INGLEWOOD, Calif. (News4usonline) – NFL games can change on a dime. Without any rhyme or reason, the flow of a game can go one way and then flip instantaneously. For the Los Angeles Rams, redoing the makeup of their NFC West Division game against the Arizona Cardinals, went one way in the first half. It went in a different direction in the second half.
“Yeah, it was snaps,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “We didn’t have a third-down conversion in the first half either, so you’re talking about when you get to third downs, and we didn’t have a whole lot of third downs in the second half because we were able to be so efficient on those early downs.”
Yeah, what a difference a half make. The Rams couldn’t muster more than five yards through the first two quarters against the Cardinals in the first of their annual two-game meet and greet for the 2023 NFL season. McVay and the Rams solved that problem in the second half at SoFi Stadium.
After generating a total of three rushes in the first half, the Rams came out in the third quarter and punished the Cardinals with their run game. Kyren Williams led the Rams’ pound-and-ground attack in the second half. The Rams wound up running the ball on consecutive downs, altering the game’s narrative.
Those runs eventually opened things up in the passing game for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford took advantage of the hard-nosed running of Williams to hit wide receiver Cooper Kupp for 13 yards on the team’s opening drive of the third quarter to give the Rams a lead that they would not relinquish. Once the Rams got their first lead of the game, Los Angeles was able to roll to a 26-9 win at SoFi Stadium.
The way the Rams ran the football in the second half allowed the team to improve their record to 3-3 on the season.
“I thought our offensive line, (TE) Tyler Higbee, (RB) Kyren Williams, they did an outstanding job,” McVay said. “To be able to rush for 175 yards in the second half when you have five (yards) going in at halftime…didn’t have many plays. I thought they did a great job of really being able to control the game.”
The Rams kind of sleepwalked their way through the first half of their game against the Cardinals. The stat sheet was not pretty: 5 yards rushing, four first downs, going zero for five on third down efficiency, and a net 123 yards in total offense.
After playing two quarters, the scoreboard read Arizona 9, Rams 6. There wasn’t much to look at or like about the Rams’ offense in the first two quarters. That changed immediately at the beginning of the third quarter when the Rams kept things simple and ran the ball right at the Cardinals. There was nothing fancy about the Rams’ intentions. It was just in-your-face physical football.
“It’s awesome,” Stafford said after the game. “I love it. I was so fired up stepping back into the huddle each time with a run play. Those guys were loving it. I was loving it. It was fun. It wasn’t anything too tricky, just kind of line up and go play ball and I was proud of those guys for the way they played. Both in the pass game and the run game, the guys up front did a really nice job and our backs ran it great and guys on the perimeter blocked.”
In a twitch, Arizona saw the Rams go up on top with a 13-9 advantage. What a contrast to the first half. It took the Rams a little more than six minutes in the third quarter to score their first touchdown of the game. Los Angeles was able to only muster two field goals in the first half.
McVay then unleashed Williams, who wound up rushing for 158 yards on 20 carries. Williams also had a 5-yard touchdown in the Rams’ win.
“He’s a dawg, man,” Rams offensive tackle Alaric Jackson said. “He’s tough guy…He plays super hard, man. We just love him so much, honestly. He’s just a special guy overall.”
For the Rams, the game dramatically shifted once McVay and the Rams offense concentrated on running the football at the Cardinals. With a new attitude in the second half and a lot more emphasis on the run game, the Rams came out and scored 10 points on their first two possessions. Los Angeles would outscore Arizona 20-0 in the second half of the ballgame.
Williams more than made up for the Rams’ lack of a run game in the first half with his dominant downhill running showcase in the third and fourth quarters. His longest run of the day went for 31 yards. Williams would pop a few more runs on his way to a huge afternoon.
As a team, the Rams rushed for 179 yards on 28 carries, a stark contrast to the smidgen rushing totals the team came up with in the first half.
“We got to do a better job stopping the run,” Arizona head coach Jonathan Gannon said. “We talked about that because we were doing well against the past, for the most part, getting them the third down and I thought our third down execution was pretty good. So you could tell that was clear that they said, you know what, let’s try to get it to third and manageable or not even get it to third down on that one drive. We just got to adjust quicker on defense. That’s my job.”
Dennis has covered and written about politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University.