Rams look to right ship against sputtering Cardinals
The Rams (11-3) are the NFL West champions again, and have the NFC's second-best record behind New Orleans (12-2). But Los Angeles has lost two in a row, 15-6 at Chicago and, last week, 30-23 to Philadelphia.
So the Cardinals (3-11), 1-6 at home and at the bottom of the NFL standings under first-year coach Steve Wilks, would seem a welcome opponent when the teams square off Sunday in Arizona's final home game of its difficult season.
Of course, Rams coach Sean McVay would never say that even if he thought it was true.
"That's certainly not our attitude," he said. "Our attitude is that we have a lot of respect for this football team and for coach Wilks, and we've got to be ready to go. There's a lot of great players on both sides - proven, high-caliber players, some Hall of Fame players, perennial Pro Bowl players. We've got to be ready to go."
The Cardinals were gashed for a season-worst 215 yards on the ground in their 40-14 blowout loss at Atlanta last week. The could mean a big day for Todd Gurley, if he's healthy. McVay indicated on Wednesday he expected his prolific running back to play after being limited by knee inflammation this week.
"We expect that if he progresses the way that we anticipate, that he'll be ready to go," McVay said.
Gurley didn't have a big day statistically but ran for three touchdowns in Los Angeles' 34-0 home rout of Arizona in Week 2.
Jared Goff threw for 354 yards in that game, but is going through a rough stretch. In the last three games, he's thrown for one touchdown and been intercepted six times.
"I think each game is independent of each other," he said. "I don't think there's one singular thing. Look at last game, made a couple dumb plays that hurt us and you can't do that."
The Rams are two-touchdown favorites. Here are some things to consider about the game:
This might be Larry Fitzgerald's final home game of his spectacular 15-year NFL career. Then again, it might not.
Fitzgerald, as is his custom, was not at all forthcoming on the subject of his retirement when the subject was broached Thursday.
"If I decide to retire, I'll let you guys know, seriously," he said. "So I don't know why we keep asking these questions. You know me. I've been answering for the last three years. Nothing's going to change."
In other words, when he decides, he'll let everyone know.
Fitzgerald has caught a pass in 226 consecutive games and recently passed Jerry Rice's record for most catches with one team. With a TD catch on Sunday, he'd have 19 in his career against the Rams. Only Rice has more against a single team, 25 against Atlanta and 20 against the Rams.
Goff said he thought that toward the end of the Philadelphia game, the Rams got back to being themselves on offense.
"I felt like we moved the ball really well and we were able to build off some things there and able to kind of take what the defense was giving us," he said. "I felt like I learned a lot in the last game and was able to grow."
Goff said it's not that defenses are figuring them out.
"I think it always comes back to us, just doing what we do — executing," he said. "Defenses are going to present different looks every game and that's no excuse. It happens every game. It's happened every game we've played this year. So, it just comes down to us executing and being our best and just really focusing on the details."
With Gurley's status a bit shaky, the Rams signed veteran running back C.J. Anderson this week.
Even if Gurley plays, there could be some action for Anderson.
"Could really see him playing a role this week," McVay said, "very sharp, cerebral player. He's played in some systems very similar in terms of the verbiage, some of the things we try to emphasize specific to the running game and in protection."
Return specialist and wide receiver Pharoh Cooper went from a Super Bowl contender to a leading candidate for the No. 1 draft pick this week when he was waived by Los Angeles and claimed by the Cardinals.
"It's going to be great to see all those guys," he said of facing the Rams so soon. "I've built so many relationships with them. That's still family over there, but at the end of the day I play for the Cardinals now."
Arizona defensive end Chandler Jones is donating $20,000 for every sack he gets in the final two games — against the Rams and Seattle — to Phoenix Children's Hospital. He has 5 1-2 career sacks against Los Angeles and 8 1-2 against the Seahawks.