Losing Turnover Battle Central to Arizona Cardinals Week 14 Loss

Arizona Cardinals Week 14

Week 4 meant nothing in Week 14 as the Arizona Cardinals took on the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football. With a win under their belt, and facing a Rams side beaten up by Covid-19 absences this week, many thought the Cardinals could pull out the win. Yet, even missing their top corner and right tackle, and owing to some uncharacteristically poor play from Arizona, the Rams were, in truth, in complete control for the majority of the game. Losing the turnover battle was a critical blow for Arizona.

For a Cardinals team that has been excellent in all phases of the game this season, there were issues on both sides of the ball on Monday night as the Cardinals fell to 0-2 on the national stage in 2021. It’s a testament to the quality of this Cardinals squad that they gave themselves a chance to tie the game. Unfortunately, losing the turnover battle, wasting the ball on offense, and allowing Matthew Stafford to beat them ultimately added up to what was a potentially momentum-shifting loss in both the division and the conference.

Losing Turnover Battle Critical to Arizona Cardinals Week 14 Loss

Rams Protected Beat-Up Secondary

When the news came down the wire that LA’s All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey would miss the game due to Covid protocols, Cardinals fans began relishing the opportunity to line up their own All-Pro receivers on a bunch of stand-ins for the Rams. Indeed, it looked like the Cardinals might have their way, going after Kareem Orr on their first possession.

The Cardinals failed to exploit the inadequacies in the LA secondary, largely owing to the success that the Rams had up front. Their front seven more than made up for their banged-up secondary; they protected their guys well by attacking Arizona’s passing game from the front. They consistently generated pressure and, as noted on the broadcast, veteran Von Miller was effective in keeping Kyler Murray in the pocket. That James Conner, Arizona’s only standout, was their leading receiver is indicative of how the Rams collapsed the depth of Arizona’s passing game.

It was a game that seemed set up for the Cardinals to throw all over the Rams. There was no Jalen Ramsey, and other absences in the secondary, but the front seven more than made up for it. Aside from a handful of plays, the Cardinals never really achieved any consistency in the downfield passing game. Subsequently, they struggled to keep pace with the Rams.

Losing the Turnover Battle and Wasting the Ball

In some regards, coming out -4 in the turnover battle and losing by only one score is somewhat encouraging for the Cardinals. However, that turnover differential is why they ultimately lost the game. Against a Rams offense that was firing on all cylinders, the Cardinals failed to keep up. Wasting possessions lost this shootout for the Cardinals.

Now, no interception is good. The first one was, ostensibly, a good play for the Rams, rather than a bad one for Arizona. It starts up front, and Aaron Donald really got that first game out of his head on Sunday. He caused a ton of issues on the interior for Arizona’s offensive line. It can be questioned as to whether Murray’s ball was getting to its intended destination anyway, but Donald tipped it for an easy pick and the Cardinals caught a tough break on the goal line.

However, that second pick was more concerning. The floater, just clearing the defender, the Rodgers or Brady special; Murray has that in his locker. It just looks bad when he couldn’t clear the 6’5″ Leonard Floyd and basically threw him the ball. Hopefully, Murray doesn’t slip back into this trend of throwing the ball away on the first possession of the second half, but these turnovers overshadowed what was otherwise a decent game for Arizona’s franchise quarterback. Add in the turnovers on downs, perhaps as much of a coaching failure as it was on the field, and the Cardinals gave up the ball four times. Losing the turnover battle lost the game for Arizona.

Defense Couldn’t Repeat Week 4 Performance

Practically everything that Arizona’s defense did well in Week 4, they failed to do in Week 14. It was refreshing to hear Jalen Thompson and this young secondary praised by Louis Riddick on the national broadcast. However, Arizona’s rising star safety wasn’t the reliable backstop he usually is for the Cardinals on Monday. This Rams offense is designed to dink and dunk until the defense gives them the deep ball. In the first meeting, the Cardinals combated this excellently and created a turnover from it. Here in Week 14 though, they allowed Stafford that deep ball and he took it. The Van Jefferson touchdown was a real back-breaker, with Thompson uncharacteristically ineffective. He played well down to the line against the run, as usual, but Arizona’s secondary as a whole, Thompson included, didn’t have a great game.

In their defense though, Arizona’s pass rush hung their secondary out to dry. Arizona failed to consistently generate any pressure on Stafford, who, given that much time, will carve up any defense. Add in Cooper Kupp out in the pattern, and Arizona’s secondary understandably struggled. Vance Joseph deployed an uncharacteristically large amount of four-man pressures, and they just couldn’t get it done. The Rams won because they played complementary football on defense; the Cardinals lost because they did not.

Again, under the bright lights of primetime, the Cardinals faltered. It was only a one-score game in a meeting that saw some of the worst out of the Cardinals, so fans shouldn’t be too disheartened. However, there were some glaring issues that the team should make a point of cleaning up next week. That should be easy to do against Detroit.

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