Rams vs. Cardinals matchups: Jared Goff eager to get on track
Breaking down how the Rams (7-4) and the Arizona Cardinals (6-5) match up heading into Sunday’s game at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., at 1:05 p.m. PT. (FOX)
When Rams have the ball: After getting called out by coach Sean McVay for not taking care of the ball, quarterback Jared Goff is eager to get back on track. Goff committed three turnovers in a 23-20 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers last week. He has passed for 16 touchdowns with 10 interceptions and has fumbled seven times. Goff was at his best early in the season on play-action passes that enabled him to roll out and throw on the run, but he struggled in the pocket and on the run against the 49ers. Running back Darrell Henderson has started the last nine games and averages 4.3 yards per carry. Rookie Cam Akers, who started the first two games before suffering a rib injury, broke off a 61-yard run against the 49ers and rushed for a touchdown. Last season, tight end Tyler Higbee caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals in Arizona. That kind of production has been absent for much of this season as Higbee nurses a hand injury. Cardinals edge rusher Chandler Jones suffered a season-ending biceps injury in October. Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Budda Baker lead a unit that includes linebacker Haason Reddick, who has five sacks, and linebacker Jordan Hicks, the leading tackler.
When Cardinals have the ball: Quarterback Kyler Murray, the first pick in last year’s draft, is finding his stride in an offense that ranks second in the NFL, averaging 403.3 yards per game. The mobile Murray has passed for 19 touchdowns with nine interceptions. He also has rushed for 650 yards and 10 touchdowns. Star receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald give Murray the most high-profile receiving duo in the NFL, though Fitzgerald was on the reserve COVID-19 list as of Saturday. Hopkins, a four-time Pro Bowl selection in seven seasons with the Houston Texans, has 77 catches, four for touchdowns. Fitzgerald has 43 catches and Christian Kirk 34, including six for touchdowns. Running back Kenyan Drake has rushed for 719 yards and seven touchdowns. Running back Chase Edmunds has three touchdown receptions. The Rams’ Aaron Donald, held without a tackle in two previous games, broke out against the 49ers by deflecting a pass, recording his 10th sack and stripping a running back for a fumble that cornerback Troy Hill returned for a touchdown. Jalen Ramsey played fewer snaps against the 49ers because of a hip issue but should be at full strength for his marquee matchup against Hopkins. The Rams’ defense is ranked second.
When they kick: McVay is at ease now that kicker Matt Gay has established himself as fairly reliable, making four of five field-goal attempts. Johnny Hekker averages 46.6 yards per punt. Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez has made 16 of 21 field-goal attempts, but in a 20-17 loss last Sunday to the New England Patriots, he missed a late 48-yard attempt. Andy Lee averages 43.9 yards per punt.
Gary Klein’s prediction: The Rams’ offense bounces back after the loss to the 49ers, and the defense does enough to contain Murray and extend McVay’s string of success (six wins) against the Cardinals.
RAMS 30, CARDINALS 27
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