Behind Enemy Lines: St. Louis Rams head to the Valley to face red-hot Cardinals
Sep 29, 2015, 9:08 AM | Updated: Oct 2, 2015, 1:54 pm
The Arizona Cardinals will face an NFC West division foe for the second time in as many weeks when the St. Louis Rams visit University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday afternoon.
The Rams (1-2) started the season with an impressive 34-31 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks. But things have gone south since. In consecutive losses to Washington and Pittsburgh, the Rams have managed a total of 16 points and have averaged just 235.5 yards of offense.
St. Louis is also facing questions about their defensive reputation. Many around the league are wondering if safety Mark Barron’s hit on Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a cheap shot. Roethlisberger is out for the next 4-to-6 weeks with a knee injury.
The Cardinals swept the Rams last season, and have won three straight in the division rivalry.
All week, we’ll keep you up to date with everything going on in St. Louis as the Rams prepare for a trip to the Cardinals’ nest.
Friday, October 2
But for all the teams that Fitzgerald has posted big statistics against, there’s not one that he has had more success against than the Rams. His 16 receiving touchdowns in 22 games against the Rams are the most by any active player against a single team in the NFL. In addition to those touchdowns, Fitzgerald has averaged 6.2 catches and 74 yards per game against St. Louis.
Because the Rams don’t practice on Thursdays but are still required to provide an injury report, the updates are based on an estimation of how much a player would have participated had there been a practice.
“Oh, absolutely, I’m at the front of it,” Foles said. “I’ve got to play a lot better. That’s me, big time. I’m the one who touches the ball every single play. My job is to make sure the guys are in great position. Make sure as an offense we’re in position. I have to execute better and I have to spread it around and keep pushing the guys. They push me each and every day.”
Now that the question of when St. Louis Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley will make his debut has been answered, the focus has shifted to when Gurley will be ready to take on an expanded role in the offense and offer the production that goes with it.
• Rams, Chargers marriage for Inglewood site may not work (STLToday.com)
Speculation has mounted in recent weeks that perhaps the most palatable solution would be pairing owner Dean Spanos and his San Diego Chargers with Stan Kroenke’s Rams at Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium site.
But such a forced marriage may not be easy, and the reasoning goes deeper than general concerns about the Chargers being a Kroenke “tenant” in Inglewood.
• Barron flourishing in safety/linebacker hybrid role for Rams (STLToday.com)
Barron has had to adjust to role-player status in St. Louis. The hard-hitting safety has participated in 33 percent of the Rams’ defensive plays through three games this season, with 21 snaps apiece against Washington and Seattle, and 29 this past Sunday versus Pittsburgh.
“They’re a lot better,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “The offense goes through him. Once he gets going, everybody else follows along with him. It’s going to be a challenge for us to get to him and keep pressure in his face and try to limit him from making big plays.”
• Run-first Rams’ struggles go beyond the basics (ESPN.com)
The Rams are currently 29th in the NFL in rushing yards despite a run-first approach. What’s the problem then?
Thursday, October 1
• Stan Kroenke now Forbes’ second-wealthiest NFL owner (ESPN.com)
Once again, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke landed on the list and fared quite well. Kroenke is at No. 63 overall and sits second among NFL owners with a net worth of $7.6 billion.
A couple of key starters didn’t practice for the St. Louis Rams on Wednesday. Linebacker James Laurinaitis and wide receiver Kenny Britt did not participate for the second day in a row, though the Rams don’t seem too concerned on either front.
For the second consecutive year, Ogletree had wrested the team’s tackles lead from middle linebacker James Laurinaitis and made his share of contributions in coverage with two interceptions and 11 pass breakups. He even chipped in four forced fumbles, down from the six of his rookie season but still an impressive total.
• Fasten those seat belts: Rams heading into No Fly Zone (StlToday.com)
The Cardinals don’t just have a knack for getting an interception; they do something with the football once they grab it. To wit, Arizona has scored 12 defensive touchdowns since the start of the ‘13 season, an NFL best.
• Jim Thomas: Can Rams slow down the Cardinals offense? (StlToday.com)
Can the Rams slow down the high-flying Cardinals offense? The Post-Dispatch’s Jim Thomas tells CineSport what the Rams must do to hand the Cardinals their first loss of the season on Sunday.
• Rams notebook: Gurley looking forward to his next chance (StlToday.com)
In his Monday visit with the media, Rams coach Jeff Fisher talked about how close rookie running back Todd Gurley was to breaking free for a big play.
