Re-Focused – Rams @ Cardinals, Week 9

| November 9, 2011

Arizona was rolling with John Skelton as quarterback Kevin Kolb was down with turf toe, but they rallied behind a strong defensive performance that kept St. Louis out of the end zone on offense. Their win against the Rams was only the second of the season, but if the strong defensive output can hold up and they can get some things rolling offensively expect Arizona to improve from here on out. The challenges will keep coming however as they travel to Philadelphia this coming Sunday, so an all hands on deck defensive approach will be needed to shut down Michael Vick and company.

The Rams had to believe things were on the up and up going into Arizona as they were coming off an emotionally charged victory against the Saints and star quarterback Sam Bradford was returning to the lineup. Things couldn’t have possibly gone any worse as they sputtered offensively scoring zero points while converting only three out of 14 third down attempts. And could there really be a worse way to end a game, first they had their field goal blocked as time expired and then to have a 99-yard punt return go the distance in overtime.

But the game was more than about that, so let’s find out how.

 

Arizona Cardinals – Three Performances of Note

What sophomore slump?

With his second 6.0 plus game in the books for the season, Daryl Washington (+6.2) has jumped into the top 10 of our inside linebacker rankings. Washington was an absolute monster on Sunday; he made play after play in the run game with his coverage skills being equally impressive. It seemed as if he was around the ball on every single play finishing the game with nine solo tackles and an impressive five defensive stops. At the 03:23 mark in the third quarter, Washington blows through the line of scrimmage so fast that Rams guard Jacob Bell doesn’t even have enough time to impede his path to Steven Jackson. The result of the play was the big back taken down for a loss, but that wasn’t even his best play of the day. Fast-forward to the fourth quarter with 08:54 left to play. Bradford dropped back looking to hit Brandon Lloyd over the middle; Washington had other plans though as he made an incredibly athletic play by jumping up and swatting the ball away with one hand. We’d like him last year and we like him more this year when he plays like this.

 

Rising back to the top

Let’s stay on the defensive side of the ball with arguably the best or one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in football. Calais Campbell (+4.0) looks to be regaining his form from 2009 (+20.1) as he notched his second multi sack game of the season. His two-sack day moved him ahead of Justin Smith and Antonio Smith for the lead in terms of 3-4 defensive ends. In addition to the two-quarterback sacks he also registered five stops, which puts him at 30 for the season, twelve more than anyone else at his position. You may ask, who suffered the most against Campbell? To no surprise it was Jacob Bell and Rodger Saffold, two guys who have consistently struggled week after week. And as if Campbell doesn’t do enough on defense, he also blocked the field goal that would have won the game for the Rams at the end of regulation.

 

Protection please

As good as Arizona’s defense played, the same can’t be said about the Arizona offense, especially their offensive line. Sure it’s easy to point the finger at Levi Brown, who has a good game about once a year, but this week was truly a collectively bad effort. As a unit they allowed 14 quarterback pressures and three sacks. Out of the six offensive linemen who made an appearance they managed to grade out at a cumulative -11.4, which brings their offensive line grade to an even -50 on the season. Watch Chris Long work over right tackle Jeremy Bridges in the fourth quarter at the 01:15 mark. That pretty much sums up how the Cardinals offensive line has played all season long.

 

St. Louis Rams – Three Performances of Note

Action Jackson

In a game where the Rams offense couldn’t muster an offensive touchdown (something that seems to be a reoccurring theme this year) there was one guy who put together quite the impressive performance. Steven Jackson (+4.0) may not be in that elite status anymore, but he can definitely still turn it on from time to time as he turned in one of his finest performances since 2009. Jackson had to fight for every yard, as his offensive line let him down once again in the run-blocking department. When he did have room it seemed to be between center Jason Brown and right guard Harvey Dahl as he averaged 6.0 yards a carry off middle right. Also, running outside of the tight end faired well as he picked up a solid 5.6 yards a pop. Outside of Jackson there was little offensive hope elsewhere.

 

Looks promising

For the second week in a row on limited snaps, rookie Robert Quinn (+2.5) has been a pass rushing machine. While his play against the run isn’t anything to write home about, his three quarterback pressures and quarterback sack on 27 pass rush opportunities is. Sure his sack will look the best in the box score, but he was virtually unblocked and the play that displays why the Rams drafted him was his quarterback pressure in the second quarter with 06:07 left to play. His initial quickness and speed around the corner will prove to be dangerous as he continues to mature as a player. His snaps seem to fluctuate from week to week, but don’t be surprised to see him used more down the stretch if the Rams continue to lose.

 

Disappointing

Just as it was the weakness of the Cardinals, the Rams weakness was equally as bad. Their offensive line couldn’t decide what they wanted to do worse, run or pass block. But instead of talking about them as a unit I want to single out a player who has been one of the most inconsistent and disappointing players for them, Rodger Saffold (-6.2). It truly is a week-to-week thing with him, never sure of what you’re going to get. He will show flashes of being a reliable protector of Sam Bradford’s blindside and then the next week he will get eaten alive. Not to mention, there is no offensive lineman who has been penalized more this year than Saffold. Through eight games he has 10 penalties. His performance on Sunday was painful to watch as he allowed Calais Campbell to sack Bradford twice and hit him one other time. As far as the season goes he has been the Rams biggest problem on the offensive line.

 

Game Notes

- In addition to Patrick Peterson’s nice day in coverage, he was named NFC special teams player of the week with his 99-yard game winning punt return.

- Brandon Lloyd saw a team high 12 targets.

- Sam Acho filled in nicely for the injured Joey Porter registering four pressures on 23 pass rush opportunities.

 

PFF Game Ball

Calais Campbell was a nightmare matchup and forced overtime by blocking Josh Brown’s field goal attempt as time expired and probably deserves this. But how can you look away from Patrick Peterson after that punt return?

 

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