Rams Clamp Down Cards: Five Things We Learned

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Arizona Cardinals remain winless at home this early season, falling to the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams 20-12. LA improves to 2-1. The Cards fall to 1-2. It was the first NFC West division game for both teams. 

Here are five things we learned from State Farm Stadium in Glendale.

1. Starting Slow…For the third consecutive game, the Cards slept through the alarm for opening kickoff. A three-and-out and blocked punt led to a short LA field goal. Another quick, stalled drive yielded similar results and on the eighth play of the Rams’ second offensive possession, Cooper Kupp’s 20-yard scoring run on the fly sweep made it 10-0 as fans were still finding their seats.

An Aaron Donald sack killed Arizona’s next drive which again failed to reach midfield. LA out-gained Arizona 158-26 after the first 15 minutes of game action. Kyler Murray and the Arizona offense only managed one first down. Kliff Kingbury’s team has been outscored 31-0 in the first quarter through the first three games. “We need to figure that out collectively,” Kingsbury said of the offensive ineptness. “If it’s not one thing, it’s another…I just think consistency on offense is what we’re fighting for.” The Cards didn’t advance past midfield until halfway through the second quarter.

2. Rough in the Red Zone…The good news is Matt Prater connected on all four of his field goal attempts. The bad news is…Matt Prater connected on all four of his field goals. The Cards’ often were their own worst enemy near the goal-line, whether it be poor clock management, untimely penalties or a number of drops – including a couple from the usually sure-handed Zach Ertz. There were big plays available on Sunday, but execution issues were too much to overcome.

Outside of last week’s late comeback in Las Vegas, Arizona’s offense has fizzled far more than it has flashed and is averaging barely 20 per game thus far in 2022.

3. Containing Kyler…It was evident from the opening possession, the Rams’ scheme was to keep Murray in the pocket, often using a spy, to limit big gains on the ground, as well as his ability to keep plays alive with his feet. His first rushing attempt, a two-yard gain, didn’t happen until under four minutes to play in the game. The Rams bend but don’t approach played out perfectly. They made Arizona’s offense one-dimensional (70 total rushing yards) and seemed to pick the right time to send pressure.

4. Hello Hollywood!…Arizona has been waiting for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to flash the big-play ability we all saw in Baltimore. Brown answered the call in the first half reeling eight receptions on eight targets, just two short of his season catch total entering the game, for 87 yards. 

Brown, who finished with a game-high 14 receptions for 140 yards, consistently beat LA’s banged up secondary who had to respect his speed and play-making ability. “He plays hard and he’s going to be a really good player for us,” Kingsbury said. Brown was targeted 17 times in Murray’s 58 attempts.

It appears the synergy Brown and Murray build as stars at the University of Oklahoma could be re-surfacing here in the desert. Throw DeAndre Hopkins back in the fold next month, along with steady Ertz, emerging Greg Dortch, and Rondale Moore’s return at some point. Kingsbury’s receivers have the big-play ability to score points in bunches – something we certainly haven’t seen through the first three games of the season.

5. Donald’s Dominance…The nine-year pro, and future Hall-of-Famer, continues to perform at a ridiculous level.

Yes, the All-Pro defensive tackle made his fair share of plays Sunday afternoon in Glendale, but also drew his usual double sometimes triple-teams, which freed up LA’s front seven to make plays. Murray rarely was given time to move through his progressions on obvious passing downs. Donald finished with six tackles (two for loss), including the before-mentioned sack. 

Arizona is back on the road next week, traveling to take on the Panthers on October 2nd.