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Los Angeles Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals 2nd Down, second guessing: The Professor’s review


Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

“This was my kind of game”

The Los Angeles Rams came out in the home opener and dominated the Arizona Cardinals. When the Rams play like that, I harken back the sixties and to what my father would say at halftime.

“If the Cardinals don’t score at halftime and the Rams put up another touchdown in the 3rd quarter, this will be my kind of game.” I would look at him and ask, “Why?” His reply, “We can leave and beat the traffic”

Well, the game played itself out just like my father wanted, but I’m not my father when it comes to my Rams. I’ll stay to the very end especially when something I haven’t seen since the time the Los Angeles Rams beat the Atlanta Falcons—holding the opponent to never crossing the fifty-yard line the whole game.

In today’s modern age of passing and rules designed to aid scoring, this would be one for the books. But on the second to last play of the game, the Cardinals actually got over the fifty into Rams territory. I was a bit disappointed, but when the Rams home opener ends in 34-0 drubbing of a division opponent I was certainly impressed overall.

The last time I attended a Rams home game against the Cardinals was two years ago. I had anticipated a sea of red as was the case back then. But as I have predicted, when the Rams put a winning product of the field, Angelenos will come out and support our team.

Sure enough, it was hard to spot red anywhere in the Coliseum. Although it looked like a sparse crowd on television early on, it filled out. Because the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is so vast and wide, its a bad look sometimes. But Rams fans in LA showed up for this one.

This was the major reason the Conrad Hilton moved the Chargers who played their first year in the American Football League at the Coliseum to San Diego.

It wasn’t the biggest crowd I’ve ever been with in the Coliseum, but those that did attend got to see a dominant performance by the Rams in all phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams even without PK Greg Zuerlein who injured his groin in pregame warm ups.

It was a special day, but its only game two. In order to become Champions, there’s still a lot of work to do.

The Rams’ defense

The Cardinals’ gameplan from Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy was clearly to dink and dunk. Following in the footsteps of the Oakland Raiders in Week 1, the Cardinals tried to exploit the youth and inexperience of the Rams linebackers. This week, the Rams cleaned up their tackling forcing the Cardinals into second and third and long situations and never got the chance to stretch the field.

The Rams’ improved tackling also made an impact in the lack of a ground game. RB David Johnson was for the most part held to minimal gains. Once the Rams offense took the lead, the Cardinals, rather then adjust their gameplan, decided to stay with it. This was clearly designed to avoid the “Fearsome Threesome” up front fearing that if Cardinals QB Sam Bradford took a deeper drop he could wind up on the injured reserve list. The Cardinals’ offense is no juggernaut, but because the Rams’ defense was making tackles at the point of contact it made it a long day for Arizona.

The Rams’ defense was dominant. They still need someone to step up as a go-to edge rusher, bu that could be tough to do if teams are intent to stick to a short passing game. As long as the Rams defense makes the tackle at the point of contact, shuts down the running game, its hard to imagine many teams putting a lot of points up on this unit.

My only complaint was the fact the Rams let the Cardinals cross the fifty in the second to last play of the game. As a fan who loves defense, that would have been a feat in today’s game worthy of keeping my parking pass as well as the ticket so I could always prove “I was there.”

But alas, Head Coach Sean McVay and Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips had mercy for the hapless redbirds. Resting their starters, the second teamers came into the game giving them some much needed experience in real game action. I’m not upset. Just disappointed. When the Rams are this good on defense, it’s about time the shoe is on the other foot. Take that Cardinal fans!

So rather then get a grade A+, they move down to A- even with the dominating performance they had. I’m tough on my Rams. I have reason to be. Records are made be broken otherwise they wouldn’t bother tracking them. I guess I’ll just have to wait till the Rams play the Cardinals in Arizona.

The Rams’ offense

WR Brandin Cooks had a breakout game demonstrating that management was completely justified in giving him a long-term deal. He made some remarkable catches. In fact, the entire wide receiving corps was outstanding especially in third and long situations.

RB Todd Gurley didn’t have a statistical explosion, but he did his best impression of “beast mode” at the goal line pounding the rock into the end zone for touchdowns and two point conversions the Rams decided to go for with Zuerlein out.

If there is any positive to come from losing a kicker as valuable as Greg is, it was that it forced the Rams offense to go for on fourth down and short just inside the Cardinals’ thirty and also in the red zone. They Rams’ offense accepted the challenge and came away with flying colors.

The Rams are still not using their tight ends enough in the passing game, but this too will come together as the season moves on.

The lack of a ground game is why the Rams get a B- here. They need to get more production in the running game for the tough games ahead.

The Rams’ special teams

KR/PR JoJo Natson made the Professor look like a genius on Sunday, averaging 22 yards per on punt returns. This young man took advantage of the opportunity, justifying my faith. I’m still waiting for him to break one as he almost had one but stumbled a bit.

P Johnny Hekker also had a great day. This fun loving football player enjoys the game. So when he got a chance to make an extra point and then made a field goal, you could tell he was enjoying it big time.

He came through when the Rams needed him and rather than stress over it, this happy go lucky guy took the bull by the horns and said “No problem, I got this.” You know that after the game he was joking around telling everyone that he should get Aaron Donald money for his yeoman work.

Its good to see a good Ram like P Johnny Hekker get some love—he deserves it. Outstanding.

The X-factor and final grade

The X-factor is the most important part of the overall grade I give the Rams. This is because the Cardinals came into the game having lost in their home opener badly to Washington who in turn lost their home opener to the Indianapolis Colts.

That should tell you all you need to know about the Arizona Cardinals. They’re just a bad football team.

The Rams had only one sack against the Cards. QB Jared Goff had a good game and managed the game well but missed a wide open WR Robert Woods in the end zone. A play he knew was his fault the instant he threw the ball.

When you play a team that is that bad and shut them out and that team is a division rival, 34 points is just not enough. It should have been 50-0.

So with that, given the this is second game of the season and the Rams opponents have thus far a combined record of 0-4, the Rams get a B-

Next up for the Rams is the Costa Mesa Chargers which will be real test for the Rams defense and we’ll finally be able to judge just how good this team can be.