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Grading the Defense: Arizona Cardinals vs. St Louis Rams

The Arizona Cardinals defense continues to impress, under new coordinator Bill Davis, and on Sunday they limited the St. Louis Rams to just 13 points and dominated for most of the game despite missing multiple starters. Granted the Rams aren't exactly an offensive juggernaut but the Cardinals' "bend but don't break" game plan is starting to work very well. After this week the defense ranks just 21st in yards per game but a very respectable (and remarkably improved) 11th in points per game.

A couple of quick stats before we get into the defensive breakdown:

  • Two of the Rams' scoring drives, accounting for ten points, started in Cardinals territory thanks to turnovers from the offense.
  • The Rams had four four-and-out drives and seven drives that accounted for 30 yards or less.

Run Defense: The box score say Steven Jackson racked up 116 yards on 24 carries (4.8 ypc) so we certainly can't give the defense a big "atta-boy" but overall the run defense was better than the overall numbers would suggest. Although they didn't stop a single run behind the line of scrimmage, almost half of Jackson's yards came on one big 48 yard scamper meaning outside of that run he averaged 3.0 yards per carry. The run defense was also very stout in short yardage situations stopping the Rams on three out of four times in third or fourth-and-one opportunities. Karlos Dansby led the way with nine tackles and the return of Gerald Hayes had a significant impact as well.

Pass Defense: The secondary lost Bryant McFadden relatively early in the game but still did a good job of causing Marc Bulger all kind of trouble. He completed just 51.4% of his passes and his yards per attempt (5.8) and QB rating (57.8) were both below his season averages. With McFadden on the sidelines, the Rams picked on his replacement, Micheal Adams, a bit but the defense were still able to lower their yards per game average. Adrian Wilson also forced the only Rams turnover when he picked off Bulger in the second quarter.

Pass Rush: The Cardinals continue to get to the quarterback using a pass rush by committee approach with Will Davis, Darnell Dockett and Antrel Rolle getting into the mix this week. No player on the team has reached five sacks yet but eight different defenders have recorded multiple sacks and twelve different players in all have taken down a QB at least once this season. Bill Davis continues to use his pieces well and his defense does a good of getting to the quarterback without having to bring heavy blitzes. The Cardinals currently rank 6th in team sacks with 28.

Honor Roll:

Gabe Watson: Watson still hasn't regained the starting nose tackle job but it seems like he might be getting more and more snaps as the season progresses and he played well in this game. He made four solo tackles and Jackson ran for a grand total of three yards on those plays, including two that went for no gain.

Antrel Rolle: Rolle continues to play well and he logged the first sack of Bulger (although the NFL hasn't assigned the sack to him yet). Rushing the passer isn't Rolle's forte but he's athletic enough to create havoc once he gets into the backfield. Five tackles isn't a big game for Rolle but he's a big reason why the Rams weren't able to score a big play in the passing game.

Adrian Wilson: I know A-dub could be on this list every week but after picking off another pass for the second week in a row, I just couldn't leave him off. While he hasn't blitzed as much this season, Wilson is just one interception from matching his career high of four.

Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell: This defensive end duo continues to create a great deal of havoc. Nine-0 has logged a sack in three consecutive games and forced his first fumble of the season on the Rams final offensive play. Not much is expected, stat-wise, from defensive ends in a 3-4 defense but this duo continues to shoulder their fair share of the workload.

Michael Adams: Adams filled in for McFadden once he went down and it was pretty clear that Bulger and company were going to pick on him early and often. At times Adams struggled in coverage but Adams showed the tenacity and grit that earned him a roster spot. He's fearless run supporter and in time may develop into a decent nickel corner.

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All in all the defense logged another game where they gave their offense every opportunity to win the game. The yardage totals continue to look high but as long as they're keeping teams out of the endzone, we can't complain too much. Thoughts?