- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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ST. LOUIS – An examination of four hot issues from the St. Louis Rams’ 27-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals:
Starting off right: You’ll have to excuse the fans in St. Louis if they are a wee bit excited about winning in the opener. The Rams hadn’t opened the season with a victory since 2006, when they defeated Denver in Scott Linehan’s coaching debut. The only current Ram who was on the roster then is linebacker Will Witherspoon, and he’s played for two other teams in the time since then. Given that the Rams now must head to Atlanta and Dallas in back-to-back weeks, they simply couldn’t have afforded a loss to Arizona in the opener.
Bradford’s team: In case you didn’t already know, quarterback Sam Bradford is the centerpiece of the Rams' offense moving forward. He helped the Rams post the game’s final 14 points in erasing an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. For the better part of the past decade, the Rams would look to running back Steven Jackson when searching for someone to lead a comeback (a situation that presented itself all too frequently). It was no Jackson, no problem for the Rams against Arizona. Bradford was sharp for most of the day, save for the pick-six on a deflected pass in the third quarter. He was 8-of-10 for 76 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Coverage concerns: With the Rams opting to play off in coverage on the outside for most of the day, Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer dissected them to the tune of 327 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams often used a similar approach last season, choosing to keep the ball in front of them instead of risk giving up a big play. Against Arizona, the Rams made some adjustments at halftime and things didn’t come as easy for Palmer in the second half. He threw for 204 yards in the opening 30 minutes and 123 in the second. All told, it was a performance that prompted Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan to acknowledge that the entire secondary “wanted to play better.”
Replacing Jackson: Daryl Richardson got the start at running back and was quite involved in the game plan. He finished with 20 carries for 63 yards and five catches for 33 more, coming up just short of 100 total yards. Running room was hard to come by for the most part as the Rams averaged less than 3 yards per carry against a defense that was one of the worst in the league against the run a year ago. Richardson was OK, and coach Jeff Fisher offered praise for his young back after the game but the Rams need to get more from the run game moving forward.