PFF ReFo: Cardinals @ Rams, Wk 5
ReFo: Cardinals @ Rams, Wk 5
Ben Stockwell | 2012/10/05
It had to happen eventually and, as their offense surrendered its 17th sack in two weeks, the Arizona Cardinals finally tumbled to their first defeat of the season. Their 4-0 start was nothing short of miraculous considering the standard of their offense at times this season, but for once their defense couldn’t keep the game close enough for some more late-game heroics. As good as your defense is, if you can’t run the ball and can’t protect your quarterback, then your foes will eventually catch up with you.
Instead, the Rams stole the Cardinals’ blueprint. They jumped out to an early lead and did just enough to hang on as the Cardinals were forced to pass the ball and expose their weakness in pass protection.
Arizona – Three Performances of Note
Struggles Continue Up Front
There couldn’t be any other headline for the Cardinals from this game other than their offensive line. As much as their defense continues to impress, this was the first week that they couldn’t overcome the breaks that this offensive line put on the rest of the team. If you look at the cumulative offense page for the Arizona Cardinals in our Premium Stats section you will find three members of the Cardinals’ offensive line sporting extremely disappointing overall grades. In terms of context, only four teams in 2011 had a worse offensive ranking at year’s end than the Cardinals do right now. The three worst offenders, Bobby Massie, D’Anthony Batiste, and Adam Snyder were in their customary level of performance this week as well. Each player allowed at least five pressures and both Batiste and Snyder accounted for a trio of sacks allowed apiece. Of those three, it was only Massie who even looked halfway decent as a run blocker, as he accrued a +1.1 grade after the Cardinals picked up 4.3 yards per carry off his right hip. The Cardinals were dealt a serious blow in the preseason when they lost Levi Brown to injury, but it is becoming apparent that their backups were simply not up to the job. Surely it is time for them to scour the list of street free agents (or engineer a trade) to try and find an upgrade, or at least some competition, at tackle.
The Star of Washington Rises in the West
Lost in the imbalance that has been the Cardinals’ opening to the season is that Daryl Washington has put in a strong start. The focus has been on the struggles of the offense, and the likes of Patrick Peterson and Calais Campbell leading the defense, but Washington is the beating heart of this defense. With another sack this week, Washington now leads the team with five and with a run defense grade of +7.6 is among the best inside linebackers in the league. His six pressures last night were the second most of his three year career (after his seven in Week 10 last season). Washington accounted for half of the Cardinals’ total pressure in this game, as once again the Rams’ makeshift offensive line rose up and limited an opposing pass rush. The game plan from the Cardinals certainly suited Washington’s style of play, as he spent almost as many plays rushing the passer (11) as he did back in coverage (13). It’s only a shame that the Cardinals can’t find a quality player to pair with him and give some solidity next to Washington’s energy. Paris Lenon (-4.2) once again struggled,. He collected his fourth negatively-graded game of this season and his eighth in his last nine outings.
Peterson Recovers After a Slow Start
If you were to plot a graph of this game for Patrick Peterson (0.0) it would be almost the exact inverse of the St Louis Rams’ offense. Off to a poor start allowing a long completion on the second play of the game, and interfering with Danny Amendola, you may have wondered whether the Rams were going to really take it to the Cardinals’ No. 1 corner. Well, Peterson didn’t allow that to happen, and instead feasted on two poor plays from Sam Bradford to collect an interception and a pass defense on targets to Brian Quick and Amendola respectively. On a whip route to Amendola on the Rams’ second drive, the pass was late coming out and left inside which allowed Peterson to make a break on the ball and force the incompletion to get the Rams’ offense off the field. Meanwhile, the piece-de-resistance came with his third-quarter interception of Bradford on a go route by the rookie Quick to the back of the endzone. A breakdown in pass protection led to quick pressure on Bradford who was forced to put the ball up even though Peterson had excellent position. The corner then showed outstanding ball skills and balance to bring in the interception. After five games, Peterson is allowing a quarterback rating of only 33.6 on the 28 passes targeted into his coverage. Will teams start to avoid him as the season wears on?
St Louis – Three Performances of Note
Quinn and Long Pin Their Ears Back
The latest players to benefit from playing the Arizona Cardinals, and their pair of dreadfully outmatched offensive tackles, were Chris Long and Robert Quinn. While Long didn’t quite see the bump in his sack total that we believed that he might do from facing Bobby Massie, he still added another nine pressures (1 sack, 1 hit, 7 hurries) to take his season total to 34 after just five games. At his current pace, that will give him 109 total pressures for a 16 game season, a simply astonishing number that would obliterate the 83 he got last season.
There was nothing cryptic about the dominance of the Rams’ defensive ends in this game. Both Massie and D’Anthony Batiste were simply outmatched physically and athletically against two athletic former first-round defensive ends. Batiste allowed Quinn to have the best game of his two-year career (+8.0) as he recorded 11 pressures which included a career high three sacks — his first ever multiple-sack game. Those 11 pressures nearly doubled his season total, and the Rams will hope that this sparks Quinn’s sophomore season after a disappointingly slow start to his first year as a starter.
Going Flat After a Fast Start
The Rams entered his game having failed to score an offensive touchdown since the first play of the fourth quarter in their Week 2 win over the Redskins. They set about immediately fixing that with a crisp opening drive, every single play a pass, to jump out to a quick lead. However, that spark of offense didn’t last and when they again lost Danny Amendola to injury, they looked short of ideas. As Amendola is such an integral part of the offense, it is confusing that the Rams didn’t look to get in a similar player over the preseason, especially after the deleterious effect that his loss had on their offense last season. Without the big play to Chris Givens that all but sealed the Rams’ victory, this game would have become a lot more uncomfortable for the Rams and left the door open for the ‘Cardiac Cards’ to spring another comeback. The running game led by Steven Jackson (+1.6 rushing) was solid but it wasn’t strong enough to really dominate the game and, more importantly, put more points on the board. With Amendola’s injury confirmed as a broken collarbone the pressure will be on for Sam Bradford to get more in-sync with his other receivers. Otherwise, this offense could be headed for more of the same struggles that they suffered in the past fortnight.
Dunbar Shows his Potential
Trapped for the start of his career in a defense that asks far too much of its linebackers, it was a little surprising to see JoLonn Dunbar follow his former defensive coordinator to St Louis. However, with Gregg Williams suspended, Dunbar has shown the talent that was lost in that defense. Outside of a dreadful display on Sunday at home to Seattle he has been a positive contributor for the Rams’ defense. He has missed only five defensive snaps all season and his performance against the Cardinals marked the fourth time this year he has recorded at least four defensive stops in a game. Dunbar highlighted his versatility in this game as the Rams chose to send him on 14 blitzes to stretch the Cardinals’ underwhelming offensive line. And it worked. On his 14 blitzes, Dunbar recorded a sack and three hurries as the Cardinals struggled to cope with the Rams’ down linemen, let alone locate and pick-up blitzes from the second level. This week Dunbar combined well with James Laurinaitis (+0.6) at middle linebacker. Having missed a combined five tackles against Seattle, the pairing only missed two this week. The Rams will need their linebackers to continue in this vein of form if the offense struggles through Amendola’s absence.
- Even for a team that was playing from behind for the entire game the Cardinals spent a lot of time (28% of their offensive snaps) in their four wide receiver sets. First-round rookie Michael Floyd played at least 30 snaps for the third week in a row.
- The Rams’ defense recorded 46 total pressures in last night’s game… just let that sink in for a moment — 46. That is almost three times as many as they averaged per game last season (17.7).
- Veteran safety Adrian Wilson missed his first snaps of the season in a game that he started (having missed their Week 3 win over Philadelphia entirely). The Cardinals replaced him on two defensive snaps, to counter the Rams’ three wide set, with William Gay.
PFF Game Ball
This was a game for defense and no player was more dominant than Robert Quinn who put in easily the best performance of his young career. The Rams must start to see more performances like this from Quinn against more capable left tackles than D’Anthony Batiste.
Re: PFF ReFo: Cardinals @ Rams, Wk 5
They though Quinn got off to a slow start? Let's do some math, here...
3 sacks - 4 games
3x4 - 4x4
12 sacks - 16 games
I'm not sure how a 12 sack season is a disappointment, especially for a first time starter.