Recapping the Rams vs Cardinals: Hurts so good.

Week 1: Cardinals (0-0) at Rams (0-0)

Sep 12, 2010 3:15 CST

13 logo-ARI 17 Recap | Play by Play | Video

Rams bring the lumber

I’m going to speak for every single fan of the Rams out there when I say we’re tired of stories about “moral victories.” And then I’m going to tell one anyway.

Fans packed the Dome for the 2010 season opener, hoping for a win, but more than that, praying for a good game. They haven’t seen many, especially last year when their average home game ended in a 17-point loss. Defend the Dome we didn’t, and neither did the fans, who have been known as easy marks for the invading caravans of visiting teams. But those that came out this Sunday dressed in blue and gold were left with a dizzying blend of hope and pain, knowing that this was a game that got away in the last minutes, and knowing too that this team is ready to put up the kind of fight unseen in this house in many years. That maybe these Rams were ready to earn back our love, one jarring tackle at a time.

@RamsHerd What a tough loss… I have to say it’s been a while since I’ve been that excited at a Rams game!!!
@RamsHerd have never come away from a loss feeling so positive. Thanks for guiding me through it, go Rams!
@RamsHerd @ottoman89 @TurfShowTimes i know y’all feel my pain right now and the rest of the #RamsRT crew.
@mrphilosopher3 @RamsHerd I feel all the pain. Unfortunately.

And let it be said: the Rams’ defense beat the feathers out of the Cardinals all game long. They ragdolled Derek Anderson, hitting him 9 times (that were recorded in the gamebook) and sacking him twice more. They tattooed receivers down the field, and made numerous crunching hits that said no yard shall go uncontested. Because it’s week one, and they are on relatively fresh legs, Derek Anderson and the Cardinals were able to pick themselves off the mat and make the plays in the fourth quarter that won the game. But this intensity, this willingness to deliver punishment, will pay off in the win column for the Rams as the season goes on.

The Cardinals’ defense is more than capable of delivering hits of their own — Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett pressured Bradford numerous times (though he absorbed fewer hits than Anderson), and Adrian Wilson was in beast mode, as he so often is against the Rams.

Some quick thoughts:

Three stars: Arizona

  • 3. Adrian Wilson — the Rams just couldn’t block him in the first half, and he personally took points off the board with a blocked field goal in the 1st.
  • 2. Steve Breaston — someone needed to step up in Boldin’s absence, and Breaston did, big time. He also saved the win by stripping Cliff Ryan of the ball near the goal line, robbing the Rams of a sure touchdown.
  • 1. Derek Anderson — I have to give him credit, he took a pounding, and he misthrew a huge number of throws, but he created the winning points with a gutty drive and final toss to Fitzgerald.

Just missing the cut? Larod Stephens-Howling. The Cardinals’ ground game was stuck in the mud until he came in and found air to the outside on a pair of perfectly executed sweeps. He seemed to back the Rams onto their heels for a rare 5-play sequence (all runs) that ended in a Tim Hightower TD.

Three stars: Rams

  • 3. Ron Bartell — Look at the stat sheet. 15 times, Anderson threw a ball to Larry Fitzgerald, arguably still the best pure receiver in the game. Only 3 were caught. Bartell was in #11’s shirt all day, but unfortunately he gambled and lost, going for the ball, on the TD catch that sealed it.
  • 2. Chris Long — Long brought monster pressure all game long, recorded three QB hits and multiple hurries, and racked up double teams along the way to open lanes for teammates.
  • 1. Mark Clayton — To come in with barely a work week of practice and have the role he had in the offense today was incredible. (I’m sure he regrets a drop on a ball that got to him amazingly fast, though — could have been six.)

Just missing the cut? The golden boy himself, Sam the Ram. He played an incredible game, gutty and inspired football, and he made some throws — including the brilliant touchdown pass to Laurent Robinson on 4th and 1 while escaping to his right — that electrified the crowd. But I bet he would tell you there were multiple throws he’d like to have back. Not just the interceptions, only one of his was his fault (the first quarter pick by Wilson)…

“That’s something that I had seen on film all week,” Bradford said. “I knew he was going to undercut our crossing routes and it’s just something I tried to force in there. So that’s something I really wish I could take back.”

— Bradford stays calm in debut

On the game’s first drive, Bradford set and had time to look downfield from the Cardinals’ 16 yard line, and saw Laurent Robinson gunning up the seam … a good throw connects for a touchdown, but Bradford burned the rug at the five yard line. Adrian Wilson blocked the Rams’ field goal try on the game’s next play. He completed a few passes that his receivers had to stop and lean back for, killing their momentum and preventing the chains from moving. While his face didn’t show it — the kid was unflappable, even as numerous muggings of his wideouts occurred downfield — his arm might have betrayed some nerves in this, his first start.

As good as he was in his first start, and as much as the team relied on him (55 throws? really?), Bradford can and will improve. He has a higher standard than this.

Scariest moment

Danny Amendola got up from a botched punt return, and the cameras followed him on the sideline as he tried to figure out how to put weight on his left leg. He held it ramrod straight, like walking with a pegleg, until giving up and hopping his way to the bench. He missed a series though, and was back in there just minutes later.

Questions to ponder

Why did the Rams only activate 4 receivers for the game?

Especially as much as they threw, you have to think Brandon Gibson could have been making plays out there. (Nobody on the Rams is better at creating separation on a stop-and-go route.)

Where were the vertical plays the Rams needed in the last minute of the game?

It took only a minute-twenty to score our lone touchdown at the end of the first half, clearly the offense is capable of moving down the field at times. But when Craig Dahl (and a favorable ruling by the referees) gave us a miraculous last chance at the end of the game, again with 1:20 on the clock, the offense turtled.

Was Steven Jackson on a pitch count?

22 carries is a pretty good workload, but it pales in comparison to the 55 passes that Bradford threw. Darby and Karney got two carries between them. If the coaches were worried about taxing Jackson, they should consider the punishment he takes (and delivers) while sealing Bradford’s blind side from the multiple white-clad blitzers.

Final thoughts

Someone in my twitter feed compared this game to the loss against the Saints last season, and I thought the same. After that one, I called it “a real loss,” because it was one of the few times that we saw the Rams go toe-to-toe for a full 60 minutes with a real team. The Rams took 9 games to build up to that level of play last season … they got there in the opener this year. Next week the Rams go to Oakland, and I have no qualms about forecasting a win once again.

Damn it feels good to have a real football team in town again. It will feel even better to get that win. Bring one home, boys.