LOS ANGELES – The Cardinals weren’t this close to the Pacific Ocean for their opener, but nonetheless, it felt like they were trucked by a wave.
The Redskins were crisp on offense and stout on defense last Sunday at State Farm Stadium, jumping out to a 21-0 halftime lead and cruising to the win.
The loss left a bad taste in the Cardinals’ mouths, and as they head west for a tough Week 2 matchup against the Rams, it’s critical they wash it out.
“We’re a little salty right now,” defensive coordinator Al Holcomb said. “We’ve got to come out prepared to play. It’s a tremendous challenge in front of us, but a great opportunity at the same time. We have to come out and play our brand of football like we’re capable of playing.”
Within the locker room, there is confidence that a series of quick fixes can result in a vastly better showing against the Rams. While the Cardinals find themselves near the bottom of most league-wide power rankings, they are intent on proving the first game was an aberration.
“That’s not how we want to be portrayed throughout the league,” Bethea said. “We’ve got to come out in Week 2 and play much better.”
Coach Steve Wilks said the defense might have been too amped up in the opener, as players abandoned gap integrity to try to make a big play. That seems easily fixable, but the bigger concern may be the lack of physicality, as the Cardinals must show they can hold up against a strong Rams rushing attack, led by Todd Gurley.
“This is going to be a physical run game this week,” Wilks said. “Those guys do a great job of really coming off the ball, trying to get to the second level. So we’ve got to play downhill.”
The offense only ran 14 plays in the first half against the Redskins and never found a rhythm. It went three-and-out on two of the three possessions as quarterback Sam Bradford had 11 passing yards at intermission. Running back David Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald were featured weapons as the game went along, but no other skill player made a huge impact.
Tight end Ricky Seals-Jones hopes to produce against Los Angeles, while Christian Kirk and Chad Williams figure to get more opportunities after quiet debuts.
“We targeted Larry a lot last week, but I think those other guys are more than capable of making plays,” Wilks said. “We’ve got to spread it around.”
The Rams won the NFC West a year ago and then loaded up this offseason, adding wide receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, cornerback Marcus Peters and cornerback Aqib Talib, among others.
They looked as advertised in a season-opening win over the Raiders and now return to L.A. for their home opener. Judging by last week’s outcomes, the Cardinals will have a tough time against the Rams, but Wilks has seen fortunes change quickly in the NFL.
“This is a week-to-week business,” Wilks said. “I learned this a long time ago. You can never get too high; you can never get too low. You’ve got to stay the course. We came back and bounced back on Monday. Guys didn’t sit around and start licking their wounds. We’re going to kick the ball off Sunday in L.A., so we’ve got to be ready to play.”
Images of past matchups between the Cardinals and this week's opponent, the Los Angeles Rams