GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP)The Los Angeles Rams are coming off a lopsided loss in a game they’d like to forget. The Arizona Cardinals can relate – they’d like to forget a big chunk of their first 11 games of the season.
The NFC West rivals meet Sunday, trying to get their seasons back on track.
The Rams (6-5) are still in the playoff hunt despite losing to Baltimore 45-6 on Monday night. The Cardinals (3-7-1) are coming off their bye week and trying to halt a four-game losing streak.
Arizona first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury said he doesn’t expect the Rams to have another bad night.
“They’re a prideful group. They were in the Super Bowl 10 months ago,” Kingsbury said. “We’ll get their best shot. We know they can play a lot better than that. They had an off night and we expect to get their best shot; we’ll have to play our best game to hang in there.”
The Cardinals have been fine on offense for much of the season. Kyler Murray has already set franchise rookie records with 2,703 yards passing and 254 completions. Arizona’s also much healthier at running back with Kenyan Drake, David Johnson and Chase Edmonds all available.
The problem is on defense. The Cardinals are giving up 297.5 yards passing per game, which ranks last in the NFL.
“It’s important to show improvement over these last five games,” Kingsbury said. “We can’t change what happened in the past, and that’s what we’ve talked about. Let’s just be better. There are a lot of different way to improve that and we’re working towards that.”
Rams coach Sean McVay said he was glad his team had a short week so it could quickly move on to the Cardinals and not dwell on the Ravens loss.
“The one thing that we’ve got to do a much better job of are the things that take no talent,” McVay said. “We can’t have 12 men on the field, we can’t continue to beat ourselves with these pre-snap penalties. We’ve got to make sure that we’re utilizing the fundamentals and the techniques.”
Jared Goff has been powerless to stop the Rams’ miserable offensive run since their bye week. Over the past three games, the fourth-year quarterback completed 61.5% of his passes for 209 yards per game, but threw five interceptions and no touchdown passes during the month. The quarterback – who is due an NFL-record $110 million guaranteed in a contract extension that doesn’t even begin until 2021 – sits near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories.
McVay and the Rams insist they aren’t worried about him. Goff did make several impressive throws against the Ravens when given enough time, but he hasn’t been a difference maker. “Coaches, players, we’re all a part of this,” McVay said. “It’s not just Jared. It’s a collaboration of the unit, and that’s why football is the greatest team sport there is.”
Kingsbury said he considered taking a consulting job on McVay’s staff last season after being fired by Texas Tech. Instead, he was briefly the offensive coordinator at USC before being hired as Cardinals head coach. Kingsbury said he’s known McVay for several years and has always admired his coaching ability. He met him through a friend who played in the now-defunct UFL: “He told me, ‘This guy is going to be a star in coaching’ and I’m like ‘Yeah, right.’ He was like the tight ends coach for the Orlando Tuskers. I’m like ‘Good luck, buddy.’ But he was right.”
After getting shredded by Lamar Jackson, the Rams defense must get right back to work against another quarterback who can cause problems with his arm or his legs. Los Angeles is hoping its ineptitude against the Ravens is a blip and not a pattern, and there’s reason to believe the Rams are right: They hadn’t played an embarrassing game since a loss to Tampa Bay two months ago, and they still rank squarely in the middle of the NFL pack in most statistical categories – even after giving up 480 yards to Baltimore.
PLENTY OF TARGETS
The Rams’ wealth of quality pass catchers could be a problem for the Cards’ secondary if Goff gets enough time to throw. Despite their recent offensive struggles, the Rams already have four receivers with 400 yards apiece: Cooper Kupp (880), Robert Woods (663), Brandin Cooks (434) and tight end Gerald Everett (408). LA is only the third team since 1950 to accomplish that feat in four consecutive seasons, joining the 1989-92 Houston Oilers and the 2013-16 New Orleans Saints.
SCORING POINTS, GIVING UP POINTS
Arizona has scored at least 25 points six times since Week 5, which is the most in the NFL. The problem is the Cardinals can’t stop anybody. They’ve given up at least 21 points in every game this season and at least 28 points in every game of their current four-game losing streak.
AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Thousand Oaks, California, contributed to this story.
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