LOS ANGELES – It was something Steve Wilks most certainly did not want to feel or say, but the reality hit the Cardinals’ coach hard Sunday afternoon at Los Angeles Memorial Stadium
“It was a little déjà vu from last week,” Wilks said, after his team absorbed a 34-0 loss to the Rams.
And with that feeling – the Cardinals were down 19-0 at the half, after falling behind 21-0 after a half in the opener – Wilks was clear that change could be coming. It might even be at quarterback, where Sam Bradford had his issues and first-round pick Josh Rosen waits in the wings. But Wilks was committing to nothing other than looking at all potential moves.
“I’m not going to sit here and jump to conclusions right now,” Wilks said, adding when asked about the quarterback that every position would be looked at.
Wilks added he never considered putting Rosen in against the Rams, saying he didn’t think “one guy” would have made a difference Sunday when so many things went wrong.
The Cardinals, 0-2 for the first time since 2005, mustered only five first downs (compared to 24 for the Rams) as they were shut out for a second straight year by the Rams. Los Angeles also kept the Cardinals from scoring in last year’s game “at” the Rams, a 33-0 result that just happened to be played in London.
But that game took a turn when starting quarterback Carson Palmer broke his arm. Sunday, Bradford simply couldn’t get untracked, throwing for only 90 yards on his 17-for-27 day. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who came out early after hurting his hamstring, led all Cardinals pass catchers with his 9.3-yards-per-catch average.
The Cards were outgained, 432-137, in total yards.
“I wish there was one thing I could tell you that if it got fixed would make things instantly better,” Bradford said. “(Improvement) has got to start happening now. That’s two weeks in a row we’ve let the defense down.”
The Cardinals did play better on defense early, making things difficult for star running back Todd Gurley and getting through the first quarter – for a second straight week – in a scoreless game.
The Rams (2-0) also suffered an early blow when kicker Greg Zuerlein couldn’t play when he hurt his groin. But that special teams advantage never mattered, especially when new Rams punt returner Jo Jo Natson averaged 22.2 yards on six returns, often flipping the field.
And while Gurley had just 42 yards on 19 carries – a 2.2-yard average – he scored three touchdowns. Quarterback Jared Goff was picked off once by cornerback Patrick Peterson, but Goff still picked on spots in the Cardinals’ zone for 354 yards passing, too often feeling little pass rush.
“It’s frustrating, but this is no time to feel sorry for ourselves,” defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said.
What the Cardinals need to make time for is an offensive step forward. Fitzgerald emphasized the Rams’ defense is very good, but the Cardinals were 3-of-12 on third downs and didn’t cross midfield until the next-to-last play of the game. They have scored six points this season.
“I don’t even know where to start right now,” Wilks said, before trying to note all the spots he’d like to see get better.
Bradford is the easy target, especially with Rosen sitting on the bench. But Bradford’s teammates tried to stop such talk.
“Unfair,” guard Justin Pugh said. “This is a team sport. Eleven guys go on that field. I think every single guy will probably come out here and say they didn’t do enough today. You get beat 34-0? We clearly didn’t do our jobs.”
Added Fitzgerald, “Sam is just one person out of 11 on that side of the ball. Blame doesn’t fall on just him.”
Fitzgerald didn’t sound surprised Wilks was planning to evaluate players and considering changes, but added that every player was doing that with themselves every week anyway.
Wilks emphasized he was going to be looking at the defense and special teams. This isn’t just an offensive concern, but that makes sense after such lopsided scores.
The Cardinals now have two straight home games, against the Bears and Seahawks. They have already reached a pivot point in their young season.
“Tough times and turmoil, you really find out who you are and what type of men we have in this locker room,” Pugh said. “We’re going to find out. We’re 0-2 with two really bad losses. There’s no hiding behind anything. There’s no, ‘Oh, this could have gone a different way.’ We got our asses kicked today. We’ve got to go find out. Start from ground zero and start building this thing back up.”
Images from the Cardinals' Week 2 matchup in Los Angeles