Cardinals vs. Rams: Takeaways from Arizona's 27-24 Loss to St. Louis
The Cardinals (0-1) held the ball for 31:25, but the Rams (1-0) got to quarterback Carson Palmer four times—we will get into both of those points and much more.
Bruce Arians cannot be pleased with how left tackle Levi Brown played. He allowed three sacks to defensive end Robert Quinn and was called for holding in the third quarter.
Here are some takeaways from the Cardinals' game in St. Louis.
Levi Brown Is Not a Long-Term Answer at LT
He plays well in the run game, but against premier pass-rushers, Brown is downright frustrating to watch.
The three sacks allowed to Quinn halted two drives (Brown surrendered two of the three on the opening drive), and the holding call nearly derailed another. Brown was so overmatched at times by Quinn it felt like last season all over again.
The rest of the offensive line did its job for the most part, but Brown’s poor play cost the team dearly.
Carson Palmer Can Get It Done
There was a third-quarter interception and he was sacked four times, but Carson Palmer’s Cardinals debut was about as good as one would expect.
The veteran completed 26 of 40 passes for 327 yards, two touchdowns (both to Larry Fitzgerald) and the aforementioned pick for a 96.6 passer rating.
He led the team to converting 7-of-14 on third down, including four conversions of five yards or greater.
It’s a step in the right direction for the Cardinals, who were the worst offense in the NFL last season.
Larry Fitzgerald Is Back
An eight-catch, 80-yard, two-touchdown performance from Fitzgerald should bring hope to fantasy owners who faithfully drafted him this season.
Palmer found Fitz early and often Sunday, and despite the loss, good things are ahead for the tandem.
His performance ties Anquan Boldin for the all-time franchise record of games with at least eight receptions and at least two touchdowns. They both now have five such games, according to ProFootballReference.
Fitzgerald could be on his way to a huge season.
The Other Receivers Will Be Big Part of Offense in 2013
It’s true that Fitzgerald had a solid afternoon. He was not the leading receiver, however. In fact, he finished third in receiving yards.
Andre Roberts—the team’s starting slot receiver—led the Cardinals with eight receptions for 97 yards (12.1 yards per catch). While he did not score, Roberts converted at least three key third downs on multiple scoring drives. Without him, the score could have been worse than the field-goal deficit.
Then, there’s Michael Floyd. He caught just four passes Sunday, but his 82 yards and 20.5 YPC are reason for hope. The second-year receiver also had a highlight-reel catch on the first play of the second quarter, going up for a deep jump ball with a defender on his back and hauling it in with one hand.
One other thing: Of the receivers who caught a pass Sunday, Fitzgerald’s 10.0 yards-per-catch average was the lowest. Only running back Rashard Mendenhall’s 4.0 YPC (1 reception, 4 yards) was lower.
Rashard Mendenhall Can Carry the Load
He carried 16 times for 60 yards (3.8 yards per carry), and though he did not score, Mendenhall’s day was a success for the simple but important reason that he proved he can hold up over the course of the game.
His offensive line blocked well all day for him, but even when there was not a hole through which to run, Mendenhall found room to squeeze out as much as possible.
Alfonso Smith served as Mendenhall’s backup instead of Ryan Williams (who was inactive), and he gained just 26 yards on 10 carries (2.6 YPC). There were a couple of solid runs from Smith, but he is not the same caliber running back Mendenhall is—that much is certain.
Mendenhall should have a good first season in Arizona, health permitting.
Lack of Pass Rush Haunts Defense
Giving former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford all day to throw leads to exactly what happened Sunday afternoon.
Bradford completed 27-of-38 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a 100.7 passer rating. He was not sacked, and at times, it appeared as though he literally could have stood there in the pocket all day waiting for a receiver to flash open.
While it’s just Week 1 and there is no need to panic, something should be done to shake up the pass rush if the defense’s allergy to quarterbacks continues.
Tyrann Mathieu Does Not Play Like a Rookie
Rookie defensive back Tyrann Mathieu played his first career NFL game as though he were a veteran who has been there and done that. He was called for pass interference early while covering fellow rookie Tavon Austin, but other than that, he was very good.
The highlight came in the first quarter after Rams tight end Jared Cook torched linebacker Karlos Dansby and was racing toward the end zone with no one close to him.
Mathieu, who had been covering Austin from the slot, raced to catch Cook inside the 5-yard line and poked the ball away just before he crossed the goal line. Dansby recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.
His ability to cover receivers from the slot is good enough, but the instincts to get back for the sole purpose of forcing a fumble is beyond impressive.
Daryl Washington Was Missed
Dansby and fellow inside linebacker Jasper Brinkley did all they could Sunday, but they are simply not good enough in coverage to stop a star tight end.
That was evidenced by Cook’s seven receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns (and easily should have been three TDs). While Daryl Washington is not great in covering tight ends, he has the speed to stay with the most athletic of them—which is just where Dansby and Brinkley struggle. Neither can keep up with receiving tight ends, and that showed against Cook.
With the Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all upcoming before Washington can play again, things could get ugly for this corps of linebackers (fantasy tight end owners take notice).