Cardinals 24

(0-1, 0-1 away)

Rams 27

(1-0, 1-0 home)

Coverage: FOX

4:25 PM ET, September 8, 2013

Edward Jones Dome, Saint Louis, MO 

1 2 3 4 T
ARI 0 10 14 024
LAR 0 10 3 1427

Top Performers

Passing: C. Palmer (ARI) - 327 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: D. Richardson (LAR) - 20 CAR, 63 YDS

Receiving: J. Cook (LAR) - 7 REC, 141 YDS, 2 TD

Cardinals-Rams Preview


Though Steven Jackson isn't suiting up for a St. Louis Rams season opener for the first time since 2004, that won't diminish raised expectations for a team that hasn't made the playoffs since his rookie year.

After turning 30, he would have been considered a senior citizen on the league's most youthful roster, anyway.

The Arizona Cardinals are counting on the experience of new coach Bruce Arians and veteran quarterback Carson Palmer to help key their turnaround, beginning Sunday in St. Louis.

Jackson opted out of the final year and $7 million remaining on his contract to sign with Atlanta, leaving as the Rams' all-time leading rusher with a streak of eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

His departure, while disappointing, hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of a St. Louis team that won four of its last six to finish at 7-8-1. Coach Jeff Fisher expects an even better year from the Rams, who added tight end Jared Cook and offensive tackle Jake Long to help quarterback Sam Bradford.

"One would assume that we'll just continue to get better," Fisher said.

General manager Les Snead thinks so, too.

"Now is when you're got to learn grit," Snead said. "They're going to know we're coming."

St. Louis' 53-man roster has an average age of 24.98, the lowest in the NFL for the second straight season. Daryl Richardson, 23, replaces Jackson as the starting running back after averaging 4.8 yards per carry in a backup role as a rookie. He beat out last year's second-round pick Isaiah Pead, who is suspended for Week 1 after violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Add receiver Tavon Austin, the No. 8 overall pick, and the Rams boast a young, potentially explosive offense despite losing Jackson.

"I see us being so young as an advantage in some ways," Richardson said. "We've got room to grow, room to get better. We're working hard because we really want it."

There's no youth movement happening in Arizona, where the 60-year-old Arians received his first permanent NFL head coaching job after a successful interim stint with Indianapolis in 2012.

The Cardinals, who started 4-0 before dropping 11 of their final 12 last season, acquired the 33-year-old Palmer from Oakland to help settle a quarterback situation that has been in limbo since former Ram Kurt Warner retired.

"This is a cowboy movie," Arians said. "With two old guys, this is our last rodeo in the desert."

Palmer, who threw for 4,018 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, said the new offense has been tough to grasp, but he's counting on star receiver Larry Fitzgerald and others to help as everyone makes the transition.

Arizona, which finished last in the league with an average of 75.3 rushing yards per game last season, also signed Rashard Mendenhall from Pittsburgh to be its starting running back after he was plagued by injuries in 2012.

They'll all look to help improve a Cardinals offense that ranked last in the NFL with 263.1 yards per game and tied for the second-most turnovers with 34.

"We have smart football players on this offense," Palmer said. "Combine that with athleticism and speed and experience. You look at a guy like Larry's experience and his catches and his touches in games, I'm as excited and as optimistic as ever."

Bradford feels the same way. This is the first time since the former No. 1 overall pick isn't learning a brand new scheme, as offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer returns for a second season.

"I thought we had a really good training camp," Bradford said. "I thought we did some really good things during the preseason when we were on the field, and now it's full steam ahead getting ready for Arizona."

The Cardinals may be adding a new wrinkle to their scheme, as cornerback and return specialist Patrick Peterson has been taking reps with the offense. Arians believes he can surprise opponents by using Peterson, who said the team has instituted roughly 60 plays for him.

"(Fitzgerald) was kidding me," Peterson said. "He said, `Technically, you're our fifth receiver."

The Rams' defense ranked 14th with an average of 342.6 yards allowed last season, and it will look to improve on that number with help from rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree, the club's first-round pick.

Fellow former SEC competitor Tyrann Mathieu is expected to see plenty of snaps in the Cardinals' secondary after being selected in the third round despite being kicked off the LSU team prior to last season.

St. Louis won both meetings with Arizona last season, 17-3 on Oct. 4 and 31-17 on Nov. 25.

Passing Leaders

J. Rosen55.222781114
S. Bradford62.540024
J. Goff64.946883212
S. Mannion66.72300

Rushing Leaders

D. Johnson2589403.67
C. Edmonds602083.52
T. Gurley II25612514.917
C. Anderson432997.02

Receiving Leaders

L. Fitzgerald6973410.66
C. Kirk4359013.73
R. Woods86121914.26
B. Cooks80120415.15

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

Total YardsARI
Yards PassingARI
Yards RushingARI
Yards AllowedARI
Pass Yds AllowedARI
Rush Yds AllowedARI

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

Arizona leads 13-11
Nov 25, 2012ARI 17, LAR 31
Oct 4, 2012ARI 3, @LAR 17
Nov 27, 2011ARI 23, @LAR 20
Nov 6, 2011ARI 19, LAR 13
Dec 5, 2010ARI 6, LAR 19
Sep 12, 2010ARI 17, @LAR 13
Dec 27, 2009ARI 31, LAR 10
Nov 22, 2009ARI 21, @LAR 13
Dec 7, 2008ARI 34, LAR 10
Nov 2, 2008ARI 34, @LAR 13
Dec 30, 2007ARI 48, LAR 19
Oct 7, 2007ARI 34, @LAR 31
Dec 3, 2006ARI 34, @LAR 20
Sep 24, 2006ARI 14, LAR 16
Nov 20, 2005ARI 38, @LAR 28
Sep 18, 2005ARI 12, LAR 17
Dec 19, 2004ARI 31, LAR 7
Sep 12, 2004ARI 10, @LAR 17
Nov 23, 2003ARI 27, LAR 30
Sep 28, 2003ARI 13, @LAR 37
Dec 15, 2002ARI 28, @LAR 30
Nov 3, 2002ARI 14, LAR 27

Research Notes

Jared Cook didn't catch a pass without fumbling it until inside the first-half two-minute warning in his Rams' debut. However, Cook finished the game catching his last six targets for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns to bring the Rams back into the game. Overall, Sam Bradford was 7-of-10 for 141 yards and two touchdowns targeting Cook.
Nose tackle Dan Williams intercepted Sam Bradford from 2 yards out and scored his first-career touchdown. Williams is the first Cardinals defensive lineman with a interception return touchdown since Eric Swann on Nov. 28, 1999 at Giants.
Larry Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 80 yards in his first game with Carson Palmer, including a pair of end-zone targets. Cardinals' quarterbacks were 0-for-9 when targeting Fitzgerald in the end zone last year, but caught 2-of-3 targets from Palmer.
The 4-yard TD catch by Larry Fitzgerald was the 5th time he's caught a touchdown in a season opener. That's tied for the 2nd most by a Cardinals player since the merger (1970). The others are: Pat Tilley (7) and Roy Green (5)
From Elias: With two receiving touchdowns today, Larry Fitzgerald is just one behind Ollie Matson for the most games with multiple TD in Cardinals history.

ESPN Stats & Information