Sometimes getting smacked in the mouth is exactly what a team needs to get stronger. The Los Angeles Rams lost to the Arizona Cardinals by 17 points in Week 4, but they have the ability to improve and elevate their game. To grow from this moment, as all teams must do midseason, including championship teams.
Adversity in this case might be a good thing for a team that was riding sky high after three impressive performances in weeks prior.
Los Angeles will truly be tested on a short week, as they face the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night. How will they respond to their first loss of the season? Do they let a poor performance become a domino effect? With another NFC West rival matchup just around the corner those questions will soon be answered, but for now here are four things I learned after Sunday’s loss.
Kyler Murray is a problem for the Rams and the league
Murray is an absolute freak of an athlete and just vaulted himself up it the ranks in the early MVP talks. The stat sheet will show that the Rams were able to sack the former Heisman winner three times, but it definitely does not tell the whole story.
A flying Aaron Donald was thissss close to crush Kyler Murray but he made him misspic.twitter.com/BAm6wYze8e— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 3, 2021
Murray avoided pressure all day long and made not only future first ballot Hall of Famer Aaron Donald look slow but everyone on the defensive side of the ball. Los Angeles had no answer for the Cardinals QB as he helped his team convert on 8 of 13 third down conversions. Anytime it appeared LA had the Cardinals where they wanted them Murray simply ran around until a receiver was open or gashed Los Angeles with his legs.
The Rams will get a second chance at the Cardinals on December 13th. They will have a lot of tape to review come that time and maybe then Raheem Morris will be able to stop Murray. For now though, the Cardinals sit on top of a loaded NFC West and are a real danger to the rest of the league.
Matthew Stafford is still working on his rapport with receivers not named Cooper Kupp
Cooper Kupp’s emergence as a number one receiver in the first three games of the season seemed to be an outstanding development for Sean McVay’s offense. On Sunday the Cardinals took away Stafford’s favorite target and challenged the Rams to throw elsewhere—and it did not look good.
Stafford went 26 of 41 for 280 yards, two touchdowns, an interception, and had a 50.2 QBR which is his lowest in a Rams uniform. Kupp was targeted 13 times, twice the amount of the next closest receiver, but only hauled in five for 64 yards. Some of that had to do with Stafford's inaccuracy on the day, but there was also a couple drops from Kupp. If the Stafford-Kupp connection is not working there is not yet a solution to remedy the offense.
With time though, Stafford will continue to build rapport with his other receivers and begin to find success with both Robert Woods and Van Jefferson. Expectations were built high from media coverage during the offseason when the Rams made the trade for Stafford, and after three games everything looked where it needed to be, but do remember that Stafford has only had a training camp to learn a new system and throw to new receivers. Los Angeles should be a more cohesive unit later in the season and hopefully peak at the right moment.
Run Defense needs to improve
After holding Jonathon Taylor to just 54 yards in Week 2 and finding even more success against the Buccaneers rushers in Week 3, it was believed that the Rams had crushed any doubts of their run defense. Then Sunday happened.
Los Angeles was playing from behind for most of the day, allowing the Cardinals to get comfortable and turn to the run whenever they pleased. Arizona finished with a total of 216 rushing yards, 120 of them coming from Chase Edmonds alone. James Conner finished the day with 50 yards but could not be stopped in the red zone, finishing the day with two touchdowns.
The dagger of the game had to be Edmonds 54 yard scamper. Backed into their own three yard line on a 3rd and 7 after forcing a Rams turnover on downs, Edmonds found a gaping hole in the middle of the field and took off for a huge gain. A stop could have forced the Cardinals into a bad punt and given the Rams good field position, but on Sunday Los Angeles did not have an answer.
LA will be looking for revenge in December
Even though the Arizona and Los Angeles are in the same division, in recent years the Cardinals have not been much of a threat. Before Sunday McVay was 8-0 against them. Now Murray and his team are much much improved and do not appear to be letting off the throttle.
If you ask any coach on the Rams side if they have their second match up with the Cardinals circled, you will probably get the proverbial “our next game is our most important game,” but this loss stung. After riding high for a week following a beat down on the former Super Bowl champs last week, LA was forced to come back to reality hard. Come December, the Rams will want its revenge against their division rival when they travel to the desert to take them on for the second time this season.
And the fans will most definitely have the Rams-Cardinals game circled on their calendar.
What did you learn about the Rams this week?