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Rams vs. Cardinals: Big Plays & Big Decisions

Another game…another new way to lose. Dominating the game in nearly all areas the Rams had their share of big plays. Unfortunately nearly all of them came on defense. The game also featured numerous spots where decision making would come into play. As we have seen these situations do not always bring out the best in Spagnuolo.

Failing to build off of the momentum from last week’s win against the New Orleans the Rams seem content to play safe and conservative even with Bradford back behind center.  The Rams had 23 first downs and a time of possession advantage of 36:58 to 24:59. Yet it all went for naught as the Rams still punted 7 times and were only 3-14 on 3rd down conversions.

The plays speak for themselves but the decisions left a little more room for analysis and interpretation.  Starting Sam Bradford was the biggest one. After minimal practice over the last two weeks was he at 100% and would he be sharp enough to lead the Rams to a victory in the desert. If the answer to either of those was no he should have sat. It was Spagnuolo’s decision in Green Bay to leave Bradford in a game that was well done and over that got Bradford hurt in the first place.

The other two that stand out most were the 1st quarter flea-flicker and the runs on 3rd and 4th and one at the end of the 4th quarter. I for one loved the call on the flea-flicker. Show Arizona you’ll challenge them down field and you are not afraid to throw at their best corner. Poor execution by Bradford was the reason this play failed, not the call. However after this Spags play calling did seem to trend towards the conservative.

The 4th quarter plays were another story. Love the decision to go for it and to give it to your horse. Steven Jackson has been running like a man possessed the last two games, but running the same play twice left me scratching my head…and cursing quite a bit.

That covers the decisions.  Here are the plays that show a dominating Rams performance on the stat sheet but yet another mark in the loss column.

 

1st Quarter

Ugly start on offense.  Going against what the Rams have done the last 2 weeks and immediately taking strikes down field Spagnuolo and McDaniels are back to playing it safe. Failure to pick up Adrian Wilson, then can’t connect on 2nd, don’t even try to stretch on 3rd.

Great first series on defense. After a stupid penalty on Brit Miller gave Arizona great field position the Rams were able to stop the Cardinals in the Red Zone and hold them to a field goal. Huge play by James Hall knocking down the pass on 3rd down.

0-3

False start on Brit Miller on Rams 3rd and 1 brings up 3rd and 6.  17th false start for the Rams so far this season. Sam Bradford hits Brandon Gibson catches it for 12 and the first down. Then another quick 22 yard strike to Gibson again on first down.

After Bradford is sacked on 3rd down Josh Brown is called on for what seems like his first action in weeks. Definitely his first relevant action. Steps up and hits a 48 yard FG to tie it at 3.

3-3

On 3rd down, James Laurinaitis with a good tackle on Early Doucet to force the punt. However the Rams inability to get out of their own way…literally, hurts them as Pettis is bumped into by his own players pinning the Rams deep in their own end at the 13 yard line.

On 1st down flea-flicker deep to Brandon Lloyd. Bradford hung it up there a bit too long as he had Lloyd behind Peterson. Result is an interception. Great play call, just poor execution.

2nd Quarter

After the interception Arizona struggles against the St. Louis defense. An offsides penalty on Chris Long made 3rd and long 3rd and short, Rams run D stopped Beanie Wells on 3rd and 1. Big, big stop by the Rams. Rams ball again near mid field.

Bradford looks deep to Austin Pettis on 1st down and has him behind the defense. However, again Bradford’s touch is off missing him long. On 2nd and 10 though Cadillac Williams gets the call for the 3rd time of the drive and runs for 11 yards and a 1st down. Good to see the running game continues even when Jackson is not in the game.

Adrian Wilson blows up the Rams on 3rd and 1 tackling Jackson behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of six.  Josh Brown time again as he connects for another field goal. This time from 36 yards out.

6-3

Darian Stewart gets behind the line and gets Wells for a loss of 4 on 1st down. Big play after the Cardinals started with good field position after a 29 yard kickoff return. Unfortunately Skelton completes a pass to Adrian Roberts for 20 yards two plays later on 3rd and 14.

On 2nd and 9 Darian Stewart with the nice pass breakup on Larry Fitzgerald to bring up 3rd and long. Then on the next play Robert Quinn blows through the line sacking Skelton for a loss of 9 yards. Forcing the Arizona punt and giving St. Louis a chance to add some points before half.

Bradford can’t hit Salas open to the right as he still appears to be knocking off some rust. Two plays later after a Brit Miller 1st down though he finds Lloyd downfield for 26 yards and it moves the Rams into field goal range.

Bradford is sacked for a loss of nine pushing them out of field goal range but on 2nd down Bradford again hits Lloyd deep for 17 yards. Putting the Rams back within field goal range. Not repeating myself, but Bradford is sacked again on 1st down bringing Josh Brown back onto the field for his 3rd field goal of the half.

9-3

Half

Rams dominate the 1st half stats. Over 20 minutes time of possession and held Arizona to 58 yards of total offense, only 2 yards rushing. Rams with 188 but only 9 points to show for it.  Three sacks of Bradford are way too many.

3rd Quarter

Rams defense looks strong early stopping Arizona to force a 3rd and 14 but Skelton hits Doucet for another big 3rd down completion. This time for 20 yards and  a 1st down. Hits him again for 27 yards on the next play. Doucet fumbles but it is recovered by Arizona.

