Dealing Cards: Todd Gurley is the focus, Tiger (Woods) watching
TEMPE, Ariz. – When looking back at the first meeting, a game the Arizona Cardinals would like to pretend didn’t happen, defensive coordinator James Bettcher pointed to one thing: How well the Rams ran the football.
No team this season, and no team since Buffalo in Week 3 last season, had ever had that kind of success when handing the ball off against the Cardinals.
And it wasn’t just Todd Gurley. It was Malcolm Brown, Tavon Austin and even Jared Goff.
And at the end of the 33-0 loss in London on Oct. 22, the Rams had averaged nearly five yards a carry, finishing with 197 yards on 40 attempts.
The 197-yard mark represented a Rams’ season-best and a Cardinals’ season-worst allowed, a fact that remains true heading into this Sunday’s rematch at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“Really didn’t necessarily talk about what it was we needed to do, but how it happened to us,” Bettcher said Thursday. “That’s kind of the point this week is we cannot allow this team to come in and run the ball on us. That is a very major part of what were talking about defensively and what we know we got to get done.”
The Rams boast the No. 9 rushing offense in the NFL.
It’s spearheaded by Gurley who accounted for 106 of the 197 rushing yards in the first meeting, ending one of the more impressive streaks for the Cardinals’ defense. They had the longest active streak without allowing a 100-yard rusher. It had been 19 games since the last time a player reached the century mark.
“They’re running the ball with a very physical, talented running back. That’s why, as we started the week, it was about stopping the run,” Bettcher said. “We allowed a 100-yard rusher that week for the first time in a long time. We remember that, and we know some of the games he’s had against us. We know we got to go stop the run.”
The Rams haven’t been running the ball nearly as much in recent weeks, gaining 45 and 88 yards in their past two games, respectively. Still, Gurley’s 865 rushing yards rank third in the NFL.
“Everyone being in their gaps. Playing sound football. Everyone doing their job. Don’t try to do anyone else’s job and if everyone can do that, we’ll be totally fine,” linebacker Chandler Jones said.
Offensive line consistency
Of course, the Rams’ running game is aided greatly by their strong offensive line, which has not had one player miss a game all season. They have lined up left tackle Andrew Whitworth, left guard Rodger Saffold, center John Sullivan, right guard Jamon Brown and right tackle Rob Havenstein in each of their 11 games played.
“Must be nice,” center A.Q. Shipley said, smiling.
The Cardinals, by comparison, have had six different five-man combinations.
“I’m jealous (of the Rams),” said offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who will start the same offensive line for a third straight game on Sunday, “Knock on wood, hopefully we can finish with this group right here.”
Adrian Peterson misses practice, again
For a second straight day, running back Adrian Peterson did not practice. He remains sidelined by a neck injury. The Cardinals, though, appear to be simply erring on the side of caution.
“He’s fine,” Goodwin said.
There was also good news on wide receiver Brittan Golden (groin) and defensive lineman Josh Mauro (ankle), both of whom were upgraded to limited, plus defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche (ankle), who went from limited to full participation.
The rest of the Cardinals’ injury report listed tight end Troy Niklas (back/knee) and running back Kerwynn Williams (ribs) as limited.
Wide receiver John Brown (toe), dollar linebacker Deone Bucannon (ankle), safety Rudy Ford (knee) and defensive lineman Corey Peters (ankle) remained out.
Tiger (Woods) watching
After practice, several players gathered to watch some TV. More specifically, they gathered to watch Tiger Woods.
“It’s always good to see Tiger back on TV. One of the greats of all-time. I think it’s good for golf,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said.
Woods was playing competitively for the first time since his most recent back surgery. He shot a 3-under 69 in the first round of the Hero World Challenge.
“It’s a great day, man, to see my boy back out there,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “It brought a lot of excitement. I woke up with a lot of pep in my step this morning knowing I was going to be able to see him play today.”
Fitzgerald, like Peterson, is an avid golfer. He’s never played a round with Woods, but the two have been on the course together.
“First time I actually had anything to do with golf, he was doing The First Tee clinic in Minneapolis,” Fitzgerald said, referring to Woods. “I remember him putting my hands around a club and showing me how to grip the club properly. This is probably mid-to-late ‘90s. My Dad took me out there to a course near my house, and it was pretty cool.”