I watched the Redskins play the Eagles on my laptop as I got the night bus back from London, having seen Arizona Cardinals vs Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham. It was a great game with the Eagles showcasing to the “football cognoscenti” why they have the best record in the league right now. It took a long time but with it being only £13 in total, my journey was as enjoyable as it was expensive. However, the Cardinals fans must have been thinking differently; they must have been as tired watching the game as I was when I reached home in the morning…
For those same Arizona fans, having seen their best player David Johnson get injured and be out for the rest of the season in the first game of the season. Must have been a hard pill to swallow. But on Sunday, star quarterback Carson Palmer left the game midway through the second quarter with a broken arm. The initial reports of the injury suggest that Palmer could be out any period of time and that recovery estimates were “up in the air”. This is terrible news for the Cardinals, and their fans who even before this game were enduring a difficult season; but have now fallen deeper into the depths of NFL obscurity with this injury.
As I foretold in my preview of this game, what the Cardinals needed to do to win was to establish their running game. Unfortunately, at Twickenham, this was as successful as watching the game without hearing American Football described by people around me as “Yeah…. almost it’s like rugby but with pads” It was maddening, to say the least. Adrian Peterson finished the game with 21 rushing yards on 11 carries. He was bottled up by the Rams, who exploited the clear weakness of the Cardinals their offensive line. LA had constant pressure on every play, whether it was men in the backfield as they ran the ball or hitting the quarterback when Arizona tried to pass the ball. The Rams defence set the tone early and it didn’t stop punishing Arizona all game long. What did not help Peterson’s case was that the Rams took the lead early on and his quarterback got hurt. Both of these meant that the Cardinals simply couldn’t run the ball as it would have wasted too much time already losing the game.
So with a running game that was utterly devoid of any success; the Cardinals had to throw the ball for almost the entire game, in fact, they only ran the ball 12 times. In the first quarter, Palmer did lead a 9 play 65-yard drive however it ended up with a missed field goal. That was the best it got for Arizona, with their the passing game drying up faster than water in the surrounding deserts of Glendale, Arizona. Palmer finished with a stat line of 10/18 for 122 yards with an interception and a QBR of 30.9. Drew Stanton who came in to replace him after the injury, finished with 5/14 for 62 yards also with an interception and an anaemic QBR of 11.2. This game was a write off for Arizona as soon as Palmer got injured with Stanton looking unprepared and overmatched against LA’s defence. He was abysmal for the Cardinals who’s season at this point is now a write-off. I see very little hope for success this year after watching this performance at Twickenham.
On the other hand, this was a wonderful performance by the Los Angeles Rams. They did a great job on offence, quarterback Jared Goff came to Twickenham and delivered a sound performance. He had 225 yards passing, with one touchdown and one interception while gaining a touchdown on a 9-yard run. He didn’t have to do too much on Sunday as running back Todd Gurley had one of his best games this season. Gurley was the focal point of the Rams attack, running the ball he had 106 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown. He also had 4 catches for 48 yards. These may not be his most impressive numbers, but the Rams lent on Gurley throughout the game and the Cardinals knew this, yet couldn’t stop him. Gurley’s ability to make 3 or 4 yards per run on first and second down, gave Goff short and easy third downs to complete. The Rams went 13/19 on third downs meanwhile the Cardinals were a meagre 3/12.
With Gurley succeeding on the ground it gave Goff a solid platform to build off using play action. He completed passes to seven different players during the game, as the Cardinals feared that Gurley would run for a touchdown whenever he touched the ball. Gurley had the best play of the game with a wonderful 18 yard run for a touchdown, outrunning two defenders to reach the end zone and put the game on ice for the Rams with 5:25 minutes left in the first half! Goff will play harder teams this season but this game was a perfect encapsulation of his season so far with McVay. Nothing is too difficult in his scheme, it’s just allowing Goff to make the best decision with what is in front of him. Unlike under Fisher when any decision would have been a sign of progress…..
In conclusion, the Rams won this game comfortably as the score suggests. I would not hold out hope for the Cardinals this season as they looked about as comfortable to watch as a Donald Trump speech. But the Rams on the other hand now sitting at 5-2 look to be getting better and better each week. They could make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 if they continue like this. It was a great game and a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to go again!