As Cardinals fans watched Arizona slump to another home defeat and listened to all-around good egg Kurt Warner on commentary, they must have longed for those days when his quick release was sending balls the way of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
And that longing would only have got stronger as the game went on, with Derek Anderson once again struggling and his replacement Max Hall knocked out of the game and his season ended prematurely. That you’re seriously thinking about what Matt Leinart could offer this team shows how far this team has fallen.
That’s not to take anything away from a Rams team that never really needed to do anything more than play solid football and pounce on the inevitable Cardinals mistakes. The improvement this team has made in being able to win games when not at its best is a sign of how far it’s come.
Rams: Three performances of note
We’ve waxed lyrical about the excellent play of Chris Long (-5.2) enough this season, so when he throws in a stinker like this he needs to be called out. Despite rushing the passer 31 times, Long managed just the one quarterback pressure, and he missed a tackle in run defense. Throw in a penalty and all in all you have a bad day at the office for a guy who has been excellent this year.
The best thing you could say about Rodger Saffold (+4.4) before this game is that he wasn’t embarrassing himself as the Rams’ starting left tackle nor in need of replacement. But this was the first time he was truly dominant at the NFL level, as he gave up just the one QB disruption on 35 dropbacks and was even better with his run blocking. More performances like this will get us on the Saffold bandwagon, but for now we’ll just appreciate a great display at the LT spot.
It was a good day also for Bradley Fletcher (+3.4). Not just content blanketing receivers for most of the game (he allowed one pass and intercepted another), he also had a good day in run support, highlighted by coming up to make a good defensive stop. It will be interesting to see if Fletcher can do as well against better quarterbacks, as Arizona tends to be a good place for cornerbacks to go and make a name for themselves.
Cardinals: Three performances of note
Every now and then we see what all the fuss is about with Darnell Dockett (+6.6). The highly regarded defensive end finished the day with a quarterback hit and three pressures, but his best work was done in run defense. He walked away with three defensive stops and made life very hard for the right side of the Rams’ line with one of the best defensive end displays we’ve seen all season.
We couldn’t throw similar praise on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (-2.9), who has been one of the most disappointing players in the league this year. Last year he looked set to break out as one of the league’s top cornerbacks, but this year the inconsistency in his play barely makes him starting-caliber. He gave up all three of the balls thrown his way, was poor in run defense and missed a tackle. We’ve see him play better than this, so why is he struggling so much this year?
The one thing you can say about John Skelton (+1.0) is that he’ll struggle to do much worse than what came before him this year. Anderson (-1.4) was terrible again, and Hall (-2.0) was just as bad. Anderson completed just three balls on the 12 occasions he was blitzed (and had a 4.9 QB rating), while the often-hit Hall took two sacks, threw an interception and completed one pass in his short cameo. Neither man coped well with pressure, with Skelton showing more on three plays facing pressure (including one nice intermediate completion) than either of them.
It wasn’t a great day for Sam Bradford (+0.1), who completed three of 13 plays when he faced pressure and 46.7 percent when blitzed. … Danario Alexander (0.0) caught two of six balls thrown his way. … Tackle Jermelle Cudjo (-0.5) was pretty anonymous with his run defense. … Dorian Stewart (+0.9) played in nickel packages and registered two pressures as a blitzing, in-the-box safety. … George Selvie (+0.4) didn’t offer much, other than one pressure, rushing the passer.
Tight end Jim Dray (0.0) had a pretty nondescript game as the No. 2 tight end. … Andre Roberts (-0.4) continues to fail to impress as the fourth receiver, and you wonder why the Cardinals run as many four-wide receiver sets as any team. … O‘Brien Schofield (-0.5) didn’t enhance his prospects of more playing time, despite getting a QB hit. … Dan Williams (+4.8) needs to see more playing time. He’s a beast when he’s on the field and led the team in tackles despite only playing 29 snaps .
Injured Ron Bartell was responsible for half of all of the Rams’ six missed tackles. … The Cardinals ran four-receiver sets 14 times. It’s almost as if they don’t realize Warner and Boldin aren’t there any more.