An Uncle Rico Production
Cardinals Recap: Cardinals 9 – Rams 26
The Cardinals took another step back this past Sunday, blowing yet another second half lead & completely disappearing in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals were already the worst team in the NFL in regards to production/statistics (both offensively & defensively) and Sunday against the LA Rams did not help improve those numbers. The Cardinals are last in point differential, points scored, & points allowed in the fourth quarter & it showed. The Cardinals were shutout in the second-half, being outscored 20-0.
Arizona’s consistent underperformance in the latter halves of games continues to plague them, leading to a 1-5 start to the season. The team has a troubling trend of being outscored in second halves (98-30). With four of the Cardinals stars sidelined for the foreseeable future RB James Connor, QB Kyler Murray, S Jalen Thompson, & S Budda Baker) and the future of the two biggest stars up in the air (Murray & Baker), the early momentum built up in the first quarter of the NFL season from “playing hard” seems to have crumbled a week into Q2.
What was particularly discouraging was the Rams’ revitalized running game; rather, a lack of a Cardinal’s rush defense. After a mere five rushing yards in the first half, they ended with a total of 179, largely thanks to Kyren Williams, who amassed 158 yards and a touchdown in 20 carries. I haven’t minded the emergence of the former Notre Dame standout RB, as I drafted Williams with my last pick in my most expensive FFL (a gamble which has thus paid dividends).
The Cardinals’ defense seemed incapable of restraining him until he exited the game late due to an ankle injury. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the damage had already been done. Head Coach Sean McVay came out after half time & called all running plays (except one pass) on the Rams opening 2nd half drive. They absolutely bullied the Cardinals into submission. Even so, Gannon remains optimistic that his team can recover and start making competitive strides again.
On the offensive front, there were specific plays that could have potentially swung the game in favor of Arizona. Two of these plays involved deep passes from Josh Dobbs to Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. In one instance, a slightly underthrown ball was broken up, leading to a field goal. In another, Brown made the catch but was out of bounds, resulting in a turnover. With a wide receiver like Brown who takes the top off defenses regularly, connecting on those limited opportunities for deep shots is a must. It is an issue that must be addressed this offseason.
Further complications for Arizona included an unfortunate interception aimed behind TE Zach Ertz & a fumble resulting from a sack on Dobbs. These errors were compounded by a lack of effective execution in the red zone, which proved just as damaging as their second-half defensive shortcomings.
Regarding the Cardinals’ defense, the secondary has been ridiculously ineffective. It was the Bengals two games ago who torched the Cardinals back-end. This
past weekend, it was the Rams. Rookie CB Kei’trel Clark has had a giant bullseye on both the front & back of his jersey. Bro has been straight BBQ chicken since moving into the #2 spot on the Cardinals cornerback depth chart. It is clear to this writer & offensive coordinators across the league that Clark is a liability, and easy money for offenses to take advantage of. Things got so bad for Clark that he was benched midway through the second-half. It has been a steep learning curve for Clark, whom I was excited to see at the beginning of the season.
When he won a starting role after preseason (opposite CB Marco Wilson), I had hoped that he & future starter Garrett Williams would usher in a new era of strong cornerback play for the Cardinals. Unfortunately, Clark has been overwhelmed & under-suited to fill the responsibilities of his new role. Williams, on the other hand, is still recovering from the torn ACL he endured last CFB season at Syracuse.
After limiting the Rams to nearly three points in the first half (Clark decided to let Rams WR Cooper Kupp roast him for 50 yards with under a minute to go), Rams QB Matthew Stafford was eventually able to find his stride. Aided by a pulverizing running attack, Stafford began targeting receivers like Cooper Kupp, who had seven catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. Big plays, including a 49-yard pass to Kupp and a 30-yard completion to Tutu Atwell, led to points,
Arizona’s defensive frailties against the Rams’ rushing attack almost stood out as much as their offensive woes (in every second half, of every game, this season).