‘Missed opportunities’ for Rams against Cardinals

INGLEWOOD (News4usonline) – Life is about looking at it from a half-full or half-empty perspective. For the Los Angeles Rams, their 37-20 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals can serve either as a motivation tool to get better or become a symbol of stagnation. 

Since he has become head coach of the Rams, Sean McVay is the opposite of stagnation. His mercurial optimism sits on the other side of seeing the glass half-empty. So during his postgame press conference, McVay sounded the alarm that the makeup of his team is not going to be defined by the loss to Arizona. 

Oct. 3, 2021. Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods (2) hauls in this pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford against the Arizona Cardinals. Woods finished the day with four catches for 48 yards and a touchdown in the Rams’ 37-20 loss to Arizona at SoFi Stadium. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“First of all, congratulations to the Cardinals. They did a great job,” McVay said. “I’ve got to be way better for our football team. Make no excuses about it. I didn’t do a good enough job to get our guys ready to go. But fortunately for us, we’ve got a chance on a short week to be able to respond the way that we expect to, the way that we want to. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do moving forward.”

The Rams came into their Sunday matchup against the Cardinals undefeated through the team’s first three games. They dropped this contest simply because their defense had no real answer to stop or slow down Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray from going into his wheelhouse of “wow” plays and putting the Cardinals in a position to score 27 of its point total in the two middle periods.   

During the second and third quarters, Arizona outscored the Rams 27-3. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around the game had been all but decided as the Cardinals led 34-13. 

“I was pretty confident coming into this game with the game plan we had, the week of practice that we put together and probably the best game plan, I think personally, that we’ve had since I’ve been in the league,” Murray said. “So, with that, being confident in all the guys, this team, I was just confident just going out there and letting it ride and the guys did the same. I can’t be more proud of them. As far as being 4-0, I’m trying to go 1-0 each and every week. We did that this week, but we’ve got another good team next week. (I’ll) celebrate this one, but like I said, it’s a tough league, we know that.” 

Oct. 3, 2021. Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson Jr. (27) is on the move against the Arizona Cardinals. Henderson rushed for 89 yards on 14 carries in the Rams’ first defeat of the season. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Even though it’s early, there was a lot riding on this game between the Rams and the Cardinals. Both teams were 3-0. This was the first NFC Conference West (Division) game played by either squad. 

  1. The Rams had beaten the Cardinals eight straight times during the McVay era. The Rams were coming off a huge win against Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champs Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For Murray, going up against the top-ranked defense in 2020, would severely test his playmaking abilities.   

Murray did more than do alright. He excelled. For the game, Murray went 24 of 32 passing for 268 yards and two touchdowns. He also decided to use his magical feet to scramble his way to 39 yards. 

When asked if he saw anything different from Murray than what he’s seen in the past, McVay gave a straightforward reply to that question. 

“No, they did a nice job. But he made some plays,” remarked McVay. “It’s hard to simulate and mimic and emulate the speed he plays with the athleticism, the feel, the instincts. And that was on display today.  And that’s why he’s done such a great job during the first month of the season of playing at such a high level. You got to give him credit.” 

Arizona Cardinals defeat the Los Angeles Rams 37-20
Oct. 3, 2021. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) firing one of his 32 attempted passes against the Los Angeles Rams. In the Cardinals’ 37-20 win, Murray completed 24 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Besides the Houdini act that Murray performed, the game shifted and came down to a couple of plays for the Rams. After going up 3-0 on the game’s opening series, the Rams tried to go big too soon on their second possession. Using a baseball analogy, McVay and his ballclub were looking to hit a home run ball if you will. 

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford tried to hit DeSean Jackson with a deep pass. Unfortunately, the pass was intercepted. That play turned out to be the biggest nonplay on the afternoon for the Rams. It was a missed opportunity for the home team. 

“Yeah, (Byron) Murphy (Jr.) did a nice job of playing it, kind of top down,” Stafford said. “You know, there’s a throw out there that gets completed. The one I picked to try and throw, you know, wasn’t the right one. You know, maybe a little bit more air and further towards the sideline probably.” 

Stafford continued, “I felt like he was on top, so I was kind of trying to drive it there and get it there before he could get there.He did a nice job of making a play. You know, that’s one of those plays going, ‘Man, I wish I would have seen it a little bit different and put it to a different spot.’ DeSean did a good job of getting open. I just got to find the right throw there and get it to him.”

Los Angeles Rams play the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium
Oct. 3, 2021. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) looks for the open receiver against the Arizona Cardinals. Stafford finished the game completing 26 of 41 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

The second and more important game-altering play came in the second quarter with the Rams trailing just 14-10. After Murray connected with Maxx Williams for a 14-yard touchdown, Stafford and the Rams had their chance to answer.

That didn’t happen because running back Sony Michel fumbled on the possession, gift-wrapping another scoring chance for the Cardinals. 

Murray and Arizona took full advantage of the miscue, needing just five plays to put the hammer down and take an 11-point lead (21-10) when James Connor popped into the endzone on a 1-yard touchdown run. Just like the game moved in Arizona’s favor. When it was his turn at the podium to speak, Stafford said the Rams left a lot of football on the field. 

“I think it boils down to early in that game, missing some opportunities, whether it be on third down or in the red zone to score some points against a team that, frankly, was going to be scoring some points on offense,” Stafford said. “A really talented group they have over there. And we knew it was going to have to be one of those games where kind of blow for blow, maybe at a certain point. And we put our defense in a bad spot earlier there not coming away with some points.” 

Featured Image Caption/Credit. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline