Window closing for Cardinals' old guys as youthful Rams rip Arizona apart
The Arizona Cardinals' window as contenders in the NFL appears to be closing after they were crushed by the Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham.
After the Arizona Cardinals put the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the sword behind the experienced legs of Adrian Peterson, head coach Bruce Arians expressed his enjoyment in coaching "old guys".
Just a week later, and Arians may be pining for some more of the exuberance of youth on his roster after the Cardinals' season was effectively left in tatters courtesy of a crushing 33-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams, led by the youngest head coach in NFL history in 31-year-old Sean McVay, at Twickenham.
The loss dropped the Cardinals to 3-4, but more devastating was the broken arm suffered by veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, who is now set for at least eight weeks on the sidelines, leaving backup Drew Stanton to take the reins of an offense already devoid of star running back David Johnson.
When Palmer left the field, his last play seeing him intercepted by Lamarcus Joyner after he was hit by Alec Ogletree as he threw, the Cardinals trailed just 6-0.
But Rams running back Todd Gurley quickly cashed in the turnover with an 18-yard touchdown run and from there the Cardinals never looked like finding a way back.
The extremely talented Rams defensive front that had battered Palmer continued to throttle the dismal Cardinals offensive line, with Los Angeles showing little respect for the abilities of Stanton, who completed just five passes and was intercepted on his second drive.
Meanwhile the Rams offense, led by second-year quarterback Jared Goff, controlled the ball and third-year running back Gurley racked up 100 rushing yards against a Cardinals defense that had been stopping the run well, leaving a member of the Arizona old guard, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, to bemoan a lifeless showing.
"Nothing went well. Opening drive, we did some good things in the passing game, went with the ball and things became stagnant after that," said Fitzgerald.
"You've got to tip your hat. The Rams played really, really well. Defensively they have some All-Pro defensive players, and they showed up, and they showed up often.
"The intensity wasn't there, the urgency that you need to beat good teams, it just wasn't there. And it's unfortunate travelling this far, having a good week of practice and doing everything that you possibly could to prepare yourself to win a football game and come out and lay an egg is frustrating and is disappointing."
TG. AP.— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) October 22, 2017
The contrast to the mood in the Rams' locker room could hardly have been greater, with wide receiver Robert Woods praising an offensive performance in which Goff spread the ball around efficiently between his pass-catchers.
Woods said: "That's our main goal when we play we try to move the ball around, spread it around, attack all sides of the field and I think we did so. Put up the points, took time off the clock, a lot of first downs and finish drives, I think that's the reason why we had success.
"Our biggest thing is just pounding the ball, it doesn't matter who is in front of us. We just go out try to execute, move the ball, spread it around, put up points, and that's our main objective."
As Woods indicated, it is clear at this stage that the Rams fear nobody, and star defensive lineman Aaron Donald sees boundless potential for this team.
"Offense, defense, special teams, everybody is just feeding off each other, that's how you win a lot of games in this league," Donald said of the Rams' performance. "The sky is the limit."
With a fearsome defense and a collection of young offensive talent that is already clicking, it is tough to disagree with Donald. The Rams' Super Bowl window appears to be opening, but the Cardinals had the distinct look of a team whose time as contenders is all but over, and Palmer's injury should see the end of any hopes Arians' old guys had of a late push for glory.