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Rams vs Cardinals Notes and Recap

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It was a helluva game played by the Rams, and not just defensively, but in all three phases...

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams played one of their better games in recent memory against the Cardinals. One can almost be certain Bruce Arians comments following last years home loss fueled some extra fire in this one.

Whether Arians is the cause or not, there was definitely some extra umph being played with as the defense was it's most physical I have seen in years. Every single player was looking to hurt a Cardinals player. The best tackle of the game however was Trumaine Johnson tossing John Brown like a rag doll.

  • I usually begin with the offensive line here, but seeing as how everyone wants to discuss Todd Gurley, we will start there. What if I told you his best three runs were a run for -2 yards, 4 yards, and 30 yards and it's not even close? Would you think I bumped my head? Well I didn't. Those were in fact his best and most impressive runs. The negative two yard run was a run in the red zone on the 15 yard line. Gurley was hit in the backfield by two defenders. He bounced off of them and keep his legs going. The third defender got him down but barely. His knee never touched but he used his forearm (elbow) to stay up, by rule he was down. But this didn't stop him as he got up and broke three more tackles and walked in the end zone. The power and refusal to be tackled by two very large defensive linemen was beyond impressive. It means defensive backs and linebackers will stand no chance in the open field. He said this week after practice his debut was cool, but he was really bothered he didn't break any tackles, I guess he meant that. The four yard run he could have had 13 yards but he would have had to hit the sideline. Instead of doing so, he stopped and stood there to kill the clock. Not only does this show he doesn't care about stats, but he's smart. He showed off a very high football IQ. This IQ was even more evident as he routinely set up blocks and was perfect in blitz pick up. He had terrible technique but he got the right guy every time and he never touched the QB. The 30 yards could have been a touchdown but again he would have had to stay the course and hit the sideline. He again wisely said let's just end them. My hat goes off to this young man. He truly is special.
  • Gurley did have quite a few runs go for 10 yards or more, he displayed excellent vision when breaking these runs, but the credit has to go to the offensive line. This was their best performance as a whole by far. I have been saying a few things from the time I spent at camp. Frank Cignetti is going to have a good season, Tavon has turned the corner and will break out for a season not just two games, and Jamon Brown is a legit steal and possible pro bowl player. Well the latter was not just pro bowl yesterday, but he was All-Pro. He flattened Calais Campbell four times. 4 times. 4 X's. Cuatro times!!!! This is Calais Campbell, and he happens to be one of the best and biggest guys in the NFL. Jamon whooped him on numerous occasions. The best one left a gaping hole which sprung Gurley for 50 yards. Rob Havenstein on the other side was kicking ass and taking names while run blocking. He had a wash down block that ultimately took out three defenders. Rodger Saffold was consistently getting to the second level and eliminating any threats. Greg Robinson blew one assignment on a pass pro and had a false start, outside of that he was excellent in the run game and really solid in the pass. Tim Barnes was abused however. He had a few decent blocks but the Cardinals found a weakness and exploited it. A sack was his fault and five stuffed runs came from him.
  • Tavon Austin was all that and a bag of chips. I previously said he needs the ball more because it's evident he has turned the corner and become the player we all wanted. I also said he would have a couple more big plays if not for bad execution by others not himself. Guess what? Those things we're corrected this game. Austin has drastically improved his routes. And he understands concepts so much better now. He is playing so fast. He hasn't just been elusive and fast, but since week one he has been physical. Whether he is blocking or with the ball on his hands. He has more first downs for this team then all of the running backs combined with the tightends. The first guy has yet to tackle him. Frank Cignetti is doing an excellent job of being creative and getting him the ball in a multitude of ways. He caught a screen that literally should have gone nowhere that he almost turned into a touchdown but couldn't quite tight rope the sideline. His deep post that went for 47 yards was a reminder to teams that he is not just out there for end arounds and screens, and you'd better respect his speed. This sets up future success on those screens as teams have to play way off. Quick passes become a better asset as he can catch in the open field and show off his quicks and speed. And for anyone wondering, he now has four touchdowns through four weeks, he's on pace for 16 total touchdowns and 900 yards of offense. That's a good return on an investment, especially when he's still not getting the ball 10 times a game....
  • Jared Cook needs to go....
  • Nick Foles had a solid game. He missed some throws both with accuracy and his eyes. Four times he missed Stedman Bailey running freely after losing Tyrann Mathieu with perfect routes. Foles never saw him on any of them. Two of those times was sure to gain at least 20 yards. Other than the missed throws Foles had a good day. The second touchdown throw to Tavon was a thing of beauty. The pump fake was genius and didn't receive enough credit for the success of the play. And the arch throw to Bailey in the corner of the end zone was a display of flawless touch and accuracy.
  • The defense now has 17 sacks. Which puts them on pace for 68 sacks, four shy of the record. Sack city is in full effect. The defensive line faced a quaterback that had not been sacked anymore than one time through three games. That all changed yesterday. They harassed and sacked Carson Palmer all game long. Chris Johnson broke a few runs but it had less to do with the line and more to do with gap containment. Aaron Donald was a terror as usual and so was Robert Quinn. Quinn was scary close on three sacks but some missed holding calls saved the day. I do however find it odd that when fans of this site really start to bash Chris Long after a game, the next time he comes out on top. After the Seahawks there was extreme trash talk. He got to the QB twice the following week. After the Steelers there's been a lot of talk about cutting him, he got a sack and forces two errant throws. I get the feeling you're out there reading. So with that being said, hi Christopher, tell Howie I said, 'sup'..
  • At linebacker the Rams had a bittersweet game. On one hand James Laurinaitis led the unit and had an exceptional day. On the other hand they lost what was shaping up to be the best 4-3 outside backer in the NFL this season. This is arguably the biggest blow the defense could have suffered. This loss is monumental and there's no other way to describe it. I did however find it to be interesting that Daren Bates got the first crack at replacing him and not Akeem Ayers. I for one was the Bates band wagon leader when he was coming out and practically begged that he went undrafted on day 3 and the Rams pick him up. Dream came true. However, now three years later, in a time of need, I don't want to see him replace Alec Ogletree as much as I do Bryce Hager. Hager may very we'll get an opportunity but how this plays out in Ogletree's absence will be something to keep an eye on.
  • The secondary was awesome. For the thrid time this year Janoris Jenkins couldn't be beat. He played aggressive with discipline which is everything the Rams want from him. Be you, but be smart. He was physical and made plays that don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet. Like the run on the goal line he blew up by taking on the blocker - a 6'7" 330 lb tackle - and allowing Ogletree a clean tackle for loss. Trumaine Johnson dropped a pick and should have three on the season. But this isn't necessarily all that bad. In order to drop a pick you have to be in position to make the pick first. This just means he's been showing off some savvy coverage chops consistently. It is however somewhat shocking that he has had these drops considering he is known for having some of the better hands in the DB market. He has become such a physical guy and I love it, but he needs to wrap up. Five times this season he has missed the tackle going for the kill shot. Against the Cardinals it resulted in a 20 yard gain. Even so,  however, it's going to be hard  for the Rams to let him walk in the offseason if he continues to play at the level he is playing at. They love E.J. Gaines and rightfully so, but Johnson is making a strong case to be the top second tier corner available in free agency this year. Lamarcus Joyner has been the most improved player from last year to this year. He has displayed excellent coverage. And has been all over the field making tackles. And he tallied another sack yesterday. He is really coming into his own, and playing fast and physical.
  • T.J. McDonald had the worst day of the DB's. Mark Barron was perfect in covering rookie David Johnson all game, and so was Rodney McLeod. But the very second McDonald took over the responsibility, the rookie scored. The exact same scenario took place against the Seahawks with Jimmy Graham. McDonald is still struggling far too much in coverage. There has been very little improvement in this area of his game. However, his run defense has been some of the best in the NFL. Rodney McLeod has played the deep middle like a true savvy vet. Not one blown assignment and he has been as physical as always. The forced fumble on Larry Fitzgerald was a thing of beauty and perfectly timed.
Gregg Williams and Frank Cignetti are having great seasons so far. Their play-calling has been great, even if execution hasn't always been perfect. But this game showed how good they can be when the execution is where it should be. Jeff Fisher did a great job getting the team fired up, but this raises questions as well. Why is it that the team is not this fired up weekly, but instead only when the trash talk about the Rams and losing is at an all time high?

Game ball has to go to the offensive line, though Tavon Austin was a close second. His very threat really opened some things up for Gurley as fake end arounds forced the defense to flow with him, leaving Gurley alone. This has the looks of a lethal combination as playaction to Gurley gave Tavon his big gainer, and it appears that Cignetti has already figured that out....

GET WELL SOON 52!!!!!!!