Quick Thoughts On The St. Louis Rams Loss To The Arizona Cardinals


Dec 11, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher reacts on the sidelines against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another tough loss to a Super Bowl contender. If fact, the Rams defeat comes at the hands of the currently top-ranked team in the NFC, with arguably the best defense in the league. While it is obviously disappointing that St. Louis wasn’t able to keep their myriad of streaks alive, fans should take some solace it the fact that the team is obviously talented enough to compete, to the end, with any team in the NFL. We’ll discuss more in our quick thoughts on the game.

1. Where to start? Congratulations to the Arizona Cardinals on their win. They are a tough, defensively sound football team that has gone through a lot of adversity this season, and still managed to win games. Bruce Arians made some “controversial” comments after the game,

"“I love it when nobody says you have a chance to win,” Arians said. “There is an 11-3 team and a team that is always 8-8. You figure it out.”"

Personally, I don’t see it as a low-blow. In fact, 8-8 would likely be considered a “win” for the Rams this season, meaning that they would finish the year on a two-game streak, with victories over the Giants and the Seahawks, on the road. Hearing the comments live, they “felt” like more of a shot at the media than a shot at the St. Louis Rams. His Cardinals have the best record in the NFC, yet are considered underdogs by Vegas, with 90% of America picking the Rams to win. Wouldn’t you be frustrated? My thoughts. If you don’t like the comments, do something about it… like not being 8-8 at the end of the year.

2. Tip of the hat (again) goes to Gregg Williams and the St. Louis Rams defense. Despite regularly being put into bad position, the unit allowed only 12 total points. Adding that to the last three games, the Rams have allowed on 4.0 points per game. Not bad. They also managed to keep their “no touchdowns allowed” streak alive, with all 12 of the Cardinals points coming on field goals. Even with a stagnant offense for most of the season, this defensive group has kept the team in every football game this year. Add a couple of pieces to the offensive puzzle this offseason and, hopefully, the masterpiece will be complete.

3. Surprisingly, the Rams did struggle a bit against the run yesterday, allowing the Cardinals to break off 143 yards on 33 attempts. Arizona, much like St. Louis, seems to have found a stable of out-of-nowhere running backs that are producing on the field. However, even with a below-average performance, the Rams appear to have finally improved on their biggest weakness: Tackling. More specifically, tackling in the open field on the outside has been a major concern, with cornerbacks and safeties whiffing on ball carriers and allowing massive chunks of yardage after the catch. That was not the case yesterday, Janoris Jenkins was particularly impressive, highlighted by his +1.7 run defense grade on Pro Football Focus, seven tackles, four defensive stops, and zero missed tackles.

4. However, it is nearly impossible to talk about “impressive” without mentioning Aaron Donald. The rookie interior defensive lineman has been arguably the best players on the St. Louis Rams this season. Donald managed the only sack of the night for the Rams yesterday, as well as another three pressures, two tackles, and three defensive stops. At this point, his ticket to the Pro Bowl should already be punched and in the mail. Now, he should be fighting for one of the two All-Pro spots, with few, if any, defensive tackles in the league playing as consistently dominant as the Pitt alum. Donald should also be the front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year, with C.J. Mosley and Khalil Mack in a distant second- and third-place.

5. On offense, there was not much to talk about, as a unit. However, there were a handful of individual performances that were noteworthy. First, you have to give credit to both Stedman Bailey and Kenny Britt. Both players have truly stepped up for the Rams in the latter half of the season, filling the void left by Brian Quick, and quickly making fans forget about Chris Givens and the recently-cut Austin Pettis. Heading into next year, the trio of Quick, Britt, and Bailey, with players like Tavon Austin and Jared Cook supplementing that corps, seems like it should be more than enough for a starting-caliber quarterback to work with… if only we had one.

6. Tip of the hat to Rodger Saffold and Greg Robinson for handling their side of the offensive line on Sunday. Both players received positive marks from Pro Football Focus and, in fact, were the only players to managed a significant positive grade on the Rams offense. However, in light of that success, it seems as though the Rams would be better served splitting up the duo on the offensive line. Joe Barksdale has struggled mightily since Saffold moved from the right to the left guard spot, leaving Davin Joseph as his partner on the right side of the offensive line. Joseph has stood out on almost a weekly basis as a liability on the inside. If nothing else, it hopefully highlights the need for another consistent, intimidating presence on the interior. Cam Erving anyone?

7. Jared Cook had some strong words after the game, seemingly aimed at Brian Schottenheimer and his offensive play-calling. While we have been avid supporters of Cook and his enormous contract, and certainly respect his production over the last two season, he should keep his thoughts to himself in this case. Being divisive and pointing fingers is certainly not a game he wants to involve himself in, particularly given the ramification of some of his dropped passes and untimely penalties. Schottenheimer getting “out-coached” is something that blatantly happens seven or eight times per year. We all know. Keep it to yourself. This isn’t the Washington Redskins locker room.

8. We’ll end these thoughts early, but on a strong, positive note. Johnny Hekker is the best positional player on the St. Louis Rams; that includes Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald. Yesterday, when the Rams offense desperately needed to get bailed out, Hekker averaged 50.5 yards on eight punts. The coverage unit did allow one longer return, but, even with a 48 yarder on the books, Hekker still managed a 43.8 net average on those kicks. What? How? Who knows. The Rams new $18 million man is unquestionably the best punter in the NFL right now. At the end of the season, he should be a two-time All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler in as many season in the league. No argument.