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Rams fail test vs Cards: How struggles on third down, red zone got LA blown out

The Rams defense was not ready to play today

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams suffered their first loss of the season, falling to the Arizona Cardinals, by a final score of 37-20. When a team loses by as many points as the Rams did this week (officially 17, but with help from a garbage time touchdown), there are many reasons for why that happens. The ones that I want to focus on though happen in the three areas of football that I think are the most pertinent when it comes to winning and losing:

  1. Play in the trenches — Who had the best offensive line that day?
  2. Red zone — Who made the most of their opportunities?
  3. Third downs — Who did the best job of keeping drives alive?

As you can imagine in LA’s case on Sunday, .5 out of three ain’t good.

The Rams offensive line was simply okay, but the defense struggled in some critical areas, including third down and red zone defense.

The offensive line allows zero sacks, but gets called for three penalties

The offensive line played decent, opening up consistent rushing lanes for Darrell Henderson and allowed Matthew Stafford a good bit of time in the pocket for most of the day. Henderson started off hot after missing last week’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a rib injury, racking up 55 yards on six carries in the first two possessions. Unfortunately, L.A. wasn’t able to keep the game close enough to lean on the run through four quarters. The Cardinals did not sack Stafford, but they did get a few shots on him, especially as the score grew more lopsided.

Unlike last week where the Rams offensive line didn’t have a single penalty, they were called for three against the Cardinals. David Edwards was called for a false start on first drive, Brian Allen committed a holding penalty, and Andrew Whitworth was called illegal use of hands.

Red zone defense falls short: allows 3 touchdowns and 2 field goals

The Rams yielded three red zone possessions in the first half alone, as the Cards went up and down the field at will. The defense allowed three red zone touchdowns, including a 14 yard touchdown pass from Kyler Murray to tight end Maxx Williams on first red zone possession. Arizona added to their production inside the 20 yard line with two James Conner one yard touchdowns. The Cards also tacked on two red zone field goals, including one from 23 yards out, after a 12 play 94 yard drive, which took over eight minutes off the clock late in the fourth quarter.

Third down defense needs major work

The Rams third down defense (really the defense as a whole) was not up to the task today. Leonard Floyd was able to get his third sack of the season to force a three and out on their first possession. That was basically the best it got on third down for the defense.

The L.A. defense allowed the Cardinals to convert eight of thirteen third downs, an embarrassing 61.5 percent. David Long gave up a 41 yard touchdown on third down to A.J Green for the first touchdown of the day. Arizona had multiple frustrating conversions, including a 10 yard run by Connor, an 18 yard scramble by Murray on third and 16, a Rondale Moore catch and run for 16 yards on third and 14, and a 54 yard run by Chase Edmonds on third and seven from their own four yard line.

The Rams will need to get these issues fixed quickly, as they look to get back to their winning ways against the division rival Seattle Seahawks this Thursday night.