In the immortal words of the Evil Emperor Zurg, “We meet again… for the last time.”
Okay, at least for the rest of this season. It would take a major miracle for these teams to meet in the “tournament” as Cardinals running back Beanie Wells calls it. Both are staring down the wrong side of .500 with five weeks to go in the season. The Rams haven’t won a game since beating the Cardinals in week 5 and you’d have to go back another week, to week 4, for Arizona’s last win.
The Cardinals would like to forget that Thursday Night Football game which turned out to be a primetime horror flick for 9-time sackee quarterback Kevin Kolb. The Rams, on the other hand, have already long deleted last year’s (week 12) 20-23 loss courtesy of return man extraordinaire Patrick Peterson and a record setting 228 yard rushing performance by Beanie Wells.
Both struggling teams will welcome back two Wells on Sunday. Cardinals’ running back Wells will be making his return Sunday from a lingering toe injury as will the Rams’ own Scott Wells (center) who is rejoining his offensive line brethren.
A Nice Scott In The Arm
The Rams got some good news this week after a couple of weeks of waiting on center Scott Wells. He will be giving it a go this week against the Cardinals. This gives an ailing offensive line an immediate booster shot. Wells will resume his spot at center which means his stand in Robert Turner will be bumped to guard. What Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said of Wells:
Obviously, there’s a quickness level there. Here’s a guy that has a wrestling background. He’s quick, bunch of experience. I think you put him in there and his ability just to kind of drive the whole ship, take charge and to get on people has been great. I’m real proud of how he’s worked throughout the injury, getting his mind caught up. It will be nice to have him out there this week.
When In Arizona Do As The Cardinals
The Cardinals created six turnovers in one game against the high flying Atlanta Falcons while the Rams haven’t been able to get one in the last five games. Coincidentally, the Rams’ last W came at the same time as their last take-away: week 5 against… yep, the Cardinals. Here is what Coach Fisher saw in the Falcons-Cardinals game from last week.
Yes, there were balls that were deflected on the line of scrimmage, balls were tipped down field and they landed in people’s laps. They had a strip turnover, a strip fumble that was bouncing going out of bounds and one of the Arizona defenders went airborne and threw it back in the field of play to one of his teammates. It was quite a play. They made a lot of plays.
Trying Too Hard
Sometimes I wonder if the Rams defense is trying too hard to force turnovers and losing sight of the bigger picture. Turnovers are the ultimate goal for defenses but if they’re not getting the tackle on the play for the sake of attempting a strip… well, it’s just not sound defensive plan.
Not every team can play take-away like the Chicago Bears (NFC leading +12) week in and week out. Heck, not even the Bears could play like the Bears last week against the 49ers. Bears’ cornerback Peanut Tillman can afford to go rogue because he knows the rest of this team will cover him. The Rams don’t have that support system in place it seems – yet.
Rams defensive players need to stop thinking about forcing take-aways and start reacting naturally. Then they might find “balls land in people’s laps.” Rams Assistant Head Coach Dave McGinnis:
We need to get turnovers. It’s been documented. We’ve knocked six of them out in the last two weeks and haven’t gotten any of them. So, it’s going to start bouncing our way, but we’re continuing to work on it. You continue to stress it and then you’ve got to play your defense. You’ve got to play at an extremely high level. You’ve got to play with speed and you’ve got to go in there and then once you’ve get a chance to get them, you get them. I’m hoping they come in bunches because we need them.
When You’re Not Quite RGIII
The Rams will be facing yet another back up quarterback this week. He’s not a Colin Kaepernick type (thank the Lord) though. Ryan Lindley is the rookie third stringer with 9 completions from 20 attempts for 64 yards under his belt. He’ll be starting over the benched John Skelton. More from McGinnis:
Yes. You’re not dealing with a RGIII, but you’re dealing with a guy that’s got good movement in the pocket, that’s got a got a big arm. You can see on the tape that we have, he can make all of the throws. And again, he doesn’t look like a guy that gets very flustered very easy. You can tell that. He’s got good quarterback presence in the pocket back there when he’s standing to throw and scanning what the defenses are giving him.
Can you say, fresh meat? I bet the Rams defense is hungry.
Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken
This is what Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt got out of their first game against the Rams:
We got down in the game. We were forced to throw it in the second half a little bit and that put us behind the eight ball, especially with their ends and the way they rush and trying to deal with the noise and having some young tackles. They have a good defensive front. Their linebackers are good players and they run a good scheme. It’s going to be another tough game for us. But, you just try to do the best you can in preparation during the week and hopefully we’ll play well Sunday.
There Is No “I” In Team But There Is An “M” And An “E”
I’ve learned over the years that football is the ultimate team sport. The more selfless you are, the more the other guys are able to buy into the program and that’s my whole deal. At this point in my career, I just want to win. I want to be part of a winning program. Through my veteran leadership, I try to give maximum ability each and every play, maximum effort, and take advantage of the opportunities given to me. If they see me do that, I think everyone else will do the same.
Those are the words of the Rams offensive captain running back Steven Jackson. Spoken like a true team leader and professional. But if I’m “Jack” I am demanding for the ball. Me, me, me!
Jack ran like a beast the last two games (101 yards vs. SF and 81 yards vs. NYJ) against two of the top ranked rush defenses. Why wouldn’t you feed him the ball more against the 21st ranked Cardinals? They are allowing on average 119.3 yards per game on the ground.
Oh and it’d be a good idea to throw some balls his way, too. And have Jack in on goal line plays. Novel ideas, I know…
Getting Scott Wells back this week is a great thing. My only concern is has he had enough snaps with his quarterback. In Bradford‘s own words:
I think the biggest thing for me is learning to take snaps from him. Obviously, I’ve taken snaps from (C) Rob (Turner) for the past nine, ten weeks. They snap it in a different way. Just getting comfortable with those again. I don’t think the line calls really should be a problem.
When games hinge on one or two costly mistakes the Rams cannot take for granted even a simple center-to- quarterback snap. At least I don’t.
Will continued mental miscues by the Rams be their undoing again this week in Arizona? (*cringe) I say they will. I’m not sure what it’s going to take to get the Rams out of their penalty funk though. Maybe a good game against the Cardinals is good for what ails them.
1) The Rams will get their first takeaway in since week 5. In fact, they will get two.
2) The Rams will only have a handful of penalties. (Make nice with referee Tony Corrente ahead of time might help, guys.)
3) Kicker Greg Zuerlein will have a good day. At least one field goal over 50 yards. (My fantasy team thanks you in advance.)
4) Steven Jackson will rush for over 100 yards and 1 TD.
5) Punter Johnny Hekker will throw another completed pass on a fake punt. (Yeah, I might be pushing it with that one. I did say bold(ish).
My gut says the Rams squeak this one out 24-17.
They stay undefeated in the division, get their first road game win, and have a happy flight home.
4-6-1. (I will never ever get used to that “-1″ at the end there.)