We're finally at Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season and the Cardinals are hours away from the first meaningful game under head coach Bruce Arians. Following the Revenge Of The Birds (ROTB) tradition started by long time contributor JoeCB1991, we will simulate each week of the season using the latest Madden game to present one opinion of what possible outcome could be to preview the game.
We'll only explain the set up once and in future articles will refer to this article for the configuration of the season simulations. The set up is as follows:
Quarter Length: 8 minutes (15 ends up with outrageous scores)
Skill Level: All-Madden
Rosters: Updated each week to match the active roster as shown on AzCardinals.com
Game Speed: Normal
Play Type: Sim Mode
Roster Notes: Unable to acquire Jaron Brown have to use LaRon Byrd in his place, Retired Ryan Swope, Cut Jeff King (to sim IR), Cut Jonathan Cooper (to sim IR).
1st Quarter: The Cardinals won the toss and decided to kick the ball away on a short kick to keep the ball out of Tavon Austin's hands. The Cardinals were able to hold the Rams to a 3-and-out series on the first possession and make the Rams pay with a good return into Rams territory. The Cardinals were able to turn their first possession into a deep TD throw to Larry Fitzgerald showing off the vertical passing game.The Rams return the favor on a seam route to Jared Cook on the next series taking advantage of the mismatch between Karlos Dansby and Cooks speed. The following toss play to Darryl Richardson has a long gain and sets the Rams up for the tie 7-7.
The Cardinals next possession works the running game and short passes to TE Jim Dray taking a large chunk of time off of the clock. In a seven minute drive the Cardinals cap off the play with a short TD pass to Michael Floyd. In response the Rams are able to move the ball down the field but have to settle for a field goal as the Cardinals adjustments take away Jared Cook's ability to get open in the middle of the field.
After a series of miscommunications the Cardinals suffer a stalled drive in to open the second and Jay Feely misses a 53 yard field goal. The tempo of the game shifts as each defense is making adjustments and the offenses are having trouble moving the ball as easily as they did in the first quarter. The Rams stall at the Cardinals 35 yard line and set up Greg Zuerlein with a 51 yard field goal attempt which he successfully converted. The two offenses continue to stall and punt the ball back and forth in consecutive series and Carson Palmer starts having a lot of pressure from the Rams defensive line, giving up back to back sacks and having to punt the ball away with 11 minutes remaining in the 2nd. The Rams are unable to do anything with the excellent field position and punt the ball back to Arizona pinning them deep at the 5 yard line. Palmer uses play action to draw the defense in and throws a deep strike to Andre Roberts to 20 yards, followed by three more deep passes setting up a successful Jay Feely 44 yard field goal Cardinals 20-13 Rams.
The 2nd quarter continues to be a defensive dual leaving each offense to stall and leave it to the kicking teams to attempt long field goals. Zuerlein is making long shots at 56 yards to try to close the gap with Arizona bringing the score to 20-16. Following a three and out with three minutes remaining the Cardinals punt the ball away to the Rams five yard line, and Tavon Austin muffs the punt which is recovered by Arizona at the six yard line. Mendenhall is able to run the ball into the endzone on his second attempt (Cardinals 27-16).
With two minutes remaining the Rams are unable to move the ball and the Cardinals use their time outs to conserve the clock as the Rams punt the ball away. In the hurry up Carson Palmer spreads the ball around to his receivers for 8, 13, 8, and 25 yards consecutively forcing the Rams to use a timeout to halt the progress of the hurry up. At the Rams 5 yard line Carson Palmer throws a perfect strike with 22 seconds remaining to Mendenhall for a touchdown extending the score to close out the half (Cardinals 34-16).
The third quarter is dominated by defensive performances by both teams. The first score is a field goal by Greg Zuerlein from the Rams 3 yard line with 6 minutes remaining, as the Cardinals defense is bending between the 20s but is rock solid in the red zone. (Cardinals 34-19). Jay Feely is able to add points to the board with a 32 yard FG with one minute remaining (37-19).
The fourth quarter opens with a quick drive down the field by the Rams with Sam Bradford hooking up with Chris Givens on three passes in a row, but the drive stalls setting up Zuerlein for another field goal which he makes from 33 yards away (37-22). The Cardinals offense seems to slow in the fourth quarter and forces the Cardinals to punt the ball away to a desperate Rams team that is seeing the clock tick away. With 9:26 remaining the Rams go to a hurry up offense throwing the ball deep for two deep strikes to Brian Quick and Tavon Austin setting the Rams up at the Cardinals 15 yard line. But on the next play Patrick Peterson intercepts the ball returning it 51 yards. The Cardinals bring in Ryan Williams to get some work and he does not disappoint with two consecutive rushes of 9 yards, and 11 yards. With the clock ticking the defense blitzes Palmer but in doing so allows Fitzgerald to run free in man-to-man and he catches a short pass and turns it into a 13 yard TD. (44-22). The Rams are unable to score with the final time running off of the clock and ending the first game with a loss to the Cardinals.
Carson Palmer 34/50, Yards 380, 3 TD, 3 Sacks
Sam Bradford 28/63, Yards 301, 1 TD, 1 INT, 5 Sacks
Rashard Mendenhall 70 yards rushing, 2 TD
Ryan Williams 40 yards
Darryl Richardson 80 yards
Larry Fitzgerald, 149 yards, 2 TD
Michael Floyd, 70 yards, 1 TD
Andre Roberts, 80 yards
Jim Dray, 55 yards
Rams - 3 Sacks, 0 INT
Cardinals - 5 Sacks, 1 INT
Campbell - 2 Sacks
Brinkley - 1 Sack
Acho - 1 Sack
Minter - 1 Sack
Jay Feely - 3/4 FG, 5 XP
Greg Zeurlein - 5/7 FG, 1 XP
Cardinals - 490 yards
Rams - 381 yards
Cardinals - 0
Rams - 2 (Sam Bradford Interception, Tavon Austin Fumble)
While this game might look like it was set to homer difficulty, it really showed how well the outcome could turn out. Let's just hope we see numbers this good from both sides of the ball in St. Louis to open the year on Sunday.