Rams run game stuck against Arizona

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For most of the season, the St. Louis Rams have struggled to run the ball with any consistency, especially against the better defenses in the league.

But no defense has offered more of a barrier to ground production than the Arizona Cardinals'. That proved true again Thursday night when the Cardinals held St. Louis to 69 yards on 20 carries, an average of just 3.5 yards per attempt. Their running backs had even bigger issues, gaining just 37 yards on 15 carries.

On a night in which the Rams managed little in the way of offense as a whole, the inability to run tipped the first domino.

"They played well up front and we had difficulty getting the run game going," coach Jeff Fisher said. "Everything we do, most people do, is build it off that run game. Get the run game going then you get your shots, you have your opportunities."

That never happened against the Cardinals, not that the inability to move it on the ground against the Cardinals is a groundbreaking revelation for the Rams. In two meetings this year, the Rams' running backs (not including receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey) are averaging just 48.5 rushing yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry.

Against all other teams, Rams running backs average 92.9 yards and 4.3 yards per carry. Absent a consistent running threat, the Rams' offense is destined to struggle.

The Rams have lost all four games in which they have less than 90 rushing yards and have scored a combined 33 points in those contests. In their three best rushing performances, they've averaged 144.7 yards per game on the ground, won all three and averaged 32.7 points.

It's part of the simple formula that the Rams hoped to replicate more often this year: Run the ball, stop the run and win the turnover battle. They've alternately done each of those three things throughout the season and even done them all at once on occasion. But they haven't done it enough, especially against tough defenses like Arizona.

“They really had a nice scheme on defense," running back Tre Mason said. "They played us well today and kept us in check in our run game, guys like [Cardinals DE] Calais Campbell, their front seven, their DBs. They’re pretty good players up front.”