GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals had their chances to beat the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night. The two heavyweights in the NFC West fought until the final drive before the Rams eventually took the hard-earned 30-23 victory.
Disappointing is a good way to describe the end result for the Cardinals. Discouraging is not.
“It’s all in front of us right now," Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray said. "The great thing about (Monday) was that atmosphere that you need and you want as a competitor. This was a big-time football game against a great team. They got the best of us tonight, but I know the guys in the locker room. We’ll be back for sure.”
The Cardinals (10-3) have good reasons to be confident. They're still in control of the NFC West, one game ahead of the Rams. The team's relatively healthy considering they're 13 games into an NFL season.
But the division lead that the Cardinals have is down to one game. Tampa Bay and Green Bay both have 10-3 records and the Packers beat the Cardinals earlier this season. The Cowboys and the Rams are right behind all three teams at 9-4.
“Every game is going to be crucial moving forward, we understand that and we’ve got some tough ones,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "So, we’ve got to flush this one. We’ve got six days before Detroit. We’ve got to get ready.”
Arizona's loss to the Rams can be attributed to two major factors. Murray — for all of his good moments — had two costly interceptions. The Cardinals' defense also struggled to contain the Rams' passing game.
“We’re frustrated. We’re disappointed,” Kingsbury said. "But, we’ll get back.”
Arizona's offense had a 447-356 advantage in total yards and consistently moved the ball against the Rams, even with L.A. defensive lineman Aaron Donald making multiple big plays. Murray threw for 383 yards. A.J. Green caught seven passes for 102 yards. James Conner scored two tough touchdowns and has scored at least one TD in seven straight games.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Cardinals' pass defense has been among the best in the NFL this season, but gave up some big plays on Monday. Van Jefferson snuck behind the secondary one time for a 52-yard touchdown. Odell Beckham Jr. scored a touchdown and got loose for another 40-yard gain. Cooper Kupp made plays all night, catching 13 balls for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Is there anything RB James Conner can't do? The former Pittsburgh Steeler has been fantastic for the Cardinals in his first season and proven to be a capable No. 1 option in the backfield. He caught nine passes for 94 yards and scored two hard-earned touchdowns on tough runs in the red zone.
OL Sean Harlow has had a breakout season, filling in admirably after multiple offensive linemen have struggled with injuries. But he struggled at times against the Rams' talented defensive line on Monday. He was called for a few penalties, including a crucial holding call on the final drive when Arizona was trying to tie the game.
The Cardinals are in decent shape though there is some concern about WR DeAndre Hopkins (leg) and Conner (ankle). Both players were banged up on Monday's final plays and Kingsbury said both will get MRIs on Tuesday. Hopkins missed three games last month because of a hamstring injury. Losing Conner for any length of time would be a big blow.
3-3. The Cardinals have had a very good — and mildly odd — season through 13 games. Arizona is 7-0 on the road and won all those games by double figures. The Cardinals are just 3-3 at home and would be 2-4 if the Minnesota Vikings hadn't missed a short field goal in the final seconds in Week 2.
The good news for the Cardinals is they're going back on the road next week, where they've been excellent this season. They're also facing the Detroit Lions, who have won just one game this season. If the Cardinals can handle their business in Detroit, they'll have a three-game stretch against the Colts, Cowboys and Seahawks as they try to capture the top playoff spot in the NFC.
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