A good team should win, right? It sounds simple, but some wins just aren't pretty. That's what happened Sunday, when the St. Louis Rams came back and defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-24.
Yes, it was the Cardinals the Rams beat, and not the San Francisco 49ers or Atlanta Falcons. But does that really matter? The Cardinals are a better team this year than last season when they had Kevin Kolb - and anyone who could throw the ball in Larry Fitzgerald direction - as quarterback. That was a bad team, and in the coming weeks I would be surprised at people who think of Cardinals as the laughing stock of the NFC West.
Everything was going against the Rams. Their defense couldn't stop anyone that wore red. The Rams' offensive play calling was concerning, and Sam Bradford - who had a pretty good overall game - threw an interception to Cardinals nose tackle Dan Williams that he returned for a touchdown. So if anyone thought that the Rams would lose, it's excusable. Let's face it, this is a team that would have come up short in the past.
Cardiac Rams? Entering the 4th quarter, the Cardinals had an 88% likelihood of winning, per @Adv_NFL_Stats. pic.twitter.com/Mp5rLDphOV— RamsHerd (@RamsHerd) September 9, 2013
Entering the 4th quarter, this team looked like a team that was bound to lose, but they showed poise. The star of this game had to be Bradford, who completed 71.1% of his passes, for 299 yards, and threw for two touchdowns. He looked comfortable at quarterback, but the most impressive aspect of the game was his performance in the 4th when the team was down.
Want to talk about "clutch," Sam Bradford was 8-of-10 for 76 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter, erasing an 11-point deficit!— Nathan Kearns (@nkearns12) September 9, 2013
Here's two back to back plays where Bradford impressed.
The Rams are down 11 points. and there's 13 minutes left in the 4th quarter. They are on the Arizona one yard line and the obvious play is a run. There's not a receiver on the field. The Rams have Daryl Richardson at running back, and TE's Lance Kendricks, with Mike McNeill in the back field.
The Cardinals blitz and commit to the run, not even considering it might be a pass. Bradford - making the best play action fake of his career - helped catch the defense off guard. The entire Arizona defense crashes down to handle the run, which allows veteran Jared Cook - who is at the right tight end position - to block and release. He does it long enough that he's allowed to leak out to the back of the end zone where there's space and catches an easy touchdown.
This next play happened right after the touchdown. Jeff Fisher decided that it would be smart to go for the two point conversion. So Bradford is in shotgun with 4 wide receivers and Daryl Richardson in the backfield. The Rams spread the Cardinals defense out, and had three WRs set to the right.
This play was most likely a designed QB draw, so we will treat it like one. There's four defensive linemen pass rushing, and the Rams offensive line handles them one on one - creating a lane for Bradford. Harvey Dahl looks like his escort, and Richardson took out a linebacker who was the only person who could have made a play.
It looks like Bradford is looking down Chris Givens; deciding if he wants to throw the ball. When Bradford finishes his drop back, he sprints toward Dahl and the center the offensive line moved the defensive line around enough to create an open lane.
It's also important to note that the Rams wouldn't have won without Jared Cook and his 7 reception, 141 yards, and 2 touchdowns, along with Robert Quinn and his 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Don't forget about Greg Zuerlein, who made all four of his field goals. Without these three players having extraordinary games, the Rams would have lost.
The Rams are a young team who faced long odds against the Cardinals when they were down in the 4th quarter. They shot themselves in the foot a few times, and let opportunities slip away. The Rams will have issues to address if they want to win the NFC West, but it's encouraging to see the youngest team in the league snag a win the way they did.