Setting the Stage:
Game will be played in London, Sunday and will air at 1 pm EDT. Rams - at 4 & 2 are on a roll - an unanticipated darling of the media. Cards rode the back of new RB Adrian Peterson piling up 31 unanswered points before fendng off a furious 4Q Ram rally to secure a squeaker 38 - 35. Cards are now 3 & 3. Rams are 3 & 0 on the road.
In the past three games, LA has only allowed 15 second half points.
LA's Last Game
They edged the Jags 27 - 17. It's first time in franchise history, the Rams scored a touchdown on a kickoff return and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the same game. The two special teams TD's built just enough of an edge to hold the Jaguars at bay.
After Jag RB Leonard Fournette ran for a 75 yd TD on the Jags first play from scrimmage, the Rams held the Jags to just 3 points for the rest of the game. Todd Gurley (110 yds) broke the century mark once again. A lot of credit went to their OL (which enabked him to exceed 6 yds on each of his first six carries. Their passing attack has continued to struggle a bit, but came thru on their final drive.
Rams received and Cooper returned the opening KO 103 yds for a Ram TD. Rams 7 - Jags 0.
TB on KO. On the first play from scrimmage, Fournette took one right up the middle for a 75-yd TD. (Fourteen points scored in the first 0:29 seconds into the game). Rams 7 - Jags 7
KO returned to the Ram 24. Three straight Gurley runs picked up 9 yds. Punt went into the end zone for a TB. Sack of Bortles (by Barwin) on 5th play of Jag possession forced a punt. Punt was shanked (16 yds) & O-O-B at the Jag 45. Rams made it to the Jag 37 where Zuerlein was good from 56 yds out. . - Rams 10 - Jags 7
TB on KO. Jags came out smokin' - Bortles to Hurns for +18...Lee around Le for +17...Fournette up the middle for +18...Bortles to Ivory for +22 yds and a Jag TD. Jags 14 - Rams 10.
TB on KO. The two teams exchanged 3 & outs. Rams returned the next punt to their own 34. Goff completed a pass to Woods for +22...a pass to Watkins for +11...scrambled for +5 yds...threw an incompletion...hit Kupp for +13....& handed off to Gurley for +6 more before throwing to Everett for a 4-yd TD (Play reviewed & TD upheld). Rams 17 - Jags 14.
TB on KO. Jags ran off one play to end a very action-packed 1Q.
First Quarter Score: Rams 17 - Jags 14.
Jags ball; 2nd down at their own 29. After Bortleds hit Lee for +21, Fournette went 3 & out - punt went O-O-B at the Ram 23. Two teams exchaged 3 & outs. Rams ran off 6 plays before Hekker punted from his own 34. Jags held to 3 & out. Punt returned to the Ram 26. They could go no farther than the Jag 46 and Hekker's 33 yd punt gave Jax the ball at their own 18.
On the fourth play Jax's 3 & out, Nortman's punt was blocked (by Littleton) and returned 8 yards by M Brown for a Ram TD. Rams 24 - Jags 14.
TB on KO. Penalty gave Jax the ball at their own 40. 2:25 left till halftime. Jags managed to move to the Ram 36 in 7 plays before Myer's 54-yd FG attempt was wide left and the quarter ended.
1st Half Score: Rams 24 - Jags 14
Jags received - TB on KO. Jag drive stalled at the Ram 47.Punt fair caught at the Ram 11. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Woods caught a 20-yd pass but fumbled. Jag ball at their own 48. Jags ran Fournette on 4 consecutive plays before (after three consecutive penaltied on field goal attempts) finally booted one home from 41-yds. Rams 24 - Jags 17.
TB on KO. Rams moved to the Jag 47 in 8 plays before Hekker punted *3 yds). Punt downed at the Jag 14. Jax ran off 3 plays to reach their own 23 as the quarter ended,
Third Quarter Score: Rams 24 - Jags 17
Jags moved to the Ram 31 in 6 more plays before a Bortles pass was picked off by Robey. Ram ball on their own 45. Rams went 3 & out. Punt fair caught by Jax at their own 19. Rams held them to 3 & out. Punt muffed but recovered by Rams at their own 32. They used up 5:08 worth of clock running off 12 plays (8 of which were runs by Gurley). Drive stalled at the Jax 11. FG was good from 29. Rams 27 - Jags 17.
