ReFo: Rams @ Cardinals, Week 14
Sam Monson takes a look back at the Cardinals big win over division rival Rams and picks out the performances of note.
ReFo: Rams @ Cardinals, Week 14
With no Sam Bradford at quarterback the Rams have been trying to win games with Kellen Clemens under center. Though that created a couple of shocks against Indianapolis and at home to Chicago, the wheels have fallen off that wagon recently with losses to San Francisco and this latest defeat to the Cardinals.
Arizona got Carson Palmer healthy enough to start the game and the difference in quality between the two passers was probably the difference in a game that had the feeling of inevitability about it for most of the encounter.
The Rams made some big plays on both offense and defense, but ultimately couldn’t do enough to stop the Cardinals scoring, while they themselves were never likely to keep pace.
But who stood out on an individual level?
St Louis: Three Performances of Note
Get the Ball in His Hands
Tavon Austin has had something of a quiet rookie campaign given his electrifying skills, and the Cardinals kept him pretty quiet in this game as a receiver at least, limiting him to only three targets and one catch for nine yards. Fellow Rookie Tyrann Mathieu was winning their battle of the slot before he left the game with a knee injury. The Rams did however get the ball into Austin’s hands on an end around, which was one of the better end around runs you will see. Austin took the ball, cut up field, left another few players grasping at air before finally being dragged down by Karlos Dansby just a few yards short of the goal line. Austin is a playmaker who is devastating in space, but the Rams need to get better at finding that space for him, because all too often this season they have been without one of their biggest weapons for a lack of creativity in how they use him.
We have come to expect a big game from Robert Quinn this season, and with a +4.5 grade he once again had a big game. He was a factor in the passing game with his rush getting around the edge quickly, but the majority of that positive grade came against the run which, while far from a negative of his game, would certainly be the less strong area. This was comfortably his best graded performance against the run this season. Kendall Langford also stood up to be counted against the Cardinals running game, with his good work coming inside. Though he failed to generate any pressure at all, Langford was a constant thorn in the side of the Cardinals runs, working in and outside his blockers to stuff run plays, redirect the runner or generally obstruct the run plays and blocking for other people to make plays. He notched three defensive stops on the day and earned a +3.5 grade for his work, significantly outshining teammate Michael Brockers (-1.0).
Chris Williams Again
The frustrating thing about Chris Williams is that he is capable of stretches of fine play. The issue is that he is never far from a disaster again either. His last came against the Titans, but in between this game and that he had three reasonable performances and graded at +2.4 over that period overall. The Titans game and this Cardinals encounter however combined for a -13.3 grade in total, and his first game against Arizona in Week 1 adds another -3.5 to that red. Williams was rather predictably completely overmatched by Calais Campbell in particular, but was also beaten on more than one occasion by Ronald Talley and he surrendered pressure to three other players as well. If the Rams are lucky, Williams will go another three reasonable games before he is due his next nightmare meaning they won’t have to experience the next one before the start of the 2014 season, at which point they should have upgraded the position.
Arizona: Three Performances of Note
Defensive Back Studs
Patrick Peterson had a quiet day. The Rams had clearly decided that there was no point in targeting him and instead went elsewhere. It’s hard to argue with the strategy, and given how mercilessly they went after Jerraud Powers, it was certainly a successful plan. While Peterson didn’t see a single target, Powers saw ten, allowing catches on seven of them for 106 yards and added to that by being flagged twice in coverage. Elsewhere though Tyrann Mathieu was having another excellent game covering the slot until he suffered an ugly knee injury returning a punt. The real tragedy about that injury is that he was desperately extending that return, trying to make a play but only succeeding in digging himself into a deeper hole, one that ultimately claimed his knee as he was gang-tackled. Rashad Johnson, best known to many for losing part of his finger earlier in the season during a game, had a great game, grading at +2.7, making three defensive stops and earning himself an interception. Thrown at three times, Johnson allowed just three yards in coverage.
Fitzgerald Keeps on Trucking
Larry Fitzgerald was never the fastest receiver in the league, but he makes plays the same way Tony Gonzalez makes plays – by catching the ball when it’s within his radius, regardless of the defensive attention all over him. Fitzgerald was thrown at a dozen times, catching all of them, and was blanketed on more than one of those plays, catching the ball anyway despite defensive backs pulling at it on the way down. His big day was a big reason behind Palmer’s positive grade, which could and perhaps should have been, higher but for an ugly pass late in the game that should have been picked off over the middle by St Louis corner Janoris Jenkins. Palmer didn’t have to do anything special, but he was efficient over the middle on intermediate passes, hitting on 6-of-7 attempts between 10-19 yards in the air across the middle for 104 yards. In fact between the numbers, Palmer was 23-of-26 for 228 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardinals have the talent on the defensive line to be virtually unplayable at times. Calais Campbell (+5.4) was once again dominant, failing to register a sack, but getting to knock down the quarterback three times and hurry him twice more. He was also a force against the run, as were fellow linemates Darnell Dockett and Alameda Ta’Amu in particular. Those three combined for only four defensive stops but were constantly re-routing runs or blocking the intended point of attack by standing up blockers and allowing linebackers to make plays through the gaps or in pursuit. John Abraham’s big day owes much to the big bodies inside forcing plays towards him, as does Karlos Dansby, though the latter also stepped up big in coverage where he of course earned himself a pick-six by breaking in front of an errant pass as Clemens was hit as he went to throw.
– John Abraham only got five total pressures, but every one of them took the QB to the ground, including his three sacks.
– The Rams didn’t target Patrick Peterson in this game, throwing ten times to the other side of the field at Jerraud Powers instead.
– Larry Fitzgerald caught all twelve passes thrown in his direction. Palmer’s passer rating throwing to Fitzgerald was 127.8
PFF Game Ball
Coming up with big plays all game long, John Abraham earned himself a PFF Game Ball
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam