The situation -- Early in the third quarter, the Rams had finally managed to get some points on the board as kicker Zach Hocker booted a 35-yard field goal to trim Arizona's lead to 10-3. On the ensuing kickoff, Arizona returner Kerwynn Williams mishandled the ball and it went out of bounds at Arizona's 2.
Suddenly, a Rams team that had little spark in the first half found itself in position to get a quick stop to swing field position or potentially make a big play on defense that could turn the game on its head. After the Cardinals ran two plays for 7 yards, Arizona faced a third-and-3 at its 9-yard line.
The play -- Before the snap, the Cardinals lined up in an interesting formation with two receivers stacked inside the numbers to quarterback Carson Palmer's right. Palmer was also flanked by two running backs, one to each side with receiver Michael Floyd split wide to his left. The Rams were in their nickel defense with cornerback Lamarcus Joyner at the line of scrimmage in front of the two bunched wideouts and Janoris Jenkins at the line opposite Floyd. Free safety Rodney McLeod, who usually plays the "angel" role on the back end, was in the run box alongside middle linebacker James Laurinaitis and weakside linebacker Mark Barron with four down linemen in front of them. That left only safety T.J. McDonald on the back end.
At the snap, the Rams rushed only four, with Joyner and Marcus Roberson handling the two receivers to Palmer's right and McDonald deep. Both running backs ran routes, but the Cardinals could have used some help as the Rams got immediate push from their line, specifically in the form of defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who beat guard Ted Larsen so quickly that it's amazing Palmer was able to get the throw off.
On something of a "throw it up and hope for something good" toss, Palmer got the ball off just before Donald took him down. The intended target was Floyd, who did a good job of disengaging from Jenkins near the line of scrimmage and getting to the outside of Jenkins. Still, Jenkins was with Floyd every step of the way and was able to make a play on the ball as it floated about 30 yards down the field.
But even with Jenkins covering him, Floyd was able to use his size (he's about 5 inches taller than Jenkins) to high-point the football as Jenkins turned his head toward the ball. Floyd crashed down with the ball in his arms as Jenkins attempted to jar it loose, but Floyd held on for a 31-yard gain to Arizona's 40.
The fallout -- While this play might seem rather innocuous, it came at an important time and sent a jarring reminder of something the Rams are missing. First and foremost, the catch spurred the Cardinals to finish the drive, a 98-yard scoring march that ended with Palmer's 10-yard touchdown toss to running back David Johnson. Given the Rams' offensive struggles, there was no doubt that a 17-3 deficit would be too much for the Rams to overcome. That turned out to be the case as Arizona went on to score 10 more unanswered points to wrap the game up with 17 unanswered.
Floyd's catch also offered a reminder that the Rams still don't have a player consistently capable of making a play like the one Floyd made at important times. Really, since Torry Holt was doing his thing, the Rams haven't had a wideout making contested or difficult catches on a regular basis. It's just one more thing on the team's already lengthy offseason shopping list.