Like Cooper Kupp finding the end zone in the first three games, position grading seemed a bit too easy. But now here we are. Part of the allure of America’s game is it’s undeniable unpredictability and the Los Angeles Rams vs the Arizona Cardinals delivered just that as the Cardinals defeat the Rams 37-20. Here is a breakdown of the Rams performance by position group and the resulting letter grade.
Well this season’s two time NFC offensive player of the week had a bad game. Last week when Matthew Stafford started off to a slow start we got to see his ability to shake off a few misfires and calibrate for an impressive show. That was not the case in game four. Against the Cardinals it was miss after miss and an interception to boot. It seemed like Stafford might still be adjusting to DeSean Jackson’s speed when he under threw another deep pass to DJax but this time it resulted in an interception. Last week he made the adjustment and nailed one to Jackson in the second half.
This week, no such adjustment but instead just more instances of inaccuracy.
In the second quarter he missed Cooper Kupp for a potential red zone touchdown and in the fourth quarter missed from the one yard line on a flare route to Tyler Higbee. Positive takeaways that help the grade are the facts that he avoided being sacked, did not fumble, and did not throw more than the one interception. This being one bad game out of the four this season, it is the anomaly, and it’s very likely that Stafford gets back on track and shakes whatever caused this uncharacteristic performance. He’ll have to do it on a short week and come back sharp on Thursday Night against the Seattle Seahawks.
Darrell Henderson Jr. was back and looked good. This was a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy day for the Rams. Henderson ran for 89 yards and had a long of 15 yards and a had a average of 6.4 yards per attempt. Most of the run production came in the first half and the fact that the offense came away from the run game seems to have contributed to the loss since the run was working and the pass game was not. The tricky part of the grading for this group is that while Hendo was a bright spot Sony Michel’s contribution came by way of a lost fumble at the critical phase of the game. Also no touchdowns were recorded by this group.
When the quarterback is off, receivers can help things by catching the passes that are on point but that was not the case in this one. Cooper Kupp’s hot streak stalls out with this game as he had only five catches and zero touchdowns after recording five scores in the first three games and he had at least one drop that stalled a critical first quarter drive. Robert Woods should have seen more targets as the stage seemed to be set for him to be a focal point of the game plan but instead, he records only four catches for 48 yards. DeSean Jackson had only one catch for six yards. Van Jefferson would be the bright spot as he caught nine catches for 90 yards and he and Woods both logged one touchdown each. When the run game was going, as usual, this group looks like one of the better blocking groups in the league.
Tyler Higbee saw what is becoming his normal share of screen action and made the most of it logging four catches for 36 yards with no touchdowns. He was targeted in the end zone from the one yard line late in the fourth quarter but the throw was low and it was a miss. Johnny Mundt had one catch for nine yards and both tight ends also get credit for the run game production that was one of the only bright spots of the offense. Not a whole lot to help or hurt grading by this group.
The blocking in this game was not the problem. The offensive line gave up zero sacks and provided a push that led to a run attack that showed promise early before it was abandoned for the pass game. Chandler Jones got five sacks in one single game this season, JJ Watt is still a challenge for most blockers and none of them recorded a sack in this game.
Oh boy. Arizona’s leading rusher, Chase Edmonds, ran for 120 total yards, had a 10 yard average, and busted through for a 54 yarder to rub it in. The other running back, James Connor, provided the two touchdowns. Sebastian Joseph-Day recorded the only sack for this group. But he was also in a position to provide a spark when gapped one on one with running back James Connor at the one yard line and was beat for a touchdown. After a strong performance in week three, this group struggled to stop the Cardinals offense.
As always the linebackers share in the success and in this case the failure of the run defense having given up 216 total rushing yards. Kenny Young and Troy Reeder struggled to stuff the inside runs and failed to contribute enough in pass coverage. On a critical third and long Young was left one on one with Kyler Murray and while Murray has unique ability, it was a known factor, and Young had a chance to make a big stop and improve this grade but missed. Leonard Floyd started the game on a good note recording a sack on the first drive but that was about it. The front as a whole did not do enough to stress the quarterback and so they hung 37 points on the defense.
David Long has one good play this season and it came off of a Kenny Young tipped pass in Week 1. Need to see more from him.— DOWNTOWN RAMS [DTR] (@DowntownRams) October 3, 2021
David Long Jr was targeted and exposed against AJ Greene and DeAndre Hopkins. Darious Williams wasn't targeted as much Jalen Ramsey had a few key break ups against Hopkins but also gave up a couple receptions as the closest defender and missed a tackle that he would normally make to prevent a first down conversion. Kyler Murray threw for 268 yards and one touchdown against this group. Murray threw for two TDs total but the second is pinned on the safeties. Interceptions play a big factor in the grading for this group but there were none.
In this game, Taylor Rapp was a liability. He and cornerback David Long Jr were the apparent targets of the Cardinals attack and it worked. Rapp missed tackles and was weak in coverage. He gave up a touchdown to tight end Max Williams without really being in any type of coverage conflict, he was just late to the party and failed to make an impact when got there. Jordan Fullers play was as lackluster as the rest of the defense, failing to contribute to enough stops and adding zero turnovers.
On the specials, no major mistakes or impact plays were made. Kicker Matt Gay was 2 for 3 on field goals.
This game is a gut check. For a team that started as hot as a team can start and was ranked as the number one team by all accounts coming into the contest, something caused their performance to stutter against a division opponent who was on the flip side ready to fight. The Rams play again on Thursday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks. Now we’ll see their ability to bounce back from a game that graded out to a GPA that would have many high school players ineligible.