The Los Angeles Rams head into a very important Week 10 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. After losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Rams are back at home, sitting at 3-5. A loss likely ends their season while a win keeps their playoff hopes alive.
In the past, the Rams have found success against the Cardinals. However, the Cardinals won at So-Fi Stadium last year in the regular season. Here are five things the Rams need to do to beat the Cardinals.
1. Contain Kyler Murray
The Rams have dominated the Cardinals ever since Kyler Murray took over. A big reason for that, is their ability to contain him in the pocket and search for the throwing windows. Murray hasn’t been able to find yards with his legs which limits how he can hurt a defense.
In Week 3 earlier this year, Murray had just two carries for eight yards. In the Wild Card playoff game, Murray had two carries for six yards. In the one loss to Murray and the Cardinals last year, he had seven carries for 61 yards.
Murray missed some practice time this week with a hamstring injury, meaning he could be more limited than usual. The Rams need to contain Murray in the pocket on defense.
2. Get Creative in the Run Game
There’s a good chance that the Rams will be without Matthew Stafford on Sunday against the Cardinals. With this being said, the Rams can’t drop back and throw the ball 40 times with John Wolford or Bryce Perkins. They’re going to need to lean on the run game.
One thing that a Wolford or Perkins does add, is a new element in the run game. The Rams aren’t going to run a RPO with Stafford at quarterback or run a quarterback draw. That puts Stafford’s health at risk and he’s simply not that type of quarterback.
However, the Rams are getting Kyren Williams back and will have a trio of Cam Akers, Henderson, and Williams. All of these players do different things and add a unique element. The Rams will need to lean on these three running backs and get creative with their quarterbacks to find some yards on the ground.
3. Limit DeAndre Hopkins
In Week three, the Cardinals were without DeAndre Hopkins and their leading receiver was Greg Dortch. While the Cardinals will be without Hollywood Brown, Hopkins is back and has 26 receptions for 198 yards in three games.
Hopkins and Jalen Ramsey have had their battles over the last few years and Sunday should be no different. If the Rams can take away Hopkins, it limits what the Cardinals are able to do in an already limited offense.
The Rams secondary will be healthier this time around with David Long Jr. and Cobie Durant back in the mix. If Ramsey can take away Hopkins, it will be up to the other players in the Rams secondary to step up and frustrate Murray.
4. Defense Needs to Step Up to the Task
The Rams offense hasn’t been very good this season. It’s unfair to put all of the blame on the defense for the last drive against the Buccaneers after the offense didn’t do anything on the other side.
However, with Stafford potentially out and Wolford at quarterback, the defense is going to need to step up and make up for any deficiencies on offense. In 2020 when Wolford got his first career start, Troy Hill had an 84-yard pick-six to give the Rams the lead. The defense also got a safety.
It’s going to take that type of effort to get a win on Sunday. That’s an unfair ask when Stafford is at quarterback, but with Wolford, the defense needs to pick the offense up.
5. Win the Fourth Quarter
The Rams have been the worst fourth quarter team in the NFL this season. The Rams offense is scoring just 1.3 points per game in the fourth quarter while the defense is allowing 7.8. That’s not a winning formula.
If this game is close heading into the fourth quarter, the Rams need to be able to put the game away and come out with a victory. The Rams have been within one score heading into the fourth quarter in all but one of their losses. In those five games, the offense has been shutout in four of them.
After losing just one game while having a lead at halftime in his first five years as a head coach, the Rams have lost two such games this season. It comes down to finishing games and winning the fourth quarter. With the season on the line, the Rams need to find a way to play for 60-minutes.