The Los Angeles Rams will take on the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12, looking to win back-to-back games for the first time this season. After beating the Seattle Seahawks last week, the Rams have slim chances at the playoffs. Another division win would go a long way.
Earlier this season, the Rams beat the Cardinals. However, a lot has changed since then as quarterback Kyler Murray is back in the lineup. While the Rams have had success against Murray in the past, he’s still an improvement over Josh Dobbs. Here are five keys to victory for the Rams against the Cardinals.
1. Be better on third down on offense
Simply put, the Rams need to be better on third down on offense. Against the Seahawks, three of their first five drives results in three-and-outs. The Rams started 0-for-5 on third down to start the game against Cardinals back in Week 5. They need to be able to sustain drives early on offense to avoid getting down early. Over the last three weeks, the Rams are converting on third down just 30.5 percent of the time which ranks 26th.
This season, the Cardinals rank 31st in third down and are dead last over the last three weeks. They are also last in third down defense EPA over that same time period and 28th for the season. The Rams offense needs to do better on third down, especially against what is a bad third down defense.
2. Rely on the run game
The Rams do need to throw the ball and have success through the air in this game. However, it’s important they they don’t get over-reliant on it and are able to stay balanced as an offense. In Week 5, the Rams won by imposing their will in the game in the second half. Most of Kyren Williams’ yards in that game came after the second quarter.
Arizona’s run defense remains something that can be exploited. Last week, the Cardinals allowed 112 yards to Devin Singletary. The Cardinals rank 22nd in run defense EPA and 26th in run defense success rate. Jonathan Gannon put out a solid gameplan to stop the Rams passing game in Week 5. The Rams will need to rely on the run game once again to set up third and manageable and get the play action game going. McVay should be able to get some variety with both Williams and Royce Freeman.
3. Force Kyler Murray to hit checkdowns
Murray is at his best when he’s able to buy time and take shots down the field. The Rams have had so much success against Murray in the past in large part because they take away the downfield throws and force him to take the more efficient throws underneath. In both games this season, Murray’s average depth of target is 10.4 yards down the field which is a career high. Morris and the Rams defense need to adjust his field of vision.
In his two starts this season, Murray has shown some growth and maturity as a passer. However, the Rams need to be able to disrupt him to bring out the bad habits with his footwork and forcing throws that may not be available. If the Rams can condense the field, they could force Murray into some mistakes.
4. Take away TE Trey McBride
The Rams have been one of the worst teams in the NFL this season when it comes to guarding the tight end position. Tight ends are averaging 56.8 yards per game against the Rams defense this season which is the ninth most in the NFL. It will be curious to see how often the Cardinals try to get McBride matched up against Michael Hoecht and if Raheem Morris adjusts and covers him with Quentin Lake or another safety.
McBride had 62 yards against the Rams in Week 5 and has five or more receptions in three of his last four games. The Cardinals tight end is averaging 72.8 yards on 6.5 receptions over the last four weeks. If Michael Wilson or Hollywood Brown are out or limited, expect McBride to play a big role in the Cardinals’ game plan.
5. Find Consistency
It’s to be expected with a young team, but the Rams have struggled to find consistency this season. They have yet to put together a solid performance over 60-minutes. Every win this season has been followed up with a loss or multiple losses. Los Angeles has been consistently inconsistent in 2023. Again, that was somewhat expected with a young team.
However, when Jason Myers’ kick missed last week, it gave the Rams some slight hope at a playoff spot. To make a serious push, they’ll need to be able to string some wins together. That will require some consistency not only over four quarters, but from a week to week standpoint. Can they find that against a Cardinals team that they’ve had success against?