It wasn’t pretty.
A win is a win is a win, but this win came littered with penalties and numbers that need to be corrected going forward. It’s the best possible learning experience: plenty of bad tape for teaching moments without having to tally one up in the loss column.
The inactives included Darian Stewart, Quinton Pointer, Jonathan Stewart, Cory Harkey, Barrett Jones, Brandon Washington and Gerald Rivers.
Sam Bradford completed 13 of 19 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He looked decisive overall—displaying some nice zip on several throws—but also inexplicably overthrew 6’5” Jared Cook in single coverage, preventing him from having even more production.
Cook had his man beat, and Daryl Richardson had plenty of midfield real estate to work with.
In the third quarter, Bradford threw a bad pick-six to Cardinals nose tackle Dan Williams inside his own five.
He finished with 299 yards, two touchdowns and that interception on 27-of-38 passing for a 100.7 passer rating. He also fumbled the ball once.
Bradford threw for 14 first downs, as the Rams converted 4-of-11 in third-down situations.
Daryl Richardson’s numbers against the Arizona Cardinals didn’t look so great, but he made some plays that were sorely needed. His trademark burst was still there, and he stuck his nose into a pass-rusher for a block that opened up a big defensive pass interference call in favor of Tavon Austin.
Richardson also recovered a Bradford third-down fumble, which allowed Johnny Hekker to punt the ball away. He finished with 96 total yards (63 rushing, 33 receiving) on 25 touches (20 rushes, five receptions; six targets).
Those aren’t impressive averages (3.2 yards per carry, 6.6 yards per catch), but Richardson contributed admirably elsewhere. Zac Stacy added one carry for four yards.
Chris Givens caught a Bradford dime on a comeback route, beating Patrick Peterson on the sideline. It turned out to be one-third of his targets on the day. Givens finished with two catches for 27 yards.
Austin caught six of his seven looks for 41 yards and had one rush for a loss of one.
Austin Pettis and Brian Quick each caught half of their targets and finished with 16 yards, but Pettis was targeted six times. Quick was thrown to just twice.
Lance Kendricks contributed a nice, tough run after the catch in the first half, trucking defenders on his way to set up Cook’s subsequent reception. Bradford threw a laser to Cook, who then turned and sprinted up the middle of the field with his first touchdown as a St. Louis Ram in mind.
Tyrann Mathieu had other ideas.
The Honey Badger bailed on Austin when the throw was made, closed in on Cook and—Superman-style—punched the football out of his possession. The play ended in a touchback.
Cook atoned for the error with a pair of touchdowns to go with his seven catches for 141 yards. He was targeted 10 times on the afternoon. Kendricks caught three passes (four targets) for 25 yards.
If Cook hadn’t fumbled away that surefire score, this position group would easily be worthy of an A.
The offensive line was responsible for stalling the St. Louis Rams’ first drive, incurring penalties by bookend tackles Jake Long (holding) and Rodger Saffold (false start). It was able to recover in time to put together a game-tying drive near the end of the first half, despite injury scares to both linemen.
Bradford was allowed to stay pretty clean, even without Saffold at times. He wasn’t sacked at all, but he was hit five times.
Richardson, however, started strong, but was only able to amass 3.2 yards per carry. The Rams weren’t playing from ahead, either. St. Louis averaged 2.8 yards per tote and 7.9 yards per pass attempt as a team.
Robert Quinn, Chris Long and the St. Louis Rams defensive line had the biggest mismatch coming into their matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. They took advantage of it early and often, as Quinn recorded two sacks and a forced fumble on Carson Palmer in the first quarter.
They also made things tough for Rashard Mendenhall, who frequently had to work through contact in the backfield.
The Rams got four sacks and two batted balls from their linemen, who were the stars of the day.
The Rams linebackers were gang-tackling on Sunday.
Alec Ogletree almost found himself on SportsCenter’s “Not Top 10” by committing a huge rookie mistake: allowing Andre Roberts to get up after making a diving catch without being downed.
He tied for the team tackles lead in his first appearance, contributing seven solo takedowns. James Laurinaitis added six tackles, a pass deflection and a QB hit, and Will Witherspoon chipped in two tackles.
The Arizona Cardinals averaged 3.3 yards per rush on 26 carries.
The first half was marked by a ridiculous amount of cushion afforded to Arizona's wide receivers by the St. Louis Rams’ defensive backs. That’s a philosophical coaching point, so it’s a bit misguided to blame the players for Palmer’s success—especially in the first half—but Palmer was shredding the Rams’ coverage.
Palmer went 14-of-19 passing for 204 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
Things turned around in the third quarter, when the Rams were finally allowed to get within arm’s length of the big-bodied Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Palmer’s first three second-half passes fell incomplete, and his third was an interception.
That’s what’s supposed to happen when the big boys up front are dominating. The pendulum may have swung too far the other way, though, as Cortland Finnegan added another personal foul to his resume once he got a shot at Fitzgerald.
And Fitzgerald worked him over, anyway. So did Floyd.
Fitzgerald caught eight of 14 targets for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Floyd finished with 82 yards on four catches (six targets). Andre Roberts led the team in receiving, catching eight of his nine looks for 97 yards.
Trumaine Johnson’s momentous interception is the only reason this grade isn’t lower than it is.
The special teams unit kept things interesting for the St. Louis Rams early, creating favorable starts for the defense. Hekker boomed his first punt—which Mike McNeill seemingly recovered at the 1-yard line—into the end zone. The kickoff coverage was aided by Darren Bates in the first half, though.
Bates brought Javier Arenas down at the eight on the only non-touchback kick of the half.
An ill-advised Eugene Sims taunting penalty in the fourth quarter put the Rams in a poor position to get ahead on the scoreboard. They had 95 yards of real estate to cover in a tie game with just about five minutes to go.
William Hayes’ unnecessary roughness preceded Sims’ flag. The most concerning thing about those two penalties is that they were committed by 27-year-old and 28-year-old veterans.
Fortunately, Hayes was in on the sack that iced the game in St. Louis’ favor.
Benny Cunningham returned two kicks for 46 yards. Austin returned one punt for one yard.
Greg Zuerlein was 4-of-4 from the field and converted his PAT. Hekker covered 147 yards on three punts.
Jamal Collier graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and is now a law student who covers the St. Louis Rams in his spare time. His work also appears on Yahoo!. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @JCollierD