AZ-LA grades: Bethel, Swearinger lead impressive defensive effort for Cardinals

Highest-graded players and top takeaways from the Cardinals' Week 17 win over the Rams.

| 5 months ago
Justin Bethel

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

AZ-LA grades: Bethel, Swearinger lead impressive defensive effort for Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals 44, Los Angeles Rams 6

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Arizona’s 44-6 win over the Rams in Los Angeles.

Arizona Cardinals

Quarterback grade: Carson Palmer, 73.8

Palmer efficient, but limits target depth

A final score of 44-6 in favor of the Cardinals should adequately describe the level of play required of their quarterback in this game. Arizona prides itself on utilizing a downfield-attacking passing approach, and yet Palmer completed one-of-three attempts of 10 yards or greater. Palmer did just enough to move the offense and secure the win.

Carson Palmer vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

C A.Q. Shipley, 81.6

LT John Wetzel, 79.6

LG Mike Iupati, 77.1

WR Larry Fitzgerald, 76.9

WR J.J. Nelson, 75.9

Offensive focal point injured early

RB David Johnson injured his knee during the first half and was replaced by a combination of Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington. With the scoreboard favoring the away team throughout, the duo was graced with 19 carries, and Williams easily displayed more with his touches. C A.Q. Shipley provided the game’s top run-blocking grade, helping Williams run for 60 yards on 12 carries.

Top defensive grades:

S D.J. Swearinger, 93.8 

CB Justin Bethel, 91.2 

LB Kevin Minter, 86.4

CB Harlan Miller, 85.5

LB Sio Moore, 84.9

Cardinals’ defense completely dominates Rams

Arizona’s defense earned well above-average team grades in run defense, pass rushing, and coverage as they thrashed Los Angeles’ offense. S D.J. Swearinger looks like a completely different player in a Cardinals uniform, and capped off a resurgent season with a career-best performance. Swearinger allowed two catches for 3 yards on three targets in coverage, had five defensive stops, and added a sack, hit, and two hurries on just six pass-rushes. OLBs Markus Golden and Chandler Jones and DE Calais Campbell each recorded two sacks, with Jones adding a forced fumble and a batted pass to earn a team-best 84.2 pass-rushing grade. CB Justin Bethel also had a career day, allowing just three catches for 13 yards on four targets, and returning an interception for a touchdown. 

Los Angeles Rams

Quarterback Grade: Jared Goff, 43.1

Goff struggles under constant pressure

Rams QB Jared Goff was under siege for the entire game, finding himself under pressure on 17 of his 27 dropbacks, and taking seven sacks. The terrible pass protection in front of him severely limited the rookie’s options in the passing game, and Goff attempted just three passes that traveled more than 10 yards. Goff earned below-average grades in all seven of his games this season, and would greatly benefit from an improved offensive line in 2017.

Jared Goff vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

HB Todd Gurley, 63.8

RT Rodger Saffold, 61.9

RG Andrew Donnal, 50.6

WR Brian Quick, 46.0

WR Pharoh Cooper, 45.2

Rams’ offense implodes in blowout loss

The Rams will finish the 2016 season ranked 31st in our overall team offensive grading, earning below-average grades in every aspect of offensive football. Every single offensive player that saw meaningful snaps for Los Angeles earned a below-average grade in this game, with RG Jamon Brown (three sacks, one hurry allowed), TE Lance Kendricks (one dropped pass, one sack allowed, team-worst 28.8 run-blocking grade) and LT Greg Robinson (one sack, three hurries allowed) among the worst performers. Robinson will finish the season ranked 72nd of 76 qualifying NFL tackles in overall grading, and has been among the league’s lowest-graded tackles in both run blocking and pass protection in each of the past three seasons.

Top defensive grades:

ED William Hayes, 87.6 

FS Maurice Alexander, 81.5

SS T.J. McDonald, 77.2 

LCB Trumaine Johnson, 75.0

ED Morgan Fox, 73.8

William Hayes impresses in loss

It’s a shame, for edge rusher William Hayes’ sake, that the Rams were entirely destroyed in this game, as Hayes put together an excellent performance. In addition to two defensive stops, Hayes collected a sack, two hits, and six total pressures. However, a defense that allows 40-plus points is not likely to receive much in the way of positive feedback.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Cardinals SS D.J. Swearinger

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

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