Often times there’s more to a game than simply the final score line in the NFL. That holds true for the great escape that the St. Louis Rams pulled off over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 after trailing by 11 points heading into the fourth quarter. Although the comeback in its own right was impressive, the fact that the Rams had to come back from that large of a deficit in the first place is somewhat alarming.
Perhaps what was most to blame for their initial trailing position was a bend-but-don’t-break coverage philosophy that the team has employed since last season. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer easily completed pass after pass in the first half, dissecting the St. Louis secondary that was playing well off in coverage to keep the ball in front of them. The 204 yards passing in the opening half for Arizona is certainly cause for concern from a Rams’ perspective and the struggles of Janoris Jenkins on Larry Fitzgerald and Cortland Finnegan in just about every aspect – he also committed two costly personal foul penalties – is a definite worry.
Some adjustments were made by head coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Tim Walton at halftime, and Palmer was limited to 123 yards through the air in the second half. That number is still more than a team with as good of a pass rush as the Rams have should be surrendering on a regular basis. William Hayes had one sack and Robert Quinn had a banner day with three sacks and two forced fumbles, yet Palmer and company still managed to have success throwing the football.
One would think this kind of porous play on defense would elicit some shakeups on the depth chart heading into the next week, but the Rams are sticking with the same starters as they prepare for the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez present a much more formidable challenge than the offense the Rams lined up against in Week 1. Add to it the fact that St. Louis will be facing their longtime stalwart running back Steven Jackson and Atlanta will have a balanced attack capable of hurting the Rams’ defense in a number of different ways.
There’s no denying the fact that the Rams can’t dig themselves into a deep hole in Atlanta and expect to climb back out this week. With two young safeties in the middle of the defense, it remains to be seen just what kind of tweaks the coaching staff can make in the matter of a week of preparation to avoid the same fate as the opener. What isn’t as uncertain, however, is that another showing like that could spell a humiliating loss for Sam Bradford and company on Sunday.