The James Conner conundrum: How can Rams win at Cards part I

The LA Rams have struggled to keep Cardinals RB James Conner out of the endzone in the past. How can they manage that task in Week 12?

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams, James Conner,
Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams, James Conner, / Katelyn Mulcahy/GettyImages
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The LA Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals earlier in the 2023 NFL season by a comfortable score of 26-9. Of course, the Rams were not fully healthy for that game, but the Rams backfield peaked in that game, as the Rams piled 179 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries. The Cardinals backfield was not healthy.

The Arizona Cardinals were short of their starting running back, James Conner. Without him, the Cardinals have trialed four other rushers over the course of the 2022 NFL season, with mixed results. That won't be the case in Week 12, and that means that the LA Rams defense will have their hands full.

Why is RB James Connor such a threat?

James Connor is a 6-foot-1 233-pound running back who, much like the LA Rams RB Royce Freeman, gets stronger in a football game the more he runs. In 98 carries so far this season, he has piled up 499 yards and a touchdown, which is an impressive 5.1 yards per carry.

Connor did not play against the Rams earlier in the season, but of the seven games he did play, he helped the Arizona Cardinals to their lone pair of victories in 2023. Forget draft position, the Cardinals want nothing better than to beat the LA Rams in Week 12, and plan to give the Rams a heavy dose of Connor between the tackles to do it.

While Connor may not churn out huge chunks of yards at a clip, he has a nose for the endzone. He has been particularly effective against the Rams in previous games:

Season

Date

# carries

Rushing Yds

TDs

# catches

Receiving Yds

TDs

2021

10/3/2021

18

50

2

2

16

0

2021

12/13/2021

13

31

2

9

94

0

2021

1/27/2022

4

19

1

1

5

0

2022

9/25/2022

13

39

0

3

18

0

2022

11/13/2022

21

69

2

3

17

0

As you can see from the above data table, James Connor has only been kept out of the endzone once in five games against the LA Rams in five seasons. The Rams did not have to face Conner in 2023 yet, so you can bet that he will be more than motivated in scoring against the Rams in this one.

How can the Rams neutralize him in Week 12?

Much like the LA Rams, if you can jump out to a lead against the Arizona Cardinals, you can force their hand at pivoting to a pass-centric offense. That feeds perfectly into the Rams defense, as QB Kyler Murray struggles to win games on the strength of his passing.

While the Rams will need to blend the running of Kyren Williams and Royce Freeman, the Cardinals are a bit of a one-horse running back room, Unless Conner pulls up limping in this one, the Rams are going to see plenty of him early in the game. The Rams will need big games from NT Bobby Brown III, rookie NT Kobie Turner, and ILB Ernest Jones to ensure that Conner remains corraled in this one.

The Rams have done a fairly effective job of bring Conner down in the past. But they will need to do a better job of keeping him out of the endzone if the Rams are to emerge victorious from this one.

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