Bending but not breaking. What looked like a promising drive for Arizona and a scary one for St. Louis ends with another field goal. Good tackling by the Rams forced the Cardinals to kick on 4th and 1 keeping the Rams in front.

Rams offense clicking on their first possession of the half. Three straight downs to open the drive, Lloyd for 17 yards, then Salas with a nice and run and catch for 16 yards followed by Bradford scrambling and hitting Jackson on the run for 12 yards to move the Rams into Arizona territory.

Then…it stops. After Jackson was stopped behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of 2, Bradford threw incomplete to Lloyd on 2nd and took a sack on 3rd and 12 to force the punt (Had Gibson down the right sideline deep and open but did not see him). It was a great punt on a positive note. Donnie Jones pinning Arizona inside their own five yard line.

SAFETY!!! James Hall tackles John Skelton in the end zone. Quintin Mikell and Al Harris in coverage on the play played a big role.

A nice 27 yard return on the kick by Pettis was negated by holding  on the Rams costing the Rams 18 yards.

Delay of game by Bradford makes in 2 and 17. After finding Salas across the middle for 9 yards the next play is a direct snap to Steven Jackson who takes it 14 yards for a first down.

On 3rd and 8 Bradford passes incomplete deep left to Salas and a penalty on Harvey Dahl for Unsportsmanlike Conduct, makes it 4th and 24. St. Louis unable to capitalize on the opportunity.

Great again by Donnie Jones puts Arizona back inside their own 10 yard line.

Safety Again on Arizona’s first play by CJ Ah You as he brings down Skelton again in the end zone. Great coverage again on the play down field and even  better pursuit by Ah You.

On the kick Pettis with a nice 24 yard return but again the Rams fail to take advantage of another opportunity and good field position. Giving it right back to Arizona after a quick 3-and-out netted them -1 yards. St. Louis is dominating on all fronts through three quarters but only lead by one score.

4th Quarter

Arizona moving the ball out of their own end for a change. Skelton struck for 20 yards to TE Dray.  And shortly after ran for yards and a first down.

Darian Stewart again in on the play. Getting a hand on a deep pass that would have netted 25 yards easy. Then Beanie Wells goes off the left end to for 14 yards putting Arizona across midfield for the first time since…well… a while.

8th penalty of the game on the Rams. A missed false start but it’s called a neutral zone infraction and brings up 2nd and short. However Rams hold on 3rd and 5. Rather than attempt a long field goal Arizona elects to punt.

Bradford and Gibson connect for 15 yards on 1st and 10 to start the drive but then after a 2 yard run by Cadillac the next two plays to Lloyd went incomplete The Rams were only able to run 1:13 off of the clock.

Skelton brought the Cardinals back with a no-huddle offense. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 47 yards and scrambled twice for 28 on a nine-play, 84-yard drive for the game’s only touchdown on a leaping grab by Fitzgerald in the back of the end zone. Two separate 14 yard scrambles by Skelton twice kept the drive alive and never once did 3rd down come up on the drive.

The Rams got the ball back with 4:51 left to play and a chance to run out the clock and the game. They took the subsequent kickoff and drove to the Arizona 32, where they had third-and-1, but twice Jackson was stopped for no gain, the first time by O’Brien Schofield, the second by Darnell Dockett. Yes they ran the exact same play twice and got the exact same poor result.

The Cardinals couldn’t take advantage either of the opportunity Spagnoulo and the Rams gave him.  On 2nd and 10 Chris Long made his first appearance of the day sacking Skelton for a loss of 11 yards and causing a fumble. It was recovered for a 15-yard loss and Arizona had to punt with a minute to play in regulation. The Rams defense was again keeping the Rams alive and giving the offense yet another chance.

Now with the ball and :51 to go the Rams took over on their own 36 yard line. Bradford’s 23-yard pass on 1st down to Austin Pettis moved the ball to the 42, and then a 5-yarder to Pettis moved it to the 37. Cornerback Michael Adams was injured on the play and had to be carted off. St. Louis tight end Lance Kendricks and wide receiver Greg Salas had been taken off on carts earlier.

The pass interference penalty on Peterson – against Brandon Lloyd moved the ball well within Brown’s range. After getting the spot at the 32 yard line on 1st and 10 Jackson rushed for 8 yards to the Arizona 24 yard line. Bringing on Josh Brown for one last field goal for the win. A 42 yard attempt…well within his range.

The Cardinals had lost four games by four points or fewer and they seemed headed for a fifth, until the 6-foot-8 Campbell, with a generous shove from teammate Darnell Dockett, knocked the kick away forcing overtime.

OT

Rams win the toss but do absolutely nothing. Bradford still not sharp and it shows…and cost the Rams as he misses Brandon Lloyd open down field. The only positive yardage of the drive was 18 yards rushing by Jackson. All three Bradford attempts went incomplete. Donnie Jones…come on down.

Another tremendous punt by Jones is field at the 1-yard line by Patrick Peterson. The rest I can barely stomach to write. Peterson took off 99-yards for the game winning score. Along his way the Rams missed at least 3 solid opportunities to tackle Peterson and one to know him out of bounds. Shades of the Jerome Harrison interception return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl come to mind.

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