by Cedric Williams
There were lots of mistakes, way too many penalties, four fumbles (one lost) and an interception by a lineman for a touchdown, but in the end, the Rams team scored high marks following the teams’ 27-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
As one might expect, it took a while for both clubs to get anything going as they both went scoreless in the first quarter.
But once the action got going, it really got going – to the tune of a 24-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter for the Cardinals, and a thrilling 14-point comeback in that fourth quarter that produced a sensational win for the Rams.
Here’s how St. Louis graded out in its first game of the season:
St. Louis totaled 366 yards and scored points on six of its 10 possessions, including three of the four times it had the ball in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Sam Bradford passed for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Jared Cook caught seven passes for 141 yards and both Bradford TD strikes, and the offensive line registered its third straight game without giving up a sack (dating back to last season).
Despite those numbers, the St. Louis offense still can’t have an A for the day, because Bradford did throw a pick that was returned for a touchdown by Arizona nose tackle Dan Williams (the ball was tipped); the O-Line committed four of the team’s seven penalties; and the run game only produced 67 yards and 2.8 yards per carry.
Even in a win, and an exciting comeback win like Sunday’s contest turned out to be, no offense deserves an A with those types of mistakes.
Cook also had the ball knocked out of his hands on a play that looked like a sure touchdown, that instead of going for six for St. Louis turned into first and 10 for the Big Red at the 20.
No way, in a game like that, the offense could get an A.
It’s almost the same story for the defense, which sacked Arizona QB Carson Palmer four times – three by DE Robert Quinn.
They also forced four fumbles, recovered one, and grabbed a key interception. But the Rams “D” also gave up 390 yards, most of which was through the air for Palmer, who finished with 327 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
Arizona also had three receivers have huge days, with Andre Roberts, Larry Fitzgerald, and Malcom Floyd combining for 20 catches and 259 yards. Fitzgerald also caught both of Palmer’s touchdown throws.
Rookie Alec Ogletree tied with veteran Cortland Finnegan for the Rams lead with seven tackles, but most of those were downfield after Arizona had completed a pass.
The Rams “D” does get high marks for shutting the Big Red down in the fourth quarter. Arizona only managed four first downs on four possessions in the final 15 minutes, and never even got the ball in Rams territory, after their go-ahead score by Fitzgerald late in the third.
Individually, many of the Rams would probably earn A’s.
Bradford is one of those players. He completed 27-of-38 passes for those 299 yards and two scores, and even surprised every one of the 55,279 in the house, when he ran for the two-point conversion that pulled the Rams to 24-21 midway through the fourth.
On St. Louis’ last drive, Bradford was particularly good, with three completions on four throws for 38 important yards that got the Rams in range for Greg Zuerlein’s game-winning field goal.
Special Teams: A-
The Rams didn’t get much out of the return game, but Zuerlein was perfect on all five of his scoring kicks (four FGs and one PAT) and forced four touchbacks on kickoffs, which could’ve been six if Arizona return man Javier Arenas hadn’t brought two out that he caught deep in his own end zone.
Punter Johnny Hekker averaged 49 yards on three punts, with a long of 55 yards, and had one downed inside the 20.
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Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at email@example.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.