The Rams got the ball to start the game and wasted no time marching down the field for a touchdown when Sam Bradford connected with TE Lance Kendricks in the left-front corner of the end zone to give them an early 7-0 lead. Their initial series was only 5 plays, going 69 yards, with the bulk of it on one 44-yard pass play to WR Danny Amendola. Gotta love play-action.
The Cardinals responded with a much longer, deliberate drive but had to settle for a FG when Kevin Kolb didn’t see a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald for what would have been a very easy throw. Instead, Kolb had made up his mind to throw to the right side before the snap and never looked left.
No harm done as the teams traded a few punts while the defensive lines started to assert themselves over their offensive counterparts. Both quarterbacks were having issues avoiding the rush while making completions and moving their teams. Each also had receivers that weren’t making the same reads and adjusting routes correctly, forcing misfires on a number of downs.
That’s one of the benefits of having a pass rush that can be generated from just the defensive line.
After Rams’ kicker Greg Zuerlein, a rookie from that huge powerhouse Missouri Midwestern State, booted his 4th 50+ yard FG of the season, Cardinals’ rookie Michael Floyd dropped a short pass that would have been a first down and they had to punt again.
The Rams nearly had a great play on the following 3rd and long from the shadow of their own goalpost, but it turned into a play they’d like to forget. After Danny Amendola made a diving catch on a perfectly thrown pass for a first down, the play was challenged and reversed as the ball had slipped out underneath his forearm and hit the ground while he cradled the back end of it. But that’s not the important part.
Amendola then left the game and was taken into the tunnel to go back to the locker room, favoring his right shoulder. A camera caught him with a trainer during the walk-back, and Amendola threw his helmet against the wall with his left arm…while the trainers worried about his right shoulder. While nobody knew for sure what was wrong, Amendola’s reaction was one of someone who knows he was injured. At the time, I was guessing broken collar bone.
The Cards missed a FG and the Rams’ punter got to show off his leg several times with 2 penalties on his punt attempts before he got the third one out of bounds. At the 6 yard line. After 51 yards.
If there’s nothing else I would have taken away from the first half, it’s that the Rams have some strong-legged kickers and punters.
The Cards got the ball to open the second half after Zuerlein beaned an elderly lady in the upper deck with his kickoff for a touchback. The Rams then got the ball back on a punt when the Arizona offense went into beeping mode and lost 5 yards on 3 plays.
I swear, with the offensive futility from both sides, Patrick Peterson’s return ability and rookie punter Johnny Hekker’s leg, the punts were becoming the plays that had you on the edge of your seat. I kid you not. Hekker showed off his leg, outkicking his coverage when not zoning-in on 50+ yard coffin-corner punts. I’m telling you the truth! It’s the first NFL game I can ever remember where I looked forward to the kicking game above anything either team could do offensively.
Sam Bradford then interrupted the kicking reverie with a beautifully-thrown interception to Peterson in the back of the end zone. Peterson went up, got it, and hauled it down while doing the toe-tap dance for a valid catch as momentum carried him through the back.
Suddenly, with 5:06 left in the third quarter, Larry Fitzgerald caught a 14-yard pass that marked the first completion of the second half…for either team. After being sacked once and narrowly avoiding a second in a row, Kolb kept the ball alive and hooked up with Fitzgerald for another 30.
Then, they foolishly tried to run it once more and lost another yard. After that, they inexplicably tried a play-action pass that ended in yet another sack on Kolb.
I’ve gained respect for Kolb tonight just for the punishment he’s endured. Sure, QBs get sacked but he took 8 against the Dolphins last week – with goodness knows how many more hits on him – and by this time the Rams have racked up 7.
No wonder he’s spent so much time injured in his career if he takes so many hits. It isn’t that he’s holding on to the ball too long; he’s just not getting time to throw it. He is really getting thumped out there and the sacks don’t even count the two or three that I saw negated due to roughing penalties.
Finally, another rookie, this time WR Chris Givens of St. Louis, caught a 51-yard bomb from Bradford. After all the punishment that he’d also taken all night, the Rams decided to bash Steven Jackson at them for a while. It worked with moderate success, allowing Givens to get behind the defender and be wide open for an easy pass from his quarterback.
Kolb got to work with 11 minutes to go, completing a 6 yard pass to Fitzgerald which caused the official to throw both his hat and a flag at on their first play. The last play of the drive was a completed pass to Larry Fitzgerald at the 3 yard line where he was tackled on 4th & goal. Yes…it was that kind of game.
The Rams ran it as Hekker lined up to punt from his own end zone.
Jeff Fisher “ices” his own…punter?
Actually, all he did was use a timeout to burn the clock down before telling his rookie punter not to kick it to Peterson.
So after a 55-yard punt to Peterson, the Cardinals set up once again. On 4th and a foot inside the 10, the weirdest thing happened.
Kevin Kolb got sacked.
After Fisher told the rookie not to kick it to Peterson, Peterson returned the punt about 15 yards. Kolb got hit on the next play, fumbled, and the Rams recovered.
Rams win, 17-3. What an oddball game.
It’s the first time the Rams have been above .500 at any time since 2006.