After a winless stretch following their bye week, the Los Angeles Rams try to put a nightmarish last-second loss behind them as they take on the Arizona Cardinals. Both teams are fighting to get back into the divisional race to prevent falling further behind the NFC West-leading Seahawks.
Back in Week 3, LA traveled to the desert and held Arizona without a touchdown in a 20-12 win. This one could low-scoring if Matthew Stafford is unable to play this Sunday.
With both 2021 playoff teams looking to stay afloat, I spoke with Seth Cox of SB Nation’s Cardinals blog Revenge of the Birds to to gain more insight into L.A.’s opposition ahead of the series finale this weekend.
Q - Through nine games, the Cardinals find themselves in last-place in the NFC West at 3-6. For a team that won 11 games the year prior, nothing appears to be going right for the Redbirds this season. What exactly is their problem and how many of those issues are fixable?
A - There are plenty of correctable issues that they have been trying to make, but there are others where you just have to see players step up.
Go back to the Vikings game. You had errors of players running the wrong routes leading to an interception, and an interception on a bad decision, but then you have Greg Dortch muffing a punt when you finally get a stop on defense.
Then this week, you get your first touchdown on the opening drive of the game on the season, and you back it up with a 15-yard snap over the quarterback on third and one. You can correct some issues, but you cannot overcome mental and physical errors every game.
The offense continues to shoot itself in the foot in a number of ways, and it is a different player or group every week.
Now, you have three backup offensive linemen playing left guard, center and right guard against the best defensive football player alive.
So, can it be fixed? Absolutely. Will it happen this week? Probably not.
Q - Kyler Murray’s stats would indicate he’s been performing like one of the top quarterbacks in the league but much like the rest of the team, something appears off. How would you assess his performance not only against the Seahawks last week but for his campaign as a whole?
A - Uneven? That is like the rest of the team. For every jaw-dropping play he has he comes back with either a mistake or missed opportunity.
No sequence shows that more than last week against the Seahawks. Murray escapes through the middle of the offensive line when it allowed immediate pressure, gets positive yardage on fourth and four, gets the Cardinals into field goal range at worst and keeps them alive for a touchdown before the half and at the end of the run gets the ball punched out and it is recovered by Seattle.
Instead of tying the game at 10-10 or taking a 14-10 lead, they now trail 10-7 at the half because Murray made a play the coughed it up.
That is really a microcosm of the season for not just Murray but the Cardinals.
Q - Speaking of Murray, him and DeAndre Hopkins got into a heated sideline altercation on Sunday. Hopkins was obviously out of the lineup for the first six games due to suspension but that shouldn’t be the reason why they can’t get on the same page as this is their 3rd season together. How do they rework their chemistry together?
A - I mean before this week where Hopkins had only had four catches for 36 yards and a touchdown he had 22 receptions for 262 yards and a touchdown in two games.
It was more the fact that Hopkins feels like he is always open and wants the ball. It happens, just something that gets magnified when your team is playing poorly and you sit at 3-6.
Q - Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury has received a ton of scrutiny for how his team has performed and shouldn’t be surprising to see him on the hot seat. Arizona is an undisciplined mess across the board and can’t find any rhythm on offense despite that being his specialty. How justified is the criticism towards him and assuming the Cardinals don’t turn it around, what should the organization do with Kliff after the season?
A - I mean, much of the criticism is from people who assumed Kliff would fail immediately so now that the team is playing poorly they are taking a victory lap. There are plenty of issues that Kingsbury is at fault for, one that he continues to take the blame for and not hold players accountable for those mental errors.
Look at last week. The Cardinals sit at 3-8 and the next two plays are false starts by the guards (the latter of which was because the center forgot the count). That was the second huge error by the center and guess who is starting again? Now, I get you are on your third center of the season, but you have to show that mistakes are not just allowed to occur without consequences.
The other issue with Kingsbury is that mistakes or issues are still consistent. The problem getting play calls in, taking delay of games or timeouts in bad spots is really inexcusable at this point in year four.
The final issue is, the plan with Kingsbury was setup that he was to run the offense, so he is in charge of the offensive issues and has to own it, but Vance Joseph is basically the head coach for defense, and his side of the ball has been bad to awful at times this season. Why? Well they didn’t think adding or investing on defense was important this offseason.
So for me, the blame really falls on the GM who likes to remind people he has control of the personnel of the roster and the roster was razor thin coming in and now you are down three interior offensive lineman, decided to pay a running back big money, a 32-year old tight end big money, trade for a wide receiver and make Will Hernandez the big move along the offensive line (and to be fair Hernandez had played well before he got hurt like Justin Pugh and Rodney Hudson).
Fire Kingsbury, doesn’t matter to me, it will be another band aid on the continued issue if you allow a GM to hire a fourth head coach.
Also, can you actually get a high level candidate that is interested in this job? No one wants to talk about that part of the issue.
Q - Draftkings Sportsbook has the Rams listed as 1.5-point favorites with an O/U of 41.5. What is your prediction for Sunday’s matchup and how could the Cardinals bounce back in a must-win game for both teams?
A - Rams win and it is ugly.
Rams 19, Cardinals 17