WHEN THE RAMS HAVE THE BALL
With Bradford (1177 passing yards, 3 TD, 2 INT) out another week, Jackson (449 rushing yards, 16 receptions, 5 total TD) threw the Rams’ 28th ranked offense on his shoulders and put together his best outing of the season. Jackson’s two-touchdown effort took a lot of pressure off Feeley (392 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), who threw for 175 yards on 20-of-37 passing while getting sacked four times. Arizona does have a decent run defense, so whomever is St. Louis’ quarterback this week may need to make more plays. Having wide receiver Brandon Lloyd in the mix will help that. Playing in his second game since being acquired in a trade with the Broncos, Lloyd (31 receptions, 410 yards, 1 TD) was targeted 13 times against New Orleans and made a team-leading six catches for 53 yards. One of those was an eight-yard scoring throw from Feeley near the end of the first half. With Alexander (16 receptions, 1 TD), one of St. Louis’ leading receivers, out, rookie Greg Salas (20 receptions) added five receptions for 47 yards and Jackson made four grabs for another 32. Wideout Brandon Gibson (19 receptions, 1 TD) turned two catches into 27 yards, showing that the Rams like to spread the ball out.
Arizona’s disappointing loss last weekend was not without plays from the defense, but the unit had no answer for the Ravens in the second half. The Cardinals allowed 156 yards in the first half, but yielded 249 yards along with 24 points over the final two quarters. With linebacker Joey Porter (16 tackles, 1 sack) out with a knee injury, rookie Sam Acho (9 tackles, 2 sacks) got his first NFL start in the loss and finished with six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, while fellow backup O’Brien Schofield (12 tackles, 1.5 sacks) also had a sack that resulted in a fumble that led to a score. Cornerback Richard Marshall (30 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT) notched an interception, but was part of a secondary that failed to contain former Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who logged seven catches for 145 yards. That secondary also remains without safety Kerry Rhodes (24 tackles, 2 sacks) due to a foot injury, with his replacement Rashad Johnson (19 tackles) leading the way with eight tackles last Sunday. Rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson (32 tackles, 1 INT) also struggled in coverage last week and will likely be tested again in this game. Arizona’s run defense, led by tackle Darnell Dockett (21 tackles) and linebacker Daryl Washington (36 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT), ranks 15th in the league with 113.1 yards allowed per game, though the Cards are yielding 277.6 yards through the air per game.
WHEN THE CARDINALS HAVE THE BALL
Arizona will be thankful to see the Rams’ 30th-ranked defense this weekend after facing the league’s top-ranked unit in each of previous two games. After taking on Pittsburgh in Week 7, the Cardinals logged just 207 yards versus Baltimore, using some turnovers and an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown from Peterson to rack up points. The game ball definitely belonged to Wells (506 rushing yards, 7 TD) after he gutted out 83 yards with a touchdown on 22 carries, and the Cardinals needed every yard due to Kolb’s injury. Kolb (1706 passing yards, 8 TD, 8 INT) was sacked six times and completed just 10 of his 21 pass attempts for 153 yards in the game. He was also picked off once while finding Early Doucet (28 receptions, 3 TD) for a touchdown through the air. There’s little doubt the Cardinals will try again to get Larry Fitzgerald (34 receptions, 2 TD) involved this week. The perennial Pro Bowler had 98 yards on just three catches versus the Ravens and is sure to draw most of the attention from the Rams’ secondary. That could open up the door for Doucet, wide receiver Andre Roberts or tight end Jeff King (14 receptions, 2 TD) to make some plays. King had three catches last weekend as Todd Heap (13 receptions) missed the game with a hamstring issue and fellow tight end Rob Housler suffered a groin injury during the game. Also of concern is an ankle issue sustained by rookie Anthony Sherman, the only listed fullback on the team’s depth chart before Reagan Maui’a was signed on Tuesday.
The Rams will look to dial up the pressure again this weekend after recording six sacks last Sunday versus the Saints. Defensive end Chris Long (14 tackles, 6 sacks) had three of those, a career high, while defensive tackle Fred Robbins (12 tackles, 1 sack) and rookie end Robert Quinn (6 tackles, 2 sacks) also had quarterback takedowns. Quinn also came up with a blocked punt late in the first half.
Linebacker James Laurinaitis (57 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) had the team’s other sack and led the Rams with 10 tackles, while cornerback Josh Gordy (14 tackles) started in place of an injured Justin King (30 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and posted seven tackles in addition to his first career interception. Stewart (37 tackles) ended with six tackles and another backup, cornerback Marquis Johnson, had four stops. Chris Chamberlain (24 tackles, 1 sack) got his third straight start at weakside linebacker and posted three tackles in the win. St. Louis’ 32nd-ranked run defense limited New Orleans to 56 yards on 20 attempts, an average of 2.8 yards per carry, though the Saints did get one of their two touchdowns on the ground. With Wells’ among the league leaders in rushing scores, Laurinaitis and safety Quintin Mikell (43 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) will need to have their unit ready to stop the run.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Whether it’s Kolb or Skelton, the Cardinals need to find a way to get Fitzgerald the ball. The playmaker has caught 12 touchdowns over his last 13 games versus the Rams, with that total representing his best against any single opponent.
The Rams were able to get pressure on the Saints last week and will look to take advantage of a troublesome Cardinals offensive line. The entire unit struggled versus the Ravens and Whisenhunt is still deciding whether Brandon Keith or Jeremy Bridges will start at right tackle. Both had problems a week ago.
All eyes should be on how the inexperienced Rams secondary performs for a second straight week. The unit should be full of confidence after containing Drew Brees and isn’t likely to be intimidated by Arizona’s options under center.
Prediction – It looked last week like the Cards were on the verge of a huge uplifting upset in Baltimore, up 24-3 at one point. Then, in usual Cardinal fashion, the wheels came off in the second half and they lost on the last play of the game. Now they host the Rams, who are feeling good after a win over the Saints at home. The gameplan will again be Steven Jackson carrying the load, and that should be enough for the Rams to get to 2-6. St.Louis 20 Arizona 13