TB on KO. (2:32 to go). Jax 8-play drive stalled at the Ram 36. FG attempt was wide. Rams took over at their own 44. Goff took 2 knees - game over.
Final Score: Rams 27 - Jags 17
Key Game Stats
Rams Stats to Date
Passing - Goff was 11of 21 - 124 yds, 1 TD and 0 interceptions.
Rushing -- Gurley ran for 116 yds yds on 23 carries. (Goff carried 4 times for 9 yds.
Receiving - Woods caught 5 passes for 70 yards. Kupp caught 2 for 35.
Tackles - Barron ked wiith 8 tackles. Barwin had 7. T Johnson and Webster had 6.
Sacks - 5. Barwin, Barron Brockers, Donald, Fox had one apiece.
3rd Down Conversions -LA converted 4 of 13 3rd downs (30%) while Jax was 4 of 15 (26%)
Rushing Avg - LA averaged 4.4 ypc rushing. (They gave up 6.5 ypc)
Net Punting Average - LA was 43.1. (vs. 28.6 for Jags).
Penalties - LA was penalized 7 times (Jax was flagged 5 times)
Red Zone Efficiency - TB was 2/4 = 50% i (vs. 1/2 = 50% for NE).
Turnover Ratio: Even. (Goff threw no picks/ Rams lost one fumbls. Jax lost one pick but no fumbles.).
First Downs - LA 116 / Opponents 112
3rd Down Conversions - LA 35/79 / Opponents 33/87
Passing YPA- LA 8.1 / Opponents 7.1
Rushing YPC - LA 4.0/ Opponents 4.8
Sacks - LA 20 / Opponents 9
Field Goals - LA 17/18 / Opponents 10/14
Time of Possession - LA 29:11 / Opponents 30:49
Turnover Ratio -2
Key Player Stats
Passing: LA - Goff: 111 of 185 for 1,484 yds. 60.0%. 8.0 YPA...8 TD's.... 3 Int.... 93.2
Rushing: LA - Gurley: 123 for 521 yds...4.2 YPC...4 TD's. Austin: 22 for 108...4.9 YPC.1TD
Receiving: LA- Gurley:23 for 245, 10.7 YPA, 3 TD's...Woods: 22 for 322, 14.6 YPA, 0 TD's....Kupp: 19 for 265, 13.9 YPA, 2 TDs...Watkins: 15 for 222, 14.8 YPA...Higbee: 11 for 166, 15.1 YPA...Everett: 7 for 154, 22.0, 1 TD
Field Goals - Zuerlein: 17 /18
Punting - LA - Hekker: 46.9 Avg
Punt Returns -LA - Austin: 12 returns, 4.4 YPR
Kickoff Returns - LA - Cooper: 15 returns, 31.7 YPR
Tackles - LA - Barron (49)...Ogletree (39...Brockers (25)...T Johnson (21)
Sacks - LA: 20 (Opponents' 9) - Longacre (3), Barwin (3), quinn (2.5), Fox (2.5), three others with 2 sacks apiece.
Interceptions - LA 7 (vs. Opponents' 3): Robey- Coleman (2). Five others 1 apiece.
WR...11 Austin...........10 Cooper......88 M Thomas
TE.....89 Higbee.........81 Everett
LT.....77 Whitworth.....73 Lucas
LG 76 Saffold
OC 65 Sullivan ......66 Blythe
RG....68 J Brown......64 Donnall
RT 79 Havenstein..63 D Williams
WR .12 Watkins......83 Reynolds
WR ..17 Woods.......18 Kupp
QB ..16 Goff............14 Mannion......08 Allen
RB....30 Gurley III....34 M Brown.....33 J Davis
LDE 97 Mauro..........72 Pierre
DT 98 Peters (.......95 Gunter
DT 92 Rucker.........90 Nkemdiche
SLB 55 C Jones........
