Cardinals look to rev up offense against tough Rams
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals’ offense is supposed to be one of the best, if not THE best, in the NFL.
But at the start of games especially, it’s been a pushover.
This might not be a good week to change that because on Sunday they face the bruising defense of the Los Angeles Rams .
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said the Rams’ defense — with the likes of Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn — "is as good as it gets."
These teams know each other well. The Rams won in Glendale last season and the Cardinals recognize they’re in for a rough afternoon. Los Angeles already has had two players ejected from games.
"We feel like these guys kind of challenge our manhood," Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "We take that personally."
The Rams enter the game 2-1 and are coming off a 37-32 win at Tampa Bay.
"There was disappointment after Week 1 (a 28-0 loss to San Francisco)," Los Angeles coach Jeff Fisher said, "but we pulled them out of it. That’s what we’re most proud of right now. There’s no lack of confidence at all."
The Cardinals are 1-2 and were blown out in Buffalo last Sunday 33-18. A 1-3 start would be devastating for a team that went 13-3 last season and expects to contend for the Super Bowl.
Here are some things to consider when the Rams meet the Cardinals:
CARDINALS’ CHALLENGE: There’s no way the Cardinals should overlook anyone now.
"There’s nobody that can’t be beat and nobody that you can’t beat," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "That’s the way you have to look at every week."
This is new territory for an Arizona team accustomed to success under Arians.
"We won’t really know what kind of team we have until we’re facing some adversity," safety Tyron Mathieu said. "We’ve been challenged. In the past we’ve dealt with injuries, but I don’t think we ever really dealt with just getting our butts whupped. It’s a new set of adversities. It’s a new challenge for us."
GETTING OVER: The Rams are 2-1, but that’s a big deal to a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004. They’re off to their best start to a season since 2006, and they could also move to two games above .500 for the first time in a decade with a victory in Glendale.
The Rams were eager to make a good impression on Los Angeles despite beginning their return season with just two home games in the first two months. So two NFC West victories in September would be significant.
"I’ve never made the playoffs with the Rams, so it would be big to get off to a good start in the division," defensive lineman Eugene Sims said.
OFFENSE IMPROVES: The Rams still have the NFL’s least productive offense, but they finally scored their first touchdowns of the season last week in Tampa Bay, lessening the pressure on Fisher to play No. 1 pick QB Jared Goff immediately.
Offensive coordinator Rob Boras sees steady progress from his unit and breakout potential for star running back Todd Gurley, who has been limited to 183 yards in three games. Gurley had the first big game of his Offensive Rookie of the Year season at Arizona last year, piling up 146 yards. Quarterback Case Keenum hasn’t faced the vaunted Arizona defense since 2013 with Houston, watching both matchups last season as Nick Foles’ backup.
FITZ’S HISTORY: Larry Fitzgerald has made big plays against just about every team in the league, but the eight-time Pro Bowl receiver has been especially hard on the Rams.
In his 10 games against them, Fitzgerald 153 receptions for 1,785 yards and 16 touchdowns. That’s more receptions and TD catches than he has against any other team.
KICKING CHANGE: The Arizona long snapper sent the ball sailing over the holder’s head, turning what would have been a chip-shot field goal into a Buffalo touchdown last Sunday. And the punter’s already-injured ankle worsened. So there will be a new snapper and punter for Arizona against the Rams.
Rookie Kameron Canady, who had other shaky snaps in the first two games, was released Tuesday and replaced a day later by Aaron Brewer. Brewer was the snapper for Denver in all 64 regular-season games and eight postseason contests the past four seasons.
With punter Drew Butler in a walking boot, Arizona signed Ryan Quigley, the punter for the New York Jets the past three seasons. Quigley also will take over Butler’s holder duties.