Friday, October 5, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Rams 17, Cardinals 3
By Mike Sando
Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals following the Rams' 17-3 victory Thursday night in the Edward Jones Dome:
What it means: The Rams improved to 3-2, the first time they've had a winning record since the 2006 team was 4-3. They are 3-0 at home and 2-0 in the NFC West after going 4-26 against their division rivals from 2007 through last season. The Cardinals dropped to 4-1 while failing to reach 300 net yards for the fifth time this season. This game affirmed the NFC West's status as a hard-hitting division. Injury costs were high for both teams.
What I liked: Both teams started quickly on offense. Both teams played tenacious defense for most of the game. The Rams connected on two game-changing deep balls from Sam Bradford. Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb took a pounding, which was bad, but in the process he showed, again, that he's not brittle or lacking in toughness. He took eight sacks last week and nine in this one. Kolb kept battling and drove the Cardinals deep into Rams territory in the fourth quarter by completing 8 of 9 passes before his next completion gained only 3 yards on fourth-and-goal.
The Rams, despite problems on their offensive line, got Steven Jackson going for 76 yards on 18 carries. Rookie Daryl Richardson had nine carries for 35 yards. St. Louis hasn't gotten much push this season. The production from Jackson and Richardson was encouraging for the Rams.
What I didn't like: The injuries, the overmatched offensive lines, the dropped passes, the missed opportunities for pass connections well down the field, Jackson disappearing from the St. Louis offense for stretches, the Rams punting to Patrick Peterson from deep in their own territory while protecting a 14-point lead in the final minutes.
The Rams will not be the same offensively without top receiver Danny Amendola, who watched most of the game wearing a sling after suffering a shoulder injury while diving for a pass. It's not clear how much time Amendola might miss, but the Rams appeared lost without him until Bradford suddenly found rookie Chris Givens for a 51-yard touchdown to put away the game. The Cardinals lost running back Ryan Williams to a shoulder injury after the second-year back absorbed a brutal hit from Darian Stewart. Arizona was already without running backs Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling.
Going after Peterson: In a big shock, the Rams attacked Cardinals cornerback Peterson and had success doing so, including when Bradford found Amendola for a 44-yard gain early. At times, the Rams' Janoris Jenkins looked like the best young corner on the field.
Quinn's big night: Rams defensive end Robert Quinn collected three sacks. Quinn has been quick off the edge this season, but power teams have exploited his weak run defense. The Cardinals posed no threat on the ground. That allowed Quinn to chase the quarterback without concern.
Legatron strikes: The Rams bucked convention when they cut veteran punter Donnie Jones and veteran kicker Josh Brown in favor of rookies. That move is paying off big.
Rams rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein connected from 53 yards. He has made all 13 attempts this season. Zuerlein connected from 58 and 60 yards last week.
Rookie punter Johnny Hekker also showed off a strong leg, posting a 56.9-yard gross average with three of his seven punts downed inside the 20. Peterson had a healthy 15.2-yard average on five punt returns, but he didn't find the end zone -- a welcome change for the Rams, who allowed two Peterson return scores last season.
What's next: The Cardinals are home against Buffalo in Week 6. The Rams visit Miami.