Cardinals must take advantage of Rams QB Matthew Stafford’s mistakes
TEMPE — Here we are again.
The first divisional game of the season for the Arizona Cardinals.
The first certainly isn’t the easiest one, either, with the Los Angeles Rams coming to town in Week 3.
And we all now what happened the last time these two teams met up.
Los Angeles represents the gold standard in the league this year after its Super Bowl victory this past February.
But that doesn’t mean this team isn’t without its flaws, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
The defense takes, the offense gives.
Despite seven takeaways defensively, the Rams are barely in the green in turnover differential thanks in large part to a league-leading five interceptions from quarterback Matthew Stafford.
For coordinator Vance Joseph and the defense, the Week 3 tilt comes down to staying aggressive in early-down situations, as all five of Stafford’s picks have happened on first or second down. Then, it’s winning on third down and in the red zone, where all four of the QB’s four scores have come from in 2022.
“NFL games are always down to turnovers, especially when you’re playing good people like the Rams,” Joseph said Thursday. “You can’t give them more opportunities than they should have and giving them short fields won’t help us at all.
“And obviously us taking the ball away would help our offense with short fields and giving them more chances. The ball is the game and if you can take it away, that’s always a good thing for your team.”
But a lot like last week, a Cardinals victory will largely come down to containing — not stopping — the opponent’s top receiving option.
When it comes down to his body control, route running, ball skills or blocking ability, Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp excels across the board.
As Joseph put it Thursday, “he’s not lacking anything.”
Through two games this season, Kupp is averaging 118 yards per game to go along with three touchdowns and 24 catches (29 targets). He has accounted for 14 first downs (second among NFL pass catchers) and has tallied four receptions of at least 20 yards.
Even when you think he’s covered, Kupp finds a way to make things happen.
Kupp’s production will likely be correlated by Byron Murphy Jr.’s Sunday afternoon. Murphy is coming off a big performance against Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams where he limited the All-Pro wideout to just two catches for 12 yards and a touchdown.
With his confidence threw the roof, the cornerback more than welcomes the opportunity to go up against another one of the NFL’s best.
“He takes pride in wanting to go against the best guy each and every week,” Cardinals safety Budda Baker said Thursday. “His rookie year, Patrick Peterson was here so he definitely was able to learn from him and now that he’s a few years in, he’s trying to be that guy.
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“He wants that matchup each and every week, week in and week out and the sky’s limit for that guy and I’m excited to see what he’s going to be doing this week as well.”
Kupp is definitely public enemy No. 1 for the Cardinals on Sunday, but he isn’t the only Rams weapon Arizona has to contend with.
After a lackluster showing in Week 1, first-year Ram Allen Robinson hit pay dirt last week in the team’s narrow win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The wideout hasn’t flashed like many thought he would have early in his Rams tenure, but Robinson does possess the qualities of a No. 1 option given his resume in Chicago and Jacksonville.
Arizona could have a few ways to handle Robinson, however. Aside from Marco Wilson matching up with the wide receiver, trade acquisition Trayvon Mullen could make his Cardinals debut in Week 3 after practicing fully on Wednesday.