Setting the Stage:
Rams are being touted as one of the top teams in the NFL and did little last Monday to undercut that impression. Cards were being heralded as "one of the best NFL teams you never heard of" and, in losing to Washington last week, reinforced the label: "The least best NFL team you never heard of."
All indicators point to a shellacking of the Cardinals by the Rams this Sunday.
Ram's Last Game
They took care of the Raidiz. 33 -13. Actually, it was a far closer game than the score indicated - tied 13 - 13 till just before the end of the third quarter. Then the Rams capitalized on a couple of key interceptions, added a few field goals and won going away.
Raiders scored on their first possession on a 7 play drive capped by a 10 yard TD run up the middle by Marshawn Lynch. Raiders 7 - Rams 0.
Rams tied it up a couple of possessions later on a Goff to Gurley 19 yard TD pass. Rams 7 - Raiders 7
Raiders moved from their own 25 to midfield in 6 plays (actually 10 plays when you factor in 4 penalties) to end the quarter).
6 more Oakland plays brought them to the Ram6, where they settled for a 24-yd Nugent FG. Raiders 10 - Rams 7.
Rams reached the Raider 20, where Goff's sack moved them back 9 yards and Zuerlein's 46 yd FG attempt was no good.
On the next drive, the Raiders moved from their own 36 to the Rams 21 where Carr's pass for Cook was intercepted by J Johnson.
Ram ball on their own 20 . A 50-yd defensive pass interference call on the second play of the series moved Rams to the Raider 19. They made it to the Raider 2, where they settled for a 20-yd Zuerlein FG. Rams 10 - Raiders 10.
(2:40 till halftime). Rams moved from their own 25 to the Ram 30 where Nugent's FG try was good from 48. Raiders 13 - Rams 10.
Rams received. They moved to the Raider 10 in 9 plays, where they settled for a Zuerlein 28-yd FG. Rams 13 - Raiders 13.
Ram defense held Raiders scoreless on the next 2 Oakland possessions, and Oakland kept the Rams from scoring on the next Ram possession.
Starting from their own 42, Gurley ran for +3; Goff hit Cooks for +17; Cooks again for +30; and Goff to Kupp for 8 yds and a TD to end the quarter. Rams 20 - Raiders 13.
(15:00) Rams bottled up Oakland.
(13:34) Starting from their own 12, Rams moved to Raider 37 in 10 plays before settling for a 55-yd Zuerlein FG. Rams 23 - Raiders 13.
(9:19) Oakland moved from their own 25 to the Ram 40 in five plays before Carr's pass for J Nelson was intercepted by Littleton.
(7:58) Starting from their own 29, Rams moved to the Raider 2 in 12 plays before settling for a Zuerlein's 20-yd FG. Rams 26 - Raiders 13.
(3:15) Raiders started from their own 25. Four plays later, Carr's pass for Cook was intercepted by Peters and returned for a 50-yd TD. Rams 33 - Raiders 13.
(1:59) Raiders ran off 6 plays before running out of clock.
Final Score: Rams 33 - Raiders 13.
Last Game Stats
Passing - Goff was 18 of 33 for 233 yds and 2 TD's and no picks. (Carr was 29 of 40 for 303 yds, 0 TD's and 3 Ints)
Receiving - Cooks and Kupp had 5 catches each. Kupp and Gurley each had one receiving TD (Ram receivers - Cooks and Richards- caught 9 apiece
Rushing - Gurley gained 108 yds on 20 carries (Lynch was held to 41 yds on 11 carries).
Fumbles - Neither team turned over a fumble.
Net Punting Yds - Rams: 53.5 (Raiders: 41.5)
Tackles - Littleton led the Rams in tackles with 13 followed byJ Johnson (9) and Talib (7)
Third Down Efficiency - Rams: 4 for 11 = 36%. (Raiders: 0 for 0 = 0%)
Net Yards Rushing: Rams 140 (Raiders: 96).
Sacked - Each team once.
Run to Pass Ratio: Rams: 26/33 Raiders: 23/40
Turnover Ratio minus-1
Rams in a Thumbnail
They've got one of the best NFL RB's in Gurley, a rapidly improving up & coming passer in Goff, featured - big play receivers n Cooks and Thomas, a solid group of possession receivers ithat include Cooper and Kupp and a rock-ribbed defense featuring a Super Hero D-Line that includes Brocker, Suh and Donald. Their O-line may not be spectacular but they get the job done. Coaching staff has done a good job adding a few new pieces to the puzzle each season.
QB ..16 .Goff...14 Mannion...08 B Allen
RB.....30 Gurley...34 M Brown...33 J Davis...42 J Kelly
WR1.....12 Cooks...88 M Thomas
WR2 ...17 Woods...83 Reynolds
WR3....18 Kupp...10 Cooper
TE......89 Higbee...81 Everett...82 Mundt
LT........77 Whitworth...70 Noteboom
LG .. 76 Saffold
OC ..65 Sullivan...55 B Allen
RT ..79 Havenstein
Defensive Interior Line
DE - 44 Golden, 91 Mayowa, xx Z Moore,
DT - 90 Nkemdiche, 72 Pierre, G Smith
NT - 98 Peters, 95 Gunter
DE- 55 C Jones, 96 J Smith
SAM - 43 Reddick, 92 Gardeck
MLB - 57 Bynes, 51 Hodges
WILL - 20 Bucannon, 47 Turner
LCB - 21 Peterson, 26 B Williams, 39 Nichols
RCB - 28 J Taylor, 23 Benwikere
SS - 36 Baker, 30 Ford
FS - 41 Bethea, 38 Boston, 40 Tillman*
Matchup: Redskin Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Goff has emerged as a solid up & comer who doesn't beat himself with dumb decisions. He has home-run hitters - Cooks and M Thomas to keep defenses honest, with Cooper and Kupp available to win most red zone and jump ball battles. Ram TE's and OL's aren't super-charged but they don't hurt themselves either.