ILB 20 Bucannon....58 Wright
ILB 56 Dansby........57 Bynes
WLB 43 Reddick.......96 K Martin
LCB 21 Peterson.....25 T Williams
RCB 28 Bethel.........,26 B Williams
SS 27 Branch........41 Bethea
FS 32 Mathieu ......36 Baker.....30 Ford
Matchup: Ram Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
We couldn't call it a "weakness", but if there was one single area which underperformed other aspects of Ram team play, it would be the passing offense. Goff is still transitioning from rookie to young veteran, so they don't expose him any more than they have to. He spreads the ball around to a variety excellent explosive receivers in Watkins, Austin, Cooper and Kupp. TE's Higbee and Everett are also involved in the receiving game.
It probably has more to do with the ferocious Ram pass rush, but - when you compare Sacks vs. Sacks allowed - Goff enjoys pretty good protection back there.
Once vaunted Cardinal pass defense has gotten shredded both in Philly and in the second hallf of the TB game. Chandler Jones his holding up his end as a pass rusher, but the Cards haven't found any one single pass rusher to fill the injured Marcus Golden's shoes. Interior D-linemen have held up their end in the run game, but no one's stepped forward to provide much pass-rush penetration up the middle. The anticipated return to health of Robert Nkemdiche could change that.
In the secondary, Patrick Peterson left the TB game with a quad injury, but says he'll be good to go in London. (When he was out, Card pass defense suffered a tangible fall-off). PP21's backup (T Williams) did, however, play well enough to earn more playing time - possibly as a starter opposite Peterson in place of Bethel (who continues to have ball-skills and tracking challenges).
At safety, Bethea has proved to be a surprise ball hawk with 3 picks. T Branch continues to be a beast at the other safety position. For whatever the reason, hybrid DB Tyrann Mathieu has been invisible and/or a step late more often than expected. Money-LB D Bucannon has shaken off most of the rust and is making his presence felt. Budda Baker continues to make steady progress and is good for at least one Yowee play a game.
It's hard to say whether McVay will try to exploit Cardinal coverage weaknesses or whether he'll continue to play it close to the vest in the passing game. Our gut says" He'll probably open things up to provide a show for the London crowd.
Key Matchups: Multiple LA Receivers vs. Cardinal Secondary. C Jones vs. Whitworth
Matchup: Ram Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Gurley is already having a HOF season with 521 yards before the season is even half over. McVay will sometimes run him 3 (even 4) times in a row.
Cards have shown in the past that they can match up physically and contain the run, but they don't always do so. If there was one single primary Cardinal game objective, it would have to be "Stop Gurley" and make the Rams beat you thru the air.
TB can either go smashmouth or it can opt to attack the outside perimeter. Cards are capable of containing TB rushers, but it depends on whether they play to potential
Key Matchups: Gurley & his OL vs. Branch and Dansby.
WR1 11 Fitzgerald......14 Nelson.........16 C Williams
LT 74 Humphries.....73 Wetzel
LG 75 Boone
C 53 Shipley...........70 Boehm.........62 Munyer
RG 74 Watford.
RT........68 Veldheer........69 Holden
TE .87 Niklas............80 Momah
WR2 .13 Ja Brown......12 Jo Brown.....10 Golden
QB 03 Palmer .........05 Stanton........07 Gabbert
RB 23 A Peterson....33 K Williams...38 Ellington....35 Penny.....37 Foster
TE 84 Gresham ......86 Seals-Jones
DE......93 Westbrooks.......97 Fox
NT.......90 Brockers...........95 T Walker
DT.......99 Donald..............92 Smart
OLB....94 Quinn................96 Longacre..............51 Price
OLB...98 Barwin...............50 Ebukam
ILB.....52 Ogletree............54 Hager
ILB...,,26 Barron...............58 Littleton
LCB....22 T Johnson........23 Robey-Coleman
RCB...21 K Webster.........36 Hatfield................32 T Hill
SS .....43 J Johnson III.....24 Countess
FS......20 Joyner...............38 C Davis...............41 Christian
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Ram Pass Defense
Ram defense is as tough across the board as any team in the NFL. They've got Brockers and Donald inside and a quartet of Quinn, Barwin, Ogletree and Barron patrolling the second level and rushing the QB.
