Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones strips Rams quarterback Case Keenum on a sack Sunday during the Cards' 17-13 loss.
Most of the Cardinals' defensive ills were cured on Sunday afternoon.
The run defense stepped up, the defensive front got pressure and the team only allowed 17 points. That was of little solace afterward, as the Rams held tough for a 17-13 win, with a couple key defensive miscues looming large.
The Rams got on the board first when a missed tackle by cornerback Marcus Cooper allowed Los Angeles wideout Brian Quick to score a 65-yard first quarter touchdown. Later in the first half, the Rams converted a third-and-12 on a blown coverage and eventually scored a field goal.
The Rams are a team normally reliant on their ground game, but the miscues allowed quarterback Case Keenum to roll up
266 passing yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 111.2, the third-best single-game mark of his career.
"You can be playing good for 80 snaps out of a total of 83 snaps," safety Tony Jefferson said. "Those three snaps that you do bad on can beat you."
After an embarrassing showing in Buffalo in the week prior, at least this was a building block performance for the defense.
Los Angeles' star running back, Todd Gurley, was held to 19 carries for 33 yards and the Rams averaged only 1.8 yards per rush.
Outside linebackers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden each had their fourth sacks of the season. No player in Cardinals history had ever gotten a sack in each of the first four games of the season, and both did it this year.
"I have to look at the film, but I feel like we were winning," Golden said. "I was killing my dude on my side. Chandler was killing his guy in the middle and when he moved back to the outside. Calais was rushing."
Jones was moved around on the defensive front, and was able to get pressure both on the interior and from the edge.
"I'm not foreign to it," Jones said. "I played it over in New England. The coaches asked me to do that and that was my
task at hand. It's just some different looks. I don't want it to be predetermined or for them to predict where I am, so we changed up the look a little bit."
The Cardinals allowed only 288 total yards but also forced just a lone turnover, when Jones stripped Keenum on a passing play and recovered the fumble. The team finished negative-four in turnover differential, negating a 132-yard advantage in total yards.
"(There is) a game here and there where we may win the turnover battle, but the next game, we can't even get our hands on the ball," safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "It's really not our best football."
There were flashes of dominance for the unit, but it didn't add up to a victory, something the Cardinals are now in desperate need of after a shocking 1-3 start. Golden was a rookie last season and enjoyed a dream campaign, and now he's hoping to help dig the team out of this nightmare.
"I came here last year and it was up here," Golden said, putting his hand above his head. "I couldn't do anything but hop in line. It was a great, winning team. Ain't nobody comfortable with this. We're just going to have to come back tomorrow – and that's the good thing, because we practice tomorrow – and fix it.
"I really believe we've got a chance to win the rest of our games. I do. We've got a chance, because we have a great team. But we have to keep working."