The tape from this one certainly didn't contradict what was easily visible as the game took place. The Rams simply couldn't get anything going in the run game and it made everything they tried to do offensively difficult.
As part of that, the offensive line had one of its roughest outings of the season. That group failed to get much push in the run game and back Zac Stacy couldn't find much room to run. The pass protection in the first half was better than I first suspected watching it live but I think some of that was just carry-over from a second half in which the Cardinals were able to get after quarterback Kellen Clemens.
Despite the Rams' insistence on rotating three players at right guard and tackle, they actually fared well on that side. The real issues came on the left side, especially after falling behind by a couple of scores.
Clemens' pick-6 to Karlos Dansby was a direct result of Arizona defensive lineman Calais Campbell pushing left guard Chris Williams into him, forcing Clemens to throw as he was about to fall down. Dansby picked it and walked into the end zone.
Williams had more than his share of struggles against the talented and physical Campbell.
Left tackle Jake Long was beaten by John Abraham for a sack, but the others that came on that side can't really be pinned on Long. On one, Long was left alone on two defenders and took the one coming on the inside as opposed to looping on the edge. That's what blockers are told to do in that situation. It looked like a miscommunication, as there was no back or tight end to pick up the other rusher.
On the safety that came in the Rams' end zone, it appeared there was again some sort of miscommunication or inability to identify an additional blocker. Abraham simply looped in between Williams and center Tim Barnes untouched for the sack. It's hard to say definitively but blame can likely be assigned to Barnes on the play, as it's often a center's job to make those calls and identify possible blitzers before the snap.
Speaking of Barnes, he wasn't terrible in his first start but still has a long way to go. He held up pretty well when he took a defender on head up but it appeared he was out of position on multiple occasions.
Rodger Saffold split time evenly between guard and tackle and played well at both spots. He was probably the team's best lineman again in this one though he yielded pressure at tackle.
The Rams didn't have many opportunities for big plays, but they failed to take advantage when they did. Tight end Jared Cook ran clear of linebacker Daryl Washington early in the second quarter but Clemens didn't get enough on the throw and it fell short. More air under it and it likely would have been a touchdown. In a game in which yards were tough to come by, those types of misses proved impossible to overcome.
Clemens' second interception wasn't a good read or throw as he fired to a covered Chris Givens. But Givens didn't do much to help the cause. The route was a bit sloppy and not sharp and Rashad Johnson jumped in front for the interception. Likewise, Givens didn't put up enough of a fight to at least earn an incompletion on the play. His struggles continue.
It was clear early on the Rams would be unable to run the ball and they'd have to throw to have a chance. Clemens looked sharp on the team's first drive but when it became obvious the game would fall on his right arm, it was clearly going to be tough for the offense to get much going. Asking Clemens to win games at this point isn't going to be a winning formula. His accuracy and completion rate are in line with the below-average numbers of his career and that was on display again. Credit to Clemens for his incredible toughness and resilience but asking him to stand in the pocket and string completions together as the Rams had to Sunday won't yield much in the way of results.
Another scintillating run from rookie receiver Tavon Austin for a 56-yard gain, the only truly big play the Rams had all game. Otherwise, the Rams didn't do much to get him the ball, especially in space. Tyrann Mathieu gave Austin a tough matchup in the slot when the pair squared off but Austin needs more opportunities, especially in a game in which yards are hard to come by.
Fellow rookie receiver Stedman Bailey continued his ascent. He made three catches for 46 yards but continues to develop as a route runner and haul in anything reasonably catchable. He's earned more time in the final three weeks.
It's a modest proposal based on a small sample size but with bigger, more physical teams like Arizona, perhaps getting Benny Cunningham a bit more involved at running back might help. Stacy has earned the job and the bulk of the carries but Cunningham's speed at least opens the possibility for a bigger gain. He picked up 9 yards on his two attempts against the Cardinals.