The Cardinals hope to bottle up Rams running back Todd Gurley on Sunday in St. Louis, like they did on this play in Week 4.
The Cardinals defense has cycled through many players during coach Bruce Arians' tenure, but one thing that's never left is a pride in shutting down opposing rushing attacks.
The unit has long held a core belief that stopping the run will lead to success, and most of the time it has been excellent at doing so. That wasn't the case in the first matchup with the Rams, when rookie Todd Gurley had 15 carries for 144 yards in the second half alone to spark the 24-22 upset victory in Week 4.
That performance has stayed in the minds of the defense for a long time, and two months later it will finally get a chance at atonement.
"There's probably no measure for the amount of disappointment we all had in that performance," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. "But we're very fortunate we get a chance to go play again. I think our guys are very aware of what we need to do in this game."
Gurley's dominant showing against the Cardinals kickstarted a four-game stretch where he ran for at least 125 yards in every contest, and the Rams won three of them. He hasn't been as good lately – with a nine-carry, 19-yard performance last week against the Bengals his low point – but is still averaging 4.8 yards per carry and 88.2 yards per game.
The performance against the Cardinals was Gurley's coming-out party, but the secret is out of the bag now.
"We're not surprised this time," safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "We have to go a great job of 11 guys trying to tackle him and really constrict the running lanes. He's such a great back. It's hard to contain a guy like that."
Arians said there doesn't need to be any Herculean effort defensively, just sound fundamentals.
"Stay in your gap," Arians said. "It's not like he ran over a bunch of guys and did something super human. He was untouched on about two or three of those runs, so just get in your gap and make a tackle."
COOPER TRIES TO STAY POSITIVE FOLLOWING DEMOTION
When Arians announced his decision on Wednesday to stick with Ted Larsen at right guard, he spoke highly of the future for Jonathan Cooper.
However, it can't be an easy situation to
swallow for the former top-10 overall pick. Cooper has been sidelined the past two games with a knee injury, and he will be a backup moving forward even as he returns to full health.
"It's just one of those 'it is what it is' situations," Cooper said. "You take it as positively as you can and just continue to work hard and be the best player I can be."
Cooper said his performance level was "obviously not" where it needs to be but wasn't told of a specific area that needed improvement.
"Just generally," Cooper said. "Nothing too specific was said. At this point in time that was the best move for the team, and that's the pretty much the main focus in order to make this Super Bowl run."
ANOTHER CRACK AT FOLES
Rams quarterback Nick Foles played well against the Cardinals the first time around – 16-of-24 passing for 171 yards and three touchdowns – but was so poor in his starts after, he got benched.
Case Keenum took over against the Ravens on Nov. 22 but suffered a concussion near the end of it, which kept him out of last week's loss to the Bengals. Keenum has cleared the concussion protocol but coach Jeff Fisher is going to use Foles as his starter since Keenum was limited this week in practice and listed as questionable for the game.
Foles is 2-1 in his career against the Cardinals with a 96.5 quarterback rating, also faring well in a pair of games with the Eagles.
"We've got a lot of respect for Nick," Arians said.
ELLINGTON, RUCKER, POWERS OUT FOR RAMS GAME
The Cardinals will not have three key pieces in St. Louis, as running back Andre Ellington (turf toe), defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (ankle) and cornerback Jerraud Powers (calf) have been ruled out. Ellington is in California getting looked at by a specialist for his injury, Arians said.
Defensive tackle Cory Redding (ankle) didn't practice this week and is listed as doubtful for the game. Wide receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring) is listed as questionable, although Arians lumped him in with the group of players who are "good to go." Wide receiver John Brown (hamstring) was limited on Friday but is listed as probable.
For the Rams, tackle Andrew Donnal (knee) is out. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson (thigh), defensive end Robert Quinn (back) and kicker Greg Zuerlein (hip) are doubtful.
Images of key players for this week's opponent, the St. Louis Rams