Best and worst performers vs. Cardinals in Week 3

  • QB Matthew Stafford: 82.7
  • WR Cooper Kupp: 80.2
  • LT Joseph Noteboom: 77.2
  • LG David Edwards: 72.8
  • WR Ben Skowronek: 71.5

Stafford didn’t score a touchdown or top 300 yards passing, but he was sharp against the Cardinals. He didn’t have any turnover-worthy plays, made two big-time throws and had an average depth of target of 8.2 yards, his highest of the season.

Kupp wasn’t his usual self against the Cardinals, catching just four passes for 44 yards. He did score a touchdown on a 20-yard run, but he also dropped one pass that would’ve gone for a score in the first half.

Up front, Noteboom and Edwards were excellent on the left side. They each allowed just one pressure, but they were both solid in the running game with grades of 72.5 and 72.1, respectively. Noteboom was the Rams’ highest-graded pass blocker along the line.

Skowronek shined as a run blocker and cleared the way for Cam Akers on his touchdown, but he also led the team with 66 yards receiving.

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Rams will benefit from secondary depth being tested this early

The Los Angeles Rams went into Week 3 without several key players in their secondary. Troy Hill is on injured reserve, Cobie Durant hurt his hamstring the week prior and David Long Jr. injured his groin in the week of practice. At safety, Jordan Fuller also suffered a hamstring injury in practice and wound up missing Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Looking at their depth chart, the Rams were missing four of their top seven players in the secondary. That left Jalen Ramsey, Nick Scott and Taylor Rapp as the only Week 1 starters who were healthy this Sunday.

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Yet, the Rams still managed to hold Kyler Murray to 314 yards passing on 58 attempts with zero touchdowns. Marquise Brown and Greg Dortch played well, catching a total of 23 passes for 220 yards, but all things considered, Los Angeles held Arizona’s passing offense in check to the tune of just 5.4 yards per pass attempt – Murray’s lowest output of the season.

Sure, the Cardinals didn’t have DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore or A.J. Green, but it’s not as if Brown and Zach Ertz are slouches, nor is Dortch. And Green played a third of the game before getting injured.

As concerning as it was that the Rams were severely shorthanded in the secondary on Sunday, it’ll actually benefit them in the long run. With everyone healthy, Derion Kendrick and Grant Haley wouldn’t have played a snap this early in the season. They didn’t see the field on defense in the first two weeks of the season when the Rams were at (or near) full strength. On Sunday, Kendrick played 75 snaps and Haley played 67 in their first action of 2022. Neither was perfect in coverage – according to Pro Football Focus, Kendrick gave up nine catches on 16 targets and Haley allowed five on six targets – but they played better than the Rams probably expected them to.

As the season progresses and more injuries inevitably occur, the Rams can feel confident knowing players such as Kendrick, Haley and Durant have played meaningful snaps in regular-season games – something that wouldn’t have happened if Hill and Long hadn’t gotten hurt. You never want injuries to occur, but there is a silver lining in all of this.

Ramsey, for one, can’t wait for the rest of the secondary to get healthy, knowing just how deep the defensive back group goes.

Injuries happen and the Rams have already proved they might have the deepest secondary in the NFL. When Durant and Long return, hopefully this week, Los Angeles might even consider giving Kendrick and Haley some opportunities alongside Ramsey.

Hill will take a little longer to get back, needing to miss at least three more games, but the Rams can survive in the meantime. Sunday’s performance showed that.

So long as Ramsey can stay healthy and help lead this young group of defensive backs, Los Angeles will be just fine.

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Cam Akers isn’t Rams’ starter, but he’s taken over backfield

Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. have been splitting time in the Los Angeles Rams’ backfield through the first three weeks of the season. The year began with Darrell Henderson Jr. as the clear-cut starter, running the ball 13 times compared to just three rushes by Akers in Week 1.

Then, Sean McVay sent a message to Akers about his level of urgency and accountability, which led to a much closer split in Week 2 – one that actually favored Akers. He got 17 touches in Week 2 compared to 10 for Henderson, a trend that continued on Sunday against the Cardinals.

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In that game, Akers carried it 12 times for 61 yards. Henderson got four carries, which he turned into 17 yards.

Akers technically isn’t the Rams’ starter because he has yet to play a game where he’s the first running back on the field, but it’s clear who McVay prefers to have as his lead back. It’s Akers, and the gap between the two is starting to separate.

Here’s a look at their snaps and offensive opportunities over the first three weeks of the season.

Week 1

  • Akers: 3 carries, 0 receptions (0 targets), 18% snap share
  • Henderson: 13 carries, 5 receptions (5 targets), 82% snap share

Week 2

  • Akers: 15 carries, 2 receptions (3 targets), 43% snap share
  • Henderson: 10 carries, 0 receptions (0 targets) 56% snap share

Week 3

  • Akers: 12 carries, 0 receptions (0 targets), 50% snap share
  • Henderson: 4 carries, 0 receptions (0 targets), 50% snap share

It’s not hard to see that Akers’ snaps have increased each week, and Henderson’s have decreased. Similarly, Henderson went from 18 touches to 10 to four, while Akers went from three to 17 to 12.

There’s been a shockingly low number of opportunities for both players in the passing game, totaling just eight targets in three games. Henderson has gotten more chances as a receiver than Akers, but that’s primarily because he’s the one playing on third down, not Akers.

Although there was an even split in snaps played on Sunday, Akers would’ve gotten more chances than Henderson had the Rams gone out for another drive in a four-minute situation, according to McVay. That’s a great sign for where he stands with the coach, even after fumbling on the goal line late in the game.

Fantasy owners shouldn’t fully trust Akers yet because Henderson will keep eating into his snaps and touches, but it’s good to see him pulling ahead in the backfield after a disastrous start to the year.

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Sean McVay loves what Ben Skowronek has shown: ‘This guy’s a maniac’

Ben Skowronek frustrated a lot of Rams fans last year with his drops. He still did a nice job as a blocker on the outside when filling in at wide receiver, but it was the negative plays that fans had trouble forgetting.

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Coming into this season, Skowronek was poised for a big role with Van Jefferson sidelined. And while he’s still technically the Rams’ No. 3 receiver,

he’s also playing fullback and doing pretty much anything Los Angeles needs him to on offense.

Against the Cardinals on Sunday, he had one of his best games as a pro. He caught four passes for 66 yards, leading the team in receiving. That’s tough to do with Cooper Kupp on the team, yet Skowronek managed to make a couple of big plays to help move the chains.

His most notable play was a 32-yard reception on third-and-1, which would’ve gone for about 55 yards had he not stepped out of bounds.

After the 20-12 win over Arizona, Sean McVay gave Skowronek some praise by pointing to the way he played both as a receiver and a blocker. He even called Skowronek “a mania” – in a good way, of course.

“I thought Ben Skowronek had a handful of big-time plays,” McVay said. “Four big catches on four targets, and then his presence was felt. You feel the physicality. This guy’s a maniac and you love what he does for our football team.”

What makes Skowronek a maniac, you ask? Take a look at his block on Zaven Collins on Cam Akers’ 14-yard touchdown run. He cleared the linebacker out and opened up a big hole, staying on his feet and following Akers into the end zone.

Not many wide receivers can make a block in the hole like that.

In a matter of two weeks, largely thanks to his play as a fullback, Skowronek has completely flipped the view of himself among Rams fans. He went from being a player fans preferred not to see on the field to someone they’re excited to see laying out blockers in the running game.

McVay found a perfect role for him and it’s helped evolve the offense, providing a spark in the running game.

Right guard Alaric Jackson, who knows a thing or two about blocking guys, wonders what Skowronek can’t do.

Just look at how the tide is turning on No. 18 on Twitter.

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Sean McVay, Jalen Ramsey give locker room speeches after Rams’ win

Sean McVay was pleased with the way the Rams played on Sunday, beating the Cardinals on the road, 20-12. It wasn’t the cleanest or prettiest win, with the offense getting outgained 364-339, but as McVay said last week, “a win is a win is a win.”