Trumaine Johnson is solid at one corner. If there was one single point of vulnerability, it would be at the other three DB positions.
Cards will rely on the running presence of Adrian Peterson to keep the Ram pass rush honest. The key to this game may very well be whether Carson Palmer has enough time to get the ball to Fitz, JJ, the 2 Browns, Ellington and his TE's (One thing that puzzles me - Isn't it pretty obvious that, when AP is in there, BA won't throw to his RB out of the backfield, but when Andre is in there, it's much more likely to be a pass)?
Cardinal offensive linemen have had an extra (part of a) week to work together and shake off the rust.
Key Matchups: Cardinal OL vs. Brockers, Donald, Quinn, Barwin, Ogletree and Barron. Card WRs vs. Webster, Johnson III and Joyner.
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Buc Run Defense
Card fans' wildest fantasies may have been that 32 Adrian Peterson would step into a starting role and perform like the 23-year old AP. He did just that vs. TB.
But the Rams aren't Tampa Bay, and Peterson may not enjoy the same success (especially if the Rams stack an extra dude in the box).
The good news is that, the more attention paid to AP, the more room Carson Palmer will have to operate. Toughest lanes to run thru figure to be the Ram interior (where Brockers and Donald control the action). Look for BA to attack the Ram perimeter (not that Barwin, Quinn, Ogletree and Barron are chopped liver).
Key Matchups: Peterson and Card O-line vs. Donald and Brockers (inside) and Barwin, Quinn, Ogletree and Barron (outside)
K 04 Zeurlein
P 06 Hekker
H 06 Hekker
LS .44 McQuaid
KR 10 Cooper
PR 10 Cooper
K 04 Dawson
P 02 Lee
H 02 Lee
LS 49 Drescher
KR 33 K Williams
PR 33 K Williams
Matchup: LA Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
LA - ST's single handedly provided the winning edge vs. Jags. Zeurlein is "money." Cooper poses a home run threat (Rams don't even have to use Tavon Austin). One area of vulnerability: Punting (Hekker did not have a stellar outing vs. Jacksonville.
Cards - Newly added LS Justin Drescher did fine. Lee and Dawson had solid games vs, TB. Cardinal ST hands our opponents 10 yards a pop in field position in KRs and PRs.
Based on track record this far into the season - Rams win with ST's. Cards lose with their ST play.
Key matchups: Cardinal coverage teams vs Cooper.
LA- HC S McVay. OC La Fleur. DC W Phillips. ST J Fassel. McVay took over a talented but underperforming Ram squad from Jeff Fisher and has given the team a dose of wrought-iron backbone on both sides of the ball. Rams are a solid, physical NFL team that leads its division.
Cards - It took one stroke of the pen for Steve Keim to welcome Adrian Peterson into the fold to reset the Cardinal offense so that BA could use all the toys at his disposal and, perhaps, turn Cardinal fortunes to an incredible 180. Arians' main challenge will be to figure out, now, "what he's got" and hone his coaching style and philosophy to get the most out of AP's presence as well as its "domino style" effect on the rest of the roster.
Cards - TBD
Bucs - TBD
How to Beat the Rams
1. Stop Gurley. 2. Protect Palmer. 3. Hold Goff at Bay.
Arrival of AP was a godsend, but it will take more than that to get to the Promised Land. Cards have a chance to finally move ahead of .500. We hope BA has got the "trip abroad"/time zone thingy figured out - at least better than McVay has.
After this game, the Cards go into a Bye week. We have a shot at 4 & 3. Woo Hoo!