What worked? A look at how the Cardinals upended the Rams in Week 4
The Arizona Cardinals may have fallen short of their goal of winning the NFC West, but they still have a shot at knocking out the division winners in the Wild Card round on Monday.
For the third time this season, the Cardinals will square off against the Los Angeles Rams.
The last meeting between the two went in favor of Los Angeles, but Arizona put together a winning formula against the Rams early on in 2021.
While there are obvious things to consider, such as injuries and roster changes, here’s what went well in the Cardinals’ 37-20 win over the Rams in Week 4:
Running with authority
When a healthy ground game finds success, the Cardinals are a hard team to contend with.
In the Week 4 win, running backs James Conner and Chase Edmonds were forces to be reckoned with, as the former bullied his way to two touchdowns, while the latter posted 120 yards on the ground on just 10 carries.
Quarterback Kyler Murray also provided the offense with another pair of legs, adding 39 yards on six attempts.
The successful rushing attack helped give Murray more advantageous looks through the air. He threw for two touchdowns and 268 yards on 75% passing (24-of-32).
Converting when it counted
Arizona had little trouble keeping drives alive in Los Angeles.
When the dust settled, the Cardinals converted eight of their 13 third-down tries for an impressive 62%. On the year, Arizona successfully converts 45.2% of the time.
The sustained drives translated into 37 points, with all but two drives out of the team’s nine resulting in at least a field goal before kneeling in the fourth quarter.
In Arizona’s second meeting against Los Angeles, it was successful on 53% of its third-down attempts, but was only able to put some form of points on the board on five out of 11 drives.
Avoiding the big shots
The name of the game is keeping Los Angeles’ playmakers in check.
While that’s easier said than done, the Cardinals defense largely accomplished the feat back in October, allowing just three plays of at least 20 yards throughout the contest, none of which resulted in a touchdown.
In the Cardinals’ week 14 loss, the defense was on the hook for five plays of more than 20 yards, one being a 52-yard touchdown to Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford has rejuvenated his career since joining Los Angeles this offseason. He has also had his rough patches.
He may have tossed 41 regular-season touchdowns, but he was also on the hook for 17 interceptions — tied for the most in the NFL this season — and five fumbles in 2021, with cornerback Byron Murphy coming away with one of those picks in Week 4.
Arizona’s defense had steady pressure throughout the matchup despite not picking up a sack, recording five QB hits in the victory.
Stafford wasn’t the only Ram to cough up the football, either, with running back Sony Michel fumbling in the second quarter.
When the Cardinals got down to the nitty-gritty, they found pay dirt more times than not in Week 4, converting three of five red zone trips (60%) into touchdowns.
In Arizona’s loss in Week 14, the offense turned two of four drives into touchdowns.