NFL Wire News

3 things we learned about the Rams

on

The Sports Xchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The red zone had been like a gold mine for the Arizona Cardinals during their 3-0 start. They scored touchdowns on 11 of their first 12 trips inside opponents’ 20-yard line — the second most such scores in the NFL.

On Sunday against the St. Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium, the red zone was more like a dead zone for Arizona.

The St. Louis defense forced the Cardinals to settle for five field goals and the Rams offense got three touchdown passes from quarterback Nick Foles, two of which went to wide receiver Tavon Austin, as the Rams held on for a 24-22 victory.

The win snapped a two-game slide by the Rams (2-2). The loss was just the fourth at home for the Cardinals under third-year coach Bruce Arians.

“When you’re playing someone like Carson (Palmer) with the athletes that they have and as well coached as they are, you go into it saying, ‘They’re going to get down there, but field goals are going to be a win for your defense,'” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, whose team is 2-0 in the NFC West after also having beaten the Seahawks in Week 1. “When you can hold them to three rather than seven, you feel pretty good about it.”

Arizona relied on the leg of Chandler Catanzaro to stay in the game after failing to score touchdowns on each of its first four trips into red zone territory. The Cardinals finally found pay dirt after Foles’ 20-yard touchdown pass to Austin gave St. Louis a 24-15 lead with 8:16 left to play.

The Cardinals went on an 80-yard drive, capped by quarterback Carson Palmer’s 23-yard touchdown throw to rookie running back David Johnson. But after the extra point, Arizona was still trailing by two.

The Cardinals forced the Rams to punt and got the ball back with plenty of time left. But the league’s highest-scoring offense couldn’t answer back one last time, as the Cardinals stalled with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-2 form the Rams’ 43-yard line with 1:44 remaining.

St. Louis running back Todd Gurley rushed for 146 yards on 19 carries, which included a 52-yard run in the fourth quarter that set up the Rams’ game-clinching touchdown.

What we learned about the Rams:

1. The Rams wanted payback for some comments Bruce Arians made about them a year ago when he called St. Louis, among other things, a team that always finishes 8-8. Safety Rodney McLeod said the Rams defense had a chip on its shoulder the entire game. “I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t,” he said. “I mean, statements like that, hey, we work just as hard as they do. We put our pads on just like they put their pads on. We go out here and we work our asses off and for him to say that, we definitely were going to come out and show him, ‘Hey, there might be an 8-8 team in here but that doesn’t mean we can’t come to your house and beat you.’ Which is exactly what we did.”

2. The Rams defense might be the best in the NFL, according to Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. Rams defensive end Chris Long wouldn’t disagree with that notion, saying “We’ve got some intimidating guys.” Coach Jeff Fisher was especially pleased with the defensive’s effort, saying, “We’re going to play hard. I think we can play better, but we’re going to play hard. There was some contact out there, there’s no doubt.”

3. Rams linebacker Alex Ogletree led the team with 10 tackles but left the game during the third quarter with an ankle injury and had to be carted off to the locker room, where he remained. Coach Jeff Fisher said Ogletree will require surgery and that the player likely is headed toward the injured reserve/designated to return list. “But we’ll have to see,” he said. “It’s unfortunate because I don’t know if you can find a linebacker that’s playing better than he was during the first four week of the year.”

Etc.:

–RB Todd Gurley made a conscious decision late in the game after breaking loose for a long gain down the sideline to go down without being touched so he could kill extra time off the clock. It was a veteran move, coach Jeff Fisher said. “I was just being a smart player and made the right decision,” Gurley said. “I didn’t want to go out of bounds and hold onto the ball. I could have easily scored, but no, I was just trying to get the win.”

–WR Tavon Austin had two receiving touchdowns, catching six passes for 96 yards, and running twice for 20 yards. Does he expect to get the ball more often this season? “There were previous times where they attempted to get me the ball. This isn’t the first time I’ve had a big game,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of big games and it’s all about opportunities. Some games, it won’t work. Sometimes you have a great defensive coordinator who will take me out of the game like last week (against Pittsburgh).”

–QB Nick Foles threw for three touchdowns Sunday, but he isn’t ready to coronate the Rams offense just yet. “I’ll be the first one to say we have a long ways to go,” he said. “This was a great team win tonight. … We just have to stay hungry, keep working and pay attention to detail.”


About The Sports Xchange

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business