Chapter Two: Rams 33, Cardinals 0
The second chapter in the story of the 2017 Cardinals, and the midway point, brings us to a European trip. The game at Twickenham stadium pit the Cardinals (3-3) against the upstart Rams (4-2). Arizona was coming off a home victory against Tampa Bay. Against the Buccaneers, the offense featured newly acquired running back Adrian Peterson. The veteran running back had come over from the Saints in exchange for a later round pick. The Cardinals offense and defense took strides forward against Tampa Bay and was ready for the challenge of the new look Rams and their first year head coach, Sean McVay.
The first quarter was tough sledding for both sides as the defenses dominated the line of scrimmage. Arizona struggled to find a rhythm on offense. The Rams defense focused on stopping the run game, forcing the Cardinals into obvious passing situations, then letting loose the pass rush. It looked like the Cardinals would take the early lead but kick Phil Dawson missed a chance from 32 yards out. The Cardinals defense did well to slow a high-flying Rams attack. Los Angeles could only net a Greg Zuerlein field goal to take a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Cardinals Lose Palmer
If chapter one left any lasting impact it was the loss of running back David Johnson. Chapter two brings another major injury, and one that the team could never truly recover from, the loss of Carson Palmer. The loss of a starting quarterback is sure to doom just about every NFL franchise. For Arizona, the loss of Palmer came on a play which epitomized the game in London.
With a little more than five minutes left in the first half, Palmer dropped back and looked to throw deep. Linebacker Alec Ogletree came on a delayed blitz and put the hit on Palmer as he released the football. The pass floated toward the middle of the field where Lamarcus Joyner made the interception and returned the ball inside the Cardinals’ 20 yard line. On the next play the Rams increased their lead on a touchdown run from Todd Gurley.
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At that point the route was on. Prior to Palmer’s injury the Cardinals were down by just six points. By the end of the first half it was a 23 point deficit. The Rams dominated the second quarter with their suffocating front seven. The pass rush provided constant pressure and the Cardinals run game could not take over as the enormous deficit meant the need to throw the football.
The Rams added a third Zuerlein field goal and a Jared Goff touchdown pass to finish up the scoring in the second half. The third and fourth quarters failed to offer a compelling comeback by the Cardinals. Arizona struggled to do anything once Palmer made his way to the locker room. On the day the run game accounted for 25 yards on just 12 attempts. The air attack sputtered with 188 yards and two interceptions while completing 15 of 32 attempts.
This was a sign the Rams were a legitimate contender while the Cardinals were going to struggle for the rest of the season. Palmer was placed on injured reserve in the following days but would be far from the last player making the list. The game against the Rams told a story of one team rising and another falling. The narrative on the season had changed and for many, it had become a horror story.