The 5: Things that stood out in Arizona Cardinals’ MNF loss to Rams
There’s quite a bit to unpack when taking a closer look at the Arizona Cardinals’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football.
The 30-23 defeat on the national stage is certainly one to flush, with Arizona unable to get out of its own way paired with some upped play from Los Angeles.
While the Cardinals look to bounce back with just six days before they battle the Detroit Lions, let’s take a look at what stood out in the team’s MNF loss:
Jalen Ramsey’s absence not felt
If you were to take a quick glance at wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ stats from Monday, it would appear cornerback Jalen Ramsey won that battle.
Too bad the cornerback didn’t even play after being placed on the COVID-19 list ahead of the contest.
Though he was targeted a team-high 12 times, Hopkins reeled in just five balls for 54 yards and no scores.
Adding to the woes, Hopkins dropped a crucial 4th-and-2 ball deep in Rams territory in the latter part of the third quarter before he was seen visibly shaken up after taking a hard hit in the end zone on the team’s penultimate drive.
That would mark the end of Hopkins’ night as he did not make it back onto the field for the team’s last ditch effort at a comeback.
After the game, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said he did not have an update on Hopkins.
“I’m not exactly sure what it was,” the head coach said postgame. “It didn’t appear too serious, but I have to check on that.”
Leading the way among Cardinals wideouts was A.J. Green, who caught seven receptions for 102 yards.
Cardinals lose the battle of the trenches on both sides
Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald could not be denied Monday night.
After posting just four tackles in Los Angeles’ first meeting with Arizona, the lineman was back to his disruptive ways in Week 14.
Donald posted three sacks throughout the evening, recording one on the first and last play from scrimmage, to go along with three QB hits, three tackles for loss and a pass deflection that resulted in an interception.
Even more glaring is the defensive lineman’s 11 hurries, bringing his total pressures on the night to 14, a new season high for Donald. He posted eight pressures in Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts.
On the other side of the football, Arizona’s pass rush didn’t put together a full four quarters, allowing quarterback Matthew Stafford to sit back and complete 76.7% of his passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns. He also didn’t turn the ball over in back-to-back games for a just the second time all season, something that has plagued the QB in 2021.
The duo of Chandler Jones and Markus Golden combined for just three pressures throughout the night, with the former picking up a sack.
Cooper Kupp carves up Cardinals secondary after Week 4 dud
Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp’s only off night this season came in Week 4 against the Cardinals.
The loss marked his worst showing of 2021, catching five of his 13 targets for 64 yards and no touchdowns. It’s the only time this season the wideout hasn’t caught at least seven balls and 92 yards.
He and Stafford made sure that wasn’t the case on Monday night, with Kupp reeling in 13 catches (15 targets) for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Even when Cardinals corners like Byron Murphy Jr. or Marco Wilson seemed to have the jump on a route or have Kupp blanketed, the wide receiver found a way to get open and make the catch more times than not.
With Arizona keeping an additional eye on Kupp, that allowed Stafford’s other pass catchers to make an impact, with both Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson also adding touchdowns.
What can’t James Conner do?
Most of this exercise has been about what the Cardinals fell short in on Monday Night Football.
But if there was one bright spot on the loss, it was the play of running back James Conner, who kept the chains moving with his abilities as a rusher and receiver.
That's just James 🤷♂️@JamesConner_ x #ProBowlVote pic.twitter.com/FXxglxouAH
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) December 14, 2021
The RB found pay dirt twice on the ground while adding a team-high nine catches for 94 yards as a pass catcher.
For an offense that couldn’t quite maintain a rhythm, Conner proved to be the unit’s lone constant throughout the night.
“I just … did my job as always, that’s my main focus when I take the field is just one play at a time, just trying to put the ball in the right spots and be in the right spots for the check down,” Conner said after the game.
“Just so happened to have a couple catches, a couple runs but it’s just doing my job. Football’s 11-on-11.”
In it until the end
For as much that went wrong on Monday Night Football, the Cardinals stuck around from start to finish.
Penalties and turnovers derailed drives offensively, while the defense sputtered against Stafford in Round 2, yet the game still came down to the final 30 seconds and an onside kick. But much like the rest of the game, the Cardinals were right there to shoot themselves in the foot with back-to-back penalties and a Murray sack to end the game just when things seemed to flipping in their favor.
Even being down as many as 14 heading into the fourth quarter, the team showed its no-quit mentality and nearly came away with a comeback for the ages.
There’s obviously a lot that needs cleaned up over the next week of practice, but being able to hang with a playoff contender like the Rams in a inconsistent game is at least some sort of silver lining heading into Week 15.