yard TD pass to Floyd with 0:29 on the clock. Rams 10 - Cardinals 10.
TB and a knee. Half over.
First Half Score: Rams 10 - Cardinals 10.
Rams returned the KO to their own 21. After Keenan hit Gurley for +33 to put the ball on the Card 43, Chandler Jones sacked Keenan for Minus-7 and recovered Keenan's fumble. Cards ball on their own 48. Five plays later - in FG range at the LA 26, Palmer was sacked by Donald. Fumble recovered by Rams. Rams ball at their own 31. Rams managed to move to the Card 35 A couple of huge penalties on LA (one a holdingcall that negated a 27-yard scramble) and a 14-yard sack by Golden forced LA to punt from their own 36. Jo Brown returned it to the Card 25.Completions of +15 yards to Floyd, +24 to Nelson and D Johnson for +24 moved the Cards to the LA 4, but the Cards were unable to push it in, and had to settle for a Catanzaro 21-yd FG. (Cards took lead for first time). Rams 10 - Cardinals 13.
Third Quarter Score: Rams 10 - Cardinals 13.
TB on KO. On first play from scrimmage, Keenan hit Britt for +31-yards (vs. Cooper and Buccanon). But Card defense stiffened, Rams failed to convert a 4th & 5 from the Card 39. Three plays later, D Johnson fumbled a 1-yd run up the middle. Rams recovered. Rams took over on their own 41. The closest they could penetrate was to the Cardinal 39, but penalties forced them out of FG range and they punted from the AZ 40. Punt was fair caught by Peterson at the Card 5. Cards moved out to their own 39, but - on a 3rd & 6 - Palmer was sacked for minus-9 yards to kill the drive. Palmer left the field under concussion protocol. Quigley punted directly to Austin who returned it 47-yards to the Cardinal 34. A face-mask penalty on Momah moved the Rams to the Caridnal 19 with 5:09 left to play. Rams managed to move to the Cardinal 4, where Keenan hit Quick for a 4-yard Y+TD to return the lead to the Rams. Rams 17 - Cardinals 13
Ellington returned the KO to the Card 15. Stanton in for Palmer. 2:36 left to play. Stanton was able to move the Cards to their own 40 with 1:34 left to play, but his pass for Floyd was intercepted by Barron. LA ball at their own 45. Cards used up 3 time outs holding LA to 3 & out. Jo Brown's return with a horse-collar penalty tacked on gave Cards the ball at their own 31 with 1:01 left. Stanton managed to move Cards to the Ram 37, but his Hail Mary throw into the end zone with 0:05 on the clock was picked off by McDonald.
Final Score: Rams 14 - Cardinals 10
Notable Game Stats.
Passing: Palmer was 23 for 36, 288 yards 1 TD and 1 Interception. Stanton was 4 for 11, 37 yards, no TD's and 2 interceptions. (Keenum was 18 for 30, 2 TD's and no picks).
Rushing: D Johnson gained 83 yards on 17 carries. (Gurley picked up 33 yds on 19 carries.
Receiving: Smokey Brown had 10 grabs for 144 yards. Fitz had 5 for 62. D Johnson had 4 for 41. (Britt, Quick, Kendricks and Gurley had 4, 2, 5 and 5 catches respectively. Quick had 2 TD's).
Turnovers: minus-4. Cards gave away 5. (2 fumbles/3 picks). (LA gave away 1 fumble and no picks).
Penalties: Cards 6/Rams 9
Run/Pass Ratio: Cards: 25/47. (Rams: 23/30)
Kicking: Catanzaro was 2 for 2 in FG attempts. (Zuerlein was 2 for 2).
Net Punting Yards: Quigley averaged 25.5. (Ram punter averaged 42.3)
Tackles: Jefferson led the Cards with 9 tackles followed by Minter and Buccanon with 5 apieceand Ch Jones with 4.
Sacks: Cards sacked Keenum twice (C Jones and M Golden 1 apiece). Card QB's were was sacked 3 times.
Interceptions: Palmer was picked off once, Stanton 2 times. (Keenum: No picks).
Third Down Efficiency: Cards wer 6 of 13 for 46%. (Rams were 6 of 14 for 42%).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards were 1 of 3 - 33%. (Rams were 1 of 2 for 50%).
Time of Possession: Cards 32:09 / Rams 27:51
Card rush defense gave up an average of 1.8 per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 4.7)
Smokey Brown shouldered most of the receiving/return load.
D Johnson - especially his yards-after-contact.
C Jones and Golden, while not spectacular, were defensive bright spots
We contained the Ram ground game better than we did i earlier vs. other opponents.
The Dark Side
By my count, there were 13 Cardinal miscues - each of which could be considered "game-changers" in a close contest like this. Contending teams don't beat themselves that way.
Stanton, while out there, did not look like a QB we can win with.
Unspectacular defensive line play - Stinson was the DL leader in tackles with 3. Mauro was credited with a whopping 2.
Same Old Same Old - by Cardinal DB's - the whiff on Quick in the open field was brutal.
Same Old Same Old II - by Cardinal special teams - You don't punt directly to Austin with the game on the line. You just don't.
- All the Rams had to do was to play physical and close to the vest - and then step back and let the Cardinals shoot themselves in the foot.
Cards were pretty much the same team as the one that lost to the Bills (only difference being that the Rams score was much lower because they play a more conservative style of FB).
Main culprit: Sloppy execution - whether it be breakdowns in technique, misreads in coverage or failure to win jump ball battles. You can't simply chalk this up to "bad luck" week after week after week. We have to ask ourselves: "We make more mistakes than our opponents do. Why is that? Is it coaching? Dumb players? Lackadaisical players?
We are getting beaten by rookie QB's, backup QB's and other players you've never heard of. Is it that other teams have gotten a whole lot better? Or have the Cardinals gotten a whole lot worse?
Makes you wonder out loud: "Who's running the asylum?"
SF Thursday - it doesn't get any easier.