Card secondary - when clicking - provides an effective pass rush off both edges (C Jones and Golden) and up the A gap (Nkemdiche). Peterson is a lockdown corner. Taylor and Benwireke are newcomers (Benwikere brings a physical aspect to the #2 corner posiition. Unfortunately, the Cardinal pass defense didn't live up to their press clippings last week ago. They'll have to do better for us to have a chance at winning. Scary Ram threat - Gurley catching out of the backfield.
Key Matchups: Peterson vs. Cooks. Benwikere and Taylor vs. Cooper and Kupp. Bucannon vs. Gurley. Nkemdiche vs. Ram interiro O-line..
Matchup: Redskin Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Gurley gained more than 100 yards last week. (Adrian Peterson did nearly as well against the Cardinals. Card run defense had a problem bringing down ball carriers after initial contact. Unless we do better, we risk being blacktopped by Gurley and M Brown. Rams seem very happy in their own skin - making opposing defenses focus on stopping Gurley, while the Ram defense shuts the door on any offensive effort. It then becomes only a matter of waiting for the other team to make a mistake (i.e. failing to keep an eye on Kupp or Cooper on defense or throwing a fatal pick 6 on offense).
Key Matchups: Bynes vs. Gurley in the run game.
09 Bradford, 03 Rosen, 07 Glennon
23 D Johnson, 29 Edmonds, 22 Logan, 32 Coleman
WR - 11 Fitzgerald, 13 Kirk, 16 Sherfield
WR - 16 C Williams, 14 Nelson,
TE1 - 86 Seals-Jones, 85 Holmes, 84 Gresham,
LT- 74 Humphries, 73 Wetzel, (79 Cunningham)
LG - 76 Iupati, 68 Vujnovich,
OC- 64 Cole, 62 Munyer
RG- 67 Pugh, (68 Vujnovich)
RT - 71 A Smith, 75 Clausell, 79 Cunningham
Defensive Interior Line
NT........93 .Suh...92 Smart...69 Joseph-Day
DT......99 .Donald...95 Westbrooks
WIL......98 Longacre...91 Easley...49 T Young
OLB....50 Ebukam...53 Lawler
ILB...58 Littleton...54 Hager...59 Kiser
ILB....26 Barron...52 R Wilson
LCB.....22 .M Peters...37 Shields...32 T Hill
RCB......21 Talib...23 Robey-Coleman
SS .....43 J Johnson III...24 Countess...27 I Johnson
FS......20 Joyner...41 M Christian
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Redskin Pass Defense
Sam Bradford brought veteran leadership and high-accuracy to the quarterback position, but had trouble connecting with Cardinal receivers vs. Washington. Three key problems- (1) Failure of receivers to get separation (2) not enough zip on short throws so that receivers were hung out to dry and (3) an overly conservative passing attack (i.e. little if any tendency to throw deep). Lack of deep threat has a negative impact on the short passing and running game. It's unclear this early whether these problems are fixable or whether they're part of the new Cardinal DNA. Card offensive line faces a stiff challenge from Brockers, Donald, Suh & Co. Look for McCoy to stress a short passing game with pressure (away from the Ram OL) on the perimeters.
Fitzgerals vs Talib...Kirk vs. Peters....Ram DL (Brockers, Donald, Suh) vs. Cardinal O-line
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Redskin Run Defense
Logical "Emporer Has No Clothes" interview question: If David Johnson was picking up decent yardage on the ground vs, Washington, why did we only run the ball fewer than 20 times? Rams play tough against the run and then dare you to out-execute them. It may very well be that the best way to beat them is to face them down physically and beat them at their own game. Run the ball/stop the run - make the Rams find a different way of attacking us.
D Johnson vs. Brockers-Suh-Donald
Washington Special Teams
K 04 Zuerlein
P 06 Hekker
H 06 Hekker
LS 44 McQuaide
KR 10 Cooper...88 M Thomas..
PR 10 Cooper...18 Kupp
Cardinals Special Teams
P - 02 Lee
K- 04 Dawson
H - 02 Lee
LS -46 Brewer
KR - 22 Logan, 14 Nelson
PR - 13 Kirk, 22 Logan
Matchup: Redskin Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Lee and Dawson look to provide a solid presence in the Cardinal kicking and punting game. Logan, Kirk and Nelson are a trio of home-run hitters in the return game. Rams are solid if not spectacular in the kicking, punting, return and coverage games.
Fairly even. Kirk had a nice 4Q punt return vs.Washington. \
Sean McVay (hired 2017 as the youngest coach in modern NFL history), seems to have settled in nicely as the Rams added additional pieces to the puzzle during the course of the past year.
Steve Wilks brings a more conservative, fundamentally sound approach to Cardinal football in contrast to BA's "risk-it" approach to the game. Problem is - Of you take a conservative approach to play calling but don't have the horses to solidly and consistently, execute that approach you wind up with a dull football team that lacks the explosiveness to flip the game. Enter the Cardinals. The Card offense did not look especially explosive or unpredictable, and lacked the wherewithal to come back from an early deficit.
How to Beat the Rams
Stop Gurley. Outmuscle the Ram defense. Error-free football. (Easier said than done, but that's what it figures to take.