The Arizona Cardinals broke their six game losing streak yesterday (and their winless streak while wearing their alternate black uniforms) with a narrow victory over the St. Louis Rams. However, the game not only took until overtime for the Cards to pull it out, but there was quite a bit of luck involved. A poor Rams coaching decision to go for it on fourth down, a blocked field goal and a spectacular 99-yard punt return all contributed to the revitalization of the Red Birds.
Other than those few fortunate plays, the game was rather ugly. The defense played decently, but keep in mind, they were going up against the 1-6 Rams. Let's take a look at five of the negatives from their week nine matchup.
Time of Possession:
The T.O.P. was skewed in the Rams' favor throughout the game, especially in the first half. Arizona was only able to run 19 plays in the fist 30 minutes of the game, rendering them almost entirely ineffective. In those 19 plays, they were only able to tally three total points. They also only had just under 10 minutes worth of offense, compared to the Rams' 20 minutes in the first half. By the time the game was over, St. Louis had the ball for 37 minutes, compared to 25 minutes for the Cards. Mainly, this fault in the Cardinals gameplan can be attributed to the...
Lack of a Run Game:
The Cardinals were downright awful in the ground game against the Rams. This is especially ironic considering the Rams had the worst rush defense in the league coming into this game. Beanie Wells had seven carries in the first half for only two yards and ended the game with ten carries for 20 yards. John Skelton was the leading rusher on the team, gaining 38 yards on four attempts.
Beanie's latest injury is highly noticeable. He is unable to make the cuts we are accustomed to seeing him make and he doesn't have the 'punch' that he normally does. On top of that, the offensive line was not able to get a push throughout the day. This was especially evident when Arizona was unable to convert a 3rd and one and was forced to punt.
Normally this headline might involve me criticizing the play of Adrian Wilson/Kerry Rhodes/Rashad Johnson, but in terms of yesterday's game, I am not talking about those safeties. I am talking about the two consecutive safeties that the Cardinals gave up in the third quarter. Rams punter Donnie Jones was able to pin the Cardinals deep and near their own end zone three times during the third period and ultimately helped his team score four points because of his kicks.
John Skelton was sacked in the end zone on the first one and collected an intentional grounding penalty on his second gaffe. If you want to relive the memories, just click here. The first one can be attributed to the lack of an offensive line, but the second safety is totally on Skelton's shoulders. The line of scrimmage was at the nine yard line and he scrambled all the way back into the end zone. He needed to just get rid of the ball, but his inexperience really showed in that situation.
Stopping Steven Jackson:
Jackson ran through the Cardinals' defense, gashing through the defensive line on several occasions to keep the Rams' drives alive and the clock running. He ended the day with 29 carries for 130 yards, a 4.5 yard average. His hard running helped the Rams open up the deep ball, much like Ray Rice was able to do for the Ravens last week.
Luckily for the Cardinals, the Rams are not the Ravens. They were able to win the game and hold the Rams to zero touchdowns, despite their repeated attempts at burning the Cardinals with the long pass. Arizona will have to shore up their run defense so that they can leave their safeties deep to prevent any further major gashes.
There are only a couple of injuries to report for the Cardinals, but one of them required hospitalization. Michael Adams made a great tackle during the fourth quarter, but was taken away on the cart due to an apparent head injury. From the hospital, he reassured everyone via Twitter that he was doing alright and that he just wanted to get out of there, but that they were holding him as a precaution. It was definitely a relief to read that.
Another injury that was noticeable was that of Todd Heap's hamstring. He was listed as questionable in the days leading up to the game, but was made active for the game prior to kickoff. However, we failed to see Heap throughout the duration of the game, with Jim Dray and Jeff King taking all of the snaps at the tight end position. Hopefully Heap can return soon, as he adds an entire new dimension to the offense that the team has not had for some weeks now.
What were the negatives for you, fans? What do you think the Cardinals need to improve upon in order to get a winning streak going?