• No Excuses For Rams. Just Look at Arizona (101Sports.com)
Instead of winning more frequently in their third and fourth seasons under Fisher-Snead, the Rams have gone in the other direction. They’re losing more often, having dropped five of their last six games since late last season. They’re 7-12 since the beginning of 2014, mostly held back by a stagnant offense.
• Rams exec on relocation: No matter what ‘we are letting down’ fans (St. Louis Business Journal)
St. Louis Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff said he feels he’s let fans down this year, as the team’s owner, Stan Kroenke, appears adamant on moving the franchise to Los Angeles.
Wednesday, September 30
On Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks took a page out of the St. Louis Rams’ special-teams playbook—or at least one play. In a 0-0 game about midway through the first quarter, the Seahawks fooled the Bears with some misdirection on a punt return.
• The Rams and the NFL’s penalty problem (ESPN.com)
The Rams have 17 accepted penalties over the first three weeks, which is tied with four teams for seventh-fewest in the league. Tampa Bay and Oakland, with 33 a piece, are the most penalized teams through the first three games.
• Rams release former second-round pick Isaiah Pead (ESPN.com)
Pead’s time with the Rams was tumultuous at best, and he’ll likely be best remembered by Rams fans as the guy who cost the team a shot at linebacker Bobby Wagner.
• Rams’ William Hayes: Philanthropist and Class Clown (101Sports.com)
Ask Chris Long who his funniest teammate is and you’ll hear William Hayes’ name without pause. In fact, Long will go a step further.
• St. Louis Rams: Last Place Offense Needs To Open Up Playbook (NFL Spin Zone)
The numbers have been less than stellar for Nick Foles and the Rams, totaling just 274.3 yards per game – a full 11 yards less than the Philadelphia Eagles who occupy the 31st worst offensive spot. The Rams are also just 10-of-33 on 3rd down conversions, only ahead of Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
Tuesday, September 29
• Failure to keep pace cost Rams against Steelers (ESPN.com)
The Rams fared pretty well in two of the three areas to watch but this is the one that they weren’t able to earn a mostly positive mark in. After struggling to sustain drives and move the ball consistently, the Rams hoped to fare better against Pittsburgh’s defense. They couldn’t.
One thing worth noting here is that nobody is accusing Barron of intentionally trying to injure Roethlisberger. Anyone who has seen the replay can see that Barron got tangled up and stumbled toward Roethlisberger before rolling into his leg. Under the letter of the law, there’s room for debate on whether the hit should have garnered a flag.
It was Laurinaitis’ second tackle of the drive and No. 916 in his six-plus years in the league, moving him into first-place on the franchise’s all-time list ahead of legendary defensive tackle Merlin Olsen.
• Jeff Fisher’s Rams are Heading the Wrong Way (101Sports.com)
The Rams put Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of the competition and in search of crutches with a painful and unfortunate third-quarter knee injury … and still could not find a way to step over his fallen body to find a way to win the day.
• A look ahead for the Rams (STLToday.com)
The Rams, off to a 1-2 start, face another major challenge Sunday when they travel to the desert to take on the red-hot Arizona Cardinals in a 3:25 p.m. game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals (3-0) destroyed visiting San Francisco 47-7 Sunday, posting the franchise’s largest margin of victory since the St. Louis-based Big Red blasted the Houston Oilers 44-0 back on Nov. 1, 1970. On Sunday, the Cardinals set the tone early as defensive backs Justin Bethel and Tyrann Mathieu put the home team on top 14-0 with”pick-6’’ returns in the game’s opening minutes. Carson Palmer completed 20 of 32 passes for 311 yards with two touchdowns, Larry Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 134 yards and two scores and Chris Johnson ran for 110 yards and two TDs.
• Fisher: Rams a couple of plays away from 3-0 (STLToday.com)
Perhaps Rams coach Jeff Fisher has a special set of glasses. Because after two tough losses, and with an offense that ranks dead last in the NFL, Fisher says he sees improvement from his 1-2 squad.
• Monday Wrap-Up: Improving on 3rd Down (stlouisrams.com)
The Rams struggled offensively on Sunday against the Steelers, and a significant indicator is the club’s third-down efficiency.
St. Louis converted only 2-of-10 third-down opportunities. It was the second week in a row the Rams only made two third downs, as they were 2-of-12 against Washington in Week 2.
“Our issue is third-down offense,” Fisher said. “Converting third downs and then making plays in the plus territory — touchdowns rather than field goals.”
• Rams last in offense after dismal showing in Week 3 (FoxSports.com)
They’re last in total offense, 29th in rushing and 28th in passing. They’ve struggled on third down the past two games, going 4 for 22, the biggest reason they’ve had 16 points in that span after an impressive debut overtime victory over Seattle.