clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

5 keys to a Rams victory over the Cardinals in Week 3

Identifying the five key things the Los Angeles Rams can do in Arizona to secure a win over the Cardinals.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams are traveling to Arizona in Week 3 to take on the Arizona Cardinals in a battle of 1-1 NFC West teams. Both teams are coming off of an emotional win last week in which the Rams held on to beat the Falcons after nearly blowing a 28-3 lead. Meanwhile, the Cardinals came back from 17 points to beat the Las Vegas Raiders.

This will be a big division matchup. Sean McVay has never lost at State Farm Stadium in Arizona. Let’s take a closer look at the key things the Rams need to do against the Cardinals to keep that streak alive.

1. Attack the Cardinals Linebackers in the passing game

The Cardinals have a clear weakness on their defense and that’s at linebacker. Over the first two weeks, Nick Vigil and Zaven Collins have two of the worst grades in coverage via PFF. Isaiah Simmons isn’t much better.

Vigil has allowed the ninth most receptions and seventh most yards while Simmons has allowed the second most yards per reception among linebackers. In Week 1, Travis Kelce had eight receptions for 121 yards and last week, Darren Waller and Foster Moreau combined for nine receptions for 80 yards.

The Cardinals have allowed an average of 106 yards to tight ends which ranks last in the NFL.

Against the Atlanta Falcons, Tyler Higbee had his most receptions in a game since his historic run at the end of 2019. That five-game stretch started against the Cardinals as Higbee had seven receptions for 107 yards in Week 13. Higbee wrapped up that five-game stretch with another breakout game against the Cardinals, finishing with eight receptions for 84 yards.

Higbee is currently the Rams’ second leading receiver behind Cooper Kupp. He and Kupp could have success if McVay can find them favorable matchups.

2. Keep it simple on defense

Raheem Morris is going to be tasked with quite the challenge on Sunday. The Rams are going to be without their second, third, and fourth cornerbacks. Troy Hill, David Long, and Cobie Durant have all been ruled out of Sunday’s contest.

This was a similar case in Week 14 last season when the Rams were without Jalen Ramsey. The Rams’ top-two cornerbacks in that game were David Long and Kareem Orr. Kyler Murray threw for 383 yards in that game, but he also threw two interceptions that turned out to be crucial.

The Cardinals will be without Rondale Moore and therefore will be relying on AJ Green and Hollywood Brown as their top two receivers as well as Greg Dorch. Morris is still going to need to keep things simple for what will be an inexperienced secondary.

3. Utilize Darrell Henderson

Throughout his career, Darrell Henderson has had a lot of success against the Cardinals. In three career games against the division foe, Henderson has 21 carries for 155 yards. That’s 7.4 yards per carry.

The Rams need to balance out Henderson and Akers’ carries to keep both players fresh and healthy. However, on Sunday, Henderson should be the player that is more featured in the offense.

In last season’s first matchup against the Cardinals, Henderson had 14 carries for 89 yards. It was Henderson’s best game of the season. The Rams also got really good production again in the playoffs from their running backs as Sony Michel and Akers combined for 30 carries for 113 yards. Henderson could take Michel’s role on Sunday, leading the team in carries as the more physical running back.

As mentioned earlier, the Cardinals linebackers have struggled in coverage this season. While Henderson has the second most routes ran among running backs in 2022 behind only Joe Mixon, he has yet to be utilized in the passing game.

With that said, Henderson is a very capable receiver. The Cardinals have allowed the eighth-most receiving yards per game to running backs this season. In Week 1, Clyde Edwards-Helaire had three receptions for 32 yards and two touchdowns.

Ameer Abdullah had one reception for 23 yards last week and Josh Jacobs also had one reception for 12 yards. Henderson is a much more capable receiver than both those running backs. If the offensive line can hold up and the Rams can split Henderson out at receiver, he could have success.

4. Contain Kyler Murray

Containing Kyler Murray is more than just not allowing him to run the ball. In both games this season, he’s only ran the ball five times for an average of 28.5 yards. This is more about not allowing the Cardinals resort to their, “Kyler, go do something” offense.

This happened last week as the Raiders looked like a defense that came straight out of a Madden video game. Murray was able to sit in the pocket in the fourth quarter and run around for as long as he wanted to until he decided to finally take off or someone broke open.

The Rams need to contain Murray much like they did Mariota last week when he had six carries for 16 yards. That's going to come down to Justin Hollins and Leonard Floyd playing disciplined and the Rams front not breaking from their rushing lanes.

The best way to help a secondary is with a pass-rush. With the situation at cornerback, that’s going to need to be the case on Sunday. Aaron Donald and Floyd need to be able to get a pass rush on Murray and not allow him to do the things that make him special.

5. Build on last week

Despite the close 31-27 scoreline, the Rams did some very nice things last week against the Atlanta Falcons. The pass rush got to Mariota three times while the defense realistically held the Falcons to just 10 points.

On offense, McVay utilized a new package with Ben Skowronek at full back which led to them moving the ball very efficiently. Allen Robinson was able to get involved while the Rams ran the ball very well.

Last season, the Rams were able to “get-right” against the Jacksonville Jaguars before heading to Arizona the following week. Not that last week was a “get right” game by any means against the Falcons, but it allowed the Rams to find their footing in the 2022 season.

In that game against the Jaguars, the Rams utilized six offensive linemen and found their identity. You could say the same about last week’s adjustment against the Falcons. In 2021, the Rams were able to build on that performance against the Cardinals. They’ll need to do the same on Sunday.