Tale Of The Tape: St. Louis Rams At Arizona Cardinals
- QuarterbackKellen Clemens is a workmanlike quarterback who can handle a balanced gameplan and make the obvious reads in the defense. However, he is not going to win games on his own, and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer knows this. He can throw accurate short passes and he can fire the deep ball when his receiver gets open right off the line of scrimmage.Carson Palmer could not keep his streak of interception-free games going against the Philadelphia Eagles, but he nearly brought them all the way back from a 17-point deficit. Palmer is usually at his best in the fourth quarter. He has completed 62.8 percent of his passes and he has fired 19 touchdown passes this season.
- OffenseThe Rams want to establish their ground game against the Cardinals, but that won’t be easy against a team that ranks fourth against the run. However, don’t underestimate Zac Stacy who runs with power and purpose every time he gets his hands on the ball. Tavon Austin could be the difference maker in this game because he is probably the fastest player in the league.Rashard Mendenhall is the Cardinals’ leading rusher, but that’s not a good thing because he does not show enough determination and toughness when he has the ball in his arms. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald remains one of the top receivers in the game because he combines excellent technique with power and speed. Michael Floyd is a perfect complementary receiver who has caught 54-860-4.
- DefenseThe Rams are not the most effective all-around defense, but head coach Dave McGinnis is building a unit that could be formidable next year. Robert Quinn has 13.0 sacks and ranks second in the league, while Chris Long has 6.5 sacks and is solid against the run. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis has a team-high 91 tackles.The Cardinals have been at their best defensively when they are at home, so look for a nasty effort in this game. Inside linebacker is the leader of this unit and he has a team-high 97 tackles, 17 passes defensed and 5.0 sacks. Safety Tyrann Mathieu has 67 tackles and 10 passes defensed. Outside linebacker John Abraham remains a force with 8.0 sacks.
- Special TeamsAustin is an explosive returner who can bring back any punt or kickoff for a score. The Rams have been consistent in their kickoff and punt coverage, as they have not allowed a return of more than 39 yards this year. Greg Zuerlein has made 19-of-21 FG attempts.The Cardinals have a lot of confidence in their coverage teams, but they are starting to lose patience with Patrick Peterson who has not had a big return this year. Placekicker Jay Feely has a strong leg and he has made 22-of-24 FG attempts, including 3-of-4 from beyond 50 yards.
These are two evenly matched teams, but the Cardinals are coming off a loss and playing at home. They should be primed for a big effort against a divisional rival that defeated them 27-24 in the season opener. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor