When the Cardinals took an 11-point lead in St. Louis with 1 minute, 53 seconds left in the third quarter, the Bruce Arians Era looked like it was getting off to a good start.
Then it all started to unravel.
First, the Cardinals let Rams quarterback Sam Bradford orchestrate an 80-yard drive capped by a two-point conversion. Then Arizona’s offensive line woes continued, leading to a strip-sack of Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. The Rams recovered and four plays later they tied the game at 24. All it took was 7:46.
St. Louis’ game-winning field goal with 45 seconds left came after the Cardinals failed to convert two crucial third downs.
But Arians wasn’t dejected Monday morning.
“You never accept losing, but there are some very good things and some very correctable things,” he said. “I think disappointed? Yes. Discouraged? Not at all, would be the way we describe where we’re at right now.
“We wanted that win desperately. It’s a big win in the division on the road. We had it on our grasp.”
And part of the reason the Cardinals lost was that they literally let the Rams out of their grasp. Arians identified the following three areas of concern stemming from Sunday’s game.
Here’s how they impacted the Cardinals’ 27-24 loss:
“Really poor tackling”
The Cardinals’ inability to bring down the Rams wasn’t just an isolated incident that happened a time or two. It was an issue all game. Cornerback Jerraud Powers missed a tackle on Rams running back Daryl Richardson on the first drive, which led to a 15-yard gain. Arians pointed out another missed tackle on Richardson in the right flat two plays before St. Louis’ game-winning field goal.
In all, 184 of the Rams’ passing yards were after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus.
Eight Cardinals missed at least one tackle in the game and they finished with 10 total, according to PFF. Powers and Jasper Brinkley had two each.
This was an issue for last year’s team, as well, which is ironic considering the amount of turnover on defense. Like Arians pointed out with almost all the concerns after the game, these are correctable mistakes.
Arians said Monday the Cardinals prided themselves on being a good situational football team, but that wasn’t the case in the final 2 minutes of each half.
In the second quarter, the Rams had gone 40 yards in 3:23 when the 2-minute warning hit. Then they went another 40 yards in six plays in the last two minutes with three plays of 9 or more yards.
In the fourth, the Rams regained possession with 1:45 left at their own 20. They only went 50 yards in 1 minute to set up kicker Greg Zuerlein's 48-yard game-winner.
When the Rams were pressing, the Cardinals couldn’t respond and let medium-sized chunk plays lead to scores. The Cards gave up a total of 10 points inside the 2-minute warning Sunday. Hold the Rams to either a field goal or no points, and the Cardinals leave with a win.
Pass rush lacking
Darnell Dockett played 58 snaps -- 25 runs and 33 passes -- and managed just one quarterback hurry, according to PFF. Just six of the Cardinals’ 17 total hurries came from the edge. Arians chalked up the underwhelming pass rush to the need for better technique and fatigue from the starters.
It was also the defensive line’s first game in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ new one-gap system, which allows the front three to attack the line instead of reacting to which way the center moves.
The line, however, did pave the way for the linebackers. Lorenzo Alexander had five quarterback hurries in 16 pass rushes, while Brinkley hit Rams quarterback Sam Bradford three times.