(FootballStL) -- A fourth quarter comeback is reason enough for optimism if you’re a St. Louis Rams fan, but the league’s youngest team will need to carry on cautiously after a near debacle versus the Arizona Cardinals.
It needs to be stated: the Cardinals are a lot better than the five-win Cardinals a year ago, specifically the offense.
The Cardinals finished 31st in points scored last season. The main reason for the lack of production came from the quarterback position. Only three times did John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer combined to help the not-so-offensive offense score 24 or more points in a single game -- and all three games were victories. So far, Carson Palmer is one-for-one in that category after Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Rams.
The trio of Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd created havoc with 20 receptions for 259 yards and two touchdowns. All three are talented, especially with Palmer as their quarterback, but the three receivers were also aided by shoddy coverage from the Rams secondary.
As great as Janoris Jenkins might be one day, the much more experienced Fitzgerald is no slouch -- as seen by his first touchdown catch. Not even veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan stood a chance against the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver which was proven in Fitzgerald’s second touchdown catch of the game.
“He’s just another elite quarterback in the NFL,” Finnegan said of facing Palmer. “You’ve got to pick your poison. Sometimes we have to move coverage and everything. Everyone including myself wanted to play better today.”
It was a rough game in general for Finnegan who was flagged for two of the team’s seven penalties on Sunday. The penalties included two unnecessary roughness penalties and also had one for illegal contact which was declined. Both of the unnecessary roughness calls were part of scoring drives that resulted in a touchdown and a field goal for Arizona.
“I just can’t do that. I’ve got it all out of my system,” Finnegan said. “We’ve got 15 more (games), you won’t get another one out of me. You don’t want to hurt the team. I did that today. I’m glad we got a win. You’ve just got to learn from that.”
Head coach Jeff Fisher said afterward the team has “a long way to go,” but that’s expected with a young team.
“The staff was talking this week about feeling pretty good about where we are,” Fisher said. “But really realistically with the new players and the youth of the football team we were looking forward to getting into this ballgame to see which direction we have to go and what we have to address. There’s a lot of errors that we have to address, but most of those are just the self-inflicting wounds -- just the penalties.”
While the penalties are concerning, it wasn’t the only red flag to go up in the game for St. Louis. Up until his fumble recovery in the fourth quarter, there might as well have been a search party for Chris Long. As Robert Quinn made the Cardinals offensive line look non-existent, there was an emphasis on shutting down Long, who recorded one tackle to go along with the fumble recovery. Not even a single quarterback hit for Long, who led the team with 11.5 sacks last season.
“We’re better if we’ve been through the fire,” Long said. “We better get this stuff out of our system early. We don’t want to do this in Week 10.”
Long stepped up huge with the fumble recovery with his team down by three points minutes after FootballStL’s Twitter account posted “The #STLRams need Chris Long to come up big here.” (Sorry for the shameful plug.)
And he did.
Pointing out the struggles of Finnegan and Long during Sunday’s win isn’t meant to be a blast on two of the veteran pillars amongst a bunch of young ones. It’s a reason to show how impressive the victory really was for a young team learning the ropes of the NFL.
That’s why it’s okay to be optimistic about these Rams. Even when the veterans stumbled a bit, the new and young players stepped up to give the team its first season opening victory since 2006.
Finnegan and Long will be okay, just as the other players who struggled will. For now, the only thing to worry about is the amount of penalties taken. The team will have one week to fix it before traveling to face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
There should be a little more clarity to this week’s issues come next week at this time. Until then, carry on cautiously Rams fans.