He addressed the team following Sunday’s victory over Arizona, telling them to “never take for granted a divisional win.”

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“Great job. We really challenged the special teams to start it off the right way. I thought you guys gave us a real edge today,” he said before giving Michael Hoecht a game ball for his blocked punt.

McVay also tossed a game ball to Jalen Ramsey for his impressive performance (2 PBU, 1 TFL), letting the All-Pro cornerback break down the huddle.

“We had a great win but we gotta get better. Everybody know we gotta get better,” Ramsey said. “The sky ain’t even the limit. We can do whatever the (expletive) we want to do when we put our mind to it and work our (expletive) off.”

Check out the full locker room speeches in the video below.

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Watch highlights from Rams’ 20-12 win vs. Cardinals in Week 3

The Cardinals ran 35 more plays, had 26 more yards and held the ball for almost eight minutes more than the Rams on Sunday. Yet, it was Los Angeles that came away with a big Week 3 win, beating Arizona by a score of 20-12.

It was the Rams’ 11th win in 12 tries against the Cardinals since 2017, continuing their dominance against their division rivals. It was “only” an eight-point win, but it sure felt like much more than that – and it should’ve been, too.

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The end result was a weird one-possession win by the Rams in a game that felt like they controlled from start to finish. If you didn’t watch the game, the highlight package below will help explain what happened and how the Rams went on to win by eight points.

Among the notable plays were Cooper Kupp’s 20-yard touchdown run, Michael Hoecht’s blocked punt, Cam Akers’ 14-yard touchdown and his fumble on the goal line in the fourth quarter.

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Best photos from Rams’ 20-12 win over Cardinals

Syndication: Arizona Republic

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Cam Akers says he ‘just got greedy’ on fumble vs. Cardinals

Ball carriers naturally reach out for the goal line when they’re close to scoring. It cost Missouri in overtime on Saturday and it nearly came back to bite the Rams when Cam Akers fumbled it at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals.

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Thankfully, Los Angeles held off Arizona’s comeback attempt with a good defensive stand and a recovered onside kick, but Akers’ last carry was a frustrating one for both himself and the Rams. After the game, he explained what happened on the play, saying he “just got greedy” by trying to break the plane for a would-be touchdown.

Sean McVay expressed confidence in Akers afterwards, saying he would’ve been their running back in a four-minute situation. That’s because prior to the fumble, Akers was running the ball well and finished with 61 yards on only 12 rushes, including a 14-yard touchdown.

This fumble shouldn’t cost Akers any playing time next week against the 49ers, but McVay might have some second thoughts when putting No. 3 out there on the goal line.

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Cam Akers caps off drive with physical run for 14-yard TD

Cam Akers had just 44 rushing yards in the first two games of the season, getting very limited opportunities in the offense. On one drive alone Sunday, Akers rushed for 53 yards on six carries.

He helped put the Rams up 20-9 by carrying the offense down the field, capping it off with this 14-yard touchdown. Prior to that drive, Akers had just two carries for minus-1 yard in the game, so he came to life pretty suddenly at the end of the third quarter.

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Take a look at this physical run to end the drive with a 14-yard rushing touchdown, and give Ben Skowronek some credit for the block he laid on Zaven Collins.

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Jordan Fuller out, Lance McCutcheon active

Coming into Sunday’s game, the Los Angeles Rams already ruled out several key players. Brian Allen was unsurprisingly ruled out, as were cornerbacks Cobie Durant and David Long Jr. Van Jefferson was also placed on injured reserve as he continues to recover from a knee injury.

Jordan Fuller was the last player with an uncertain status for Week 3, coming in as being questionable to play. He’s officially inactive against the Cardinals, which means the Rams will be down three of their top four cornerbacks and a starting safety.

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The good news for fans is that Lance McCutcheon is active for the first time this season.

For Arizona, James Conner is also active after being considered a game-time decision. That’s significant for the Cardinals, giving them their lead running back.

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