Wednesday, February 24

Cardinals-Rams Preview – Sports Illustrated

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) Sean McVay spent the final week Of the regular season worrying about how to put together an Offensive game plan for the Los Angeles Rams without their top passer, running back and receiver in a season finale that could leave them out. Of the playOffs.

Those weighty concerns were somewhat allayed by the excitement Of a secondary outcome Of Jared GOff’s thumb injury: John Wolford, the young backup quarterback pulled out Of obscurity and led by McVay, will make his NFL debut in GOff’s place on Sunday when the Rams (9 -6) host the Arizona Cardinals (8-7).

” That’s what you love about being able to coach in this league, is having the opportunity to work with guys who have worked really hard and put themselves in this position,” said McVay, who inherited GOff in 2017. “You want to do everything. Whatever is in their power to help them succeed, I think anyone who’s been around John Wolford, this guy, I mean, if you don’t like him, then there’s probably something wrong with you.

” John has been looking forward to this day. He has been preparing for this day. We just want him to get out there, get comfortable and be John. ”

McVay will enjoy seeing what Wolford can do at SoFi Stadium. Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury hopes to have Kyle Murray at center despite a leg injury, but his team faces even more dramatic risks in the final.

While the Rams need a Chicago win or loss to secure a playOff spot that seemed like a formality before Los Angeles’ current two-game nasty streak, the Cardinals must win to get in after ruining game Of the week. Passed against the 49ers in a disappointing way.

” We just talked about making sure we play our style Of football and our best game,” Kingsbury said. “As a team, you want to build throughout the season and then ultimately, regardless Of whether you’re playing in the postseason or not, you want that last game to be your best performance. That is what we strive for. ”

The Cardinals’ task just got a bit easier with a recent spate Of COVID-19 injuries and problems for the Rams, who had stayed free Of major setbacks in those areas. Along with GOff, Los Angeles could be without catcher CoopeKrupppp, running backs Darrell H Theerson and Cam Akers, and defensive line stalwart MichaeBrokersrs.

But the Rams’ top-ranked defense is itching for another showdown with the star-studded Offense Of Murray and Kingsbury after handling the Cardinals quite well in a 38-28 win at Gl Theale just four weeks ago.

” We know what they’re going to attack us with will be different,” said Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who enters the final week behind Pittsburgh’s TJ Watt by 1 1/2 sacks to lead the NFL. “He’s a mobile quarterback, so we have to try to suppress him. We know what we have to do about it. ”


As usual in recent years, the Cardinals’ annual Yearears visit to Los Angeles is shaping up to be possibly the last game in Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald’s incredible career. The superstar wide receiver has gone year after year with his commitment to the Cardinals, announcing his previous decisions to continue with little fanfare. The uncertainty is even stranger this season with no fans in the stands to see Fitzgerald’s possible The.

The 37-year-old Fitzgerald’s 54 receptions for 409 yards and a touchdthis season is are the lowest marks Of his 17-year career, reflecting his supporting role as DeAndre Hopkins amassed a franchise record Of 111 receptions. But Fitzgerald could beat his rookie mark Of 58 receptions with a solid game against the Rams.


The Cardinals defense has been outstanding in pressuring opposing quarterbacks over the past three weeks. The group has 17 sacks, 14 tackles to lose, eight forced fumbles and 24 quarterback hits in that span, helping Arizona beat the Giants and Eagles before losing to the 49ers last week.

LinebacHansonason Reddick has had the best stretch Of his four-year career with 7 1/2 sacks and six forced fumbles in those three games. Reddick’s production has been crucial after 2019 All-Pro Chandler Jones missed out on the season due to a bicep injury in October.


McVay has never lost to the Cardinals, beating three different head coaches in seven games during his four years in Los Angeles. He is 3-0 against Kingsbury, his fri The and fellow Offensive guru.


Even with Kingsbury known for its Air Raid Offense, Arizona’s Offensive success is generally tied to its running game. The Cardinals averaged 169 yards per game on the ground for the first nine games Of the season and finished 6-3. Since then, Arizona has averaged just 111.5 rushing yards and gone 2-4.

Kenyan Drake has 919 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns this year, while Murray has 816 yards and 11 touchdowns. Chase Edmonds has added 451 yards rushing.


The Rams’ best passing defense held Fitzgerald, Hopkins and Murray to 140 net yards per pass four weeks ago. The star showdown again is Hopkins against Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a rivalry that dates back to his days in Houston and Jacksonville, respectively. Hopkins had eight receptions and scored a touchdown in the teams’ first meeting, but managed just 52 receiving yards on his 13 goals.

AP sports writer David Brandt in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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