Conventional wisdom says a team makes significant strides from week one into week two. After a dull performance in the season opener for the Arizona Cardinals, the week two clash against the Rams was a welcomed challenge. Unfortunately for the team and fans, the game did not feature a battle of two NFC West rivals, but rather a systematic dismantling by the division favorite Los Angeles as the Cardinals were shutout on Sunday.
First Half Blues
The game started without incident as the Cardinals and Rams traded punts. The Cardinals defense kept the Rams off the scoreboard through the first quarter. Los Angeles found the end zone soon after the start of the second quarter on a Todd Gurley 11 yard run. It was just the first score for the talented running back. Los Angeles converted the two-point try as starting kicker Greg Zuerlein left the game due to an injury.
As it was in the season opener the Cardinals lost control of the game in the second quarter. Following Gurley’s score the Rams defense tightened the screws on the Cardinals offense. Rams punter Johnny Hekker came on and added a 30 yard field goal to increase the Los Angeles lead. The Cardinals offense continued to have problems with sustaining drives and control the time of possession. A short drive toward the end of the first-half put the Arizona defense back on the field. The unit was carved up by the Rams en route to another Gurley score, this time a one yard run as the half expired. Gurley was untouched and the Rams line created a hole up the middle of the Cardinals line.
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Arizona ended the first half with less than 100 yards of total offense and did not cross the 50 yard line. The second half began with another three and out for the Cardinals offense. Los Angeles then took the football and drove deep into Arizona territory. The Cardinals were saved by a sideline interception by Patrick Peterson. On the play Budda Baker put pressure on Jared Goff and forced the quarterback from the pocket. The Cardinals did nothing with the subsequent drive.
Los Angeles took the football and used a long Robert Woods catch and run in addition to a roughing the passer penalty to move down the field. Gurley completed the drive with his third score of the day and essentially put the game out of reach. The Rams score made it a 27 point lead over Arizona. The Cardinals offense continued to struggle moving the football on the tough Los Angeles defense. Running back David Johnson struggled to find running lanes consistently and found himself swarmed by Rams defenders.
Where’s the Offense?
Sam Bradford fired an interception late in the fourth quarter as cornerback Sam Shields undercut a deep dig route to make the play. It was the first turnover for the Cardinals on the day. Bradford finished the day with 90 yards on 17 of 27 passing and an interception. Eventually the Cardinals surpassed the 100 yard mark on offense and found their way across midfield. The latter occurred on the game’s second to last play with 30 seconds left on the clock.
Surprisingly the offensive line did well in holding back a tough Los Angeles pass rush, surrendering just a single sack on Sunday. Johnson finished the day with 48 yards on 13 carries in addition to one reception for three yards. No Cardinals receiver reached the 30 yard mark with Larry Fitzgerald leading the team with 28 yards receiving. Rookie Chase Edmonds led the team with five receptions. Arizona had five first downs to the Rams’ 24 and finished the game with just 137 yards of total offense.
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Defensively the Cardinals held the Rams under 100 yards rushing, although that was helped when Gurley was sidelined for most of the final quarter with cramping issues. Goff and the offense gained 342 yards through the air and finished with 432 yards in total offense. The Cardinals were able to keep Gurley under control between the twenties as the running back finished with 42 yards on 19 carries. However, the Rams benefitted from three scores from inside the red zone by the former Georgia Bulldog.
Arizona fell to 0-2 on the season while the Rams moved to 2-0 and gained a divisional win in the process. The Cardinals will try to regroup as they return home to State Farm Stadium to welcome the Chicago Bears. Chicago will be coming off a short week as they play on Monday night against the Seahawks. The Cardinals will be looking to find any positives from another disheartening loss.