Rams play at 'home' in London against Cardinals
Considering the Rams have only won twice at home since moving their franchise to Los Angeles for the start of the 2016 season, perhaps it was wise to stay on the road all week as they prepared for their "home" game in London, England, on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
"I don't think we should ever play at home," joked running back Todd Gurley, noting the Rams are 3-0 on the road this season and 1-2 at home. "We've gotten all the wins on the road. That's been a good thing for us."
The Rams (4-2) decided to stay in Jacksonville, Fla., after their 27-17 victory over the Jaguars. They practiced at a nearby college campus and flew to London on Thursday for their game at Twickenham Stadium.
The Cardinals (3-3), meanwhile, traveled to England on Monday, a day after their 38-33 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and have been practicing there since they landed.
"The teams that I've talked to that have done both, most were more successful coming early and getting acclimated to the time," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, adding he consulted with four or five different coaches.
Arizona is 5-0-1 in its past six games against NFC West opponents and 9-3-1 in its past 13 vs. the division, which marks the fourth-best winning percentage (.731) for a team against its own division during that span.
The Cardinals know they are facing an improved bunch in this year's version of the Rams, however.
"The bodies are the same, but the structure of the defense is totally different," Arians said. "They're still very aggressive. (Defensive Coordinator) Wade Phillips is one of the best coaches there is, and Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald and Alec Ogletree, they're all the same guys, but they're in different structures but still very dangerous.
"Offensively, they totally revamped their offense -- offensive line, receivers, tight ends -- but they still have that young running back that's great, and their quarterback has fit in very well because they do have a good running game now."
Quarterback Jared Goff is seventh in the NFL with 1,484 passing yards and he has thrown eight touchdowns against just three interceptions. He looks more comfortable in the pocket, has shown better patience in play-action calls, and he isn't forcing throws like he did during his rookie season a year ago.
It helps that he's not getting hit as much, either, and that the Rams are playing from ahead far more often.
Goff can thank Gurley for most of that. The running back is fourth in the league with 521 rushing yards and is on pace to finish with 1,400. Although nearly half of his rushes have gone for at least five yards, only two of his runs to date have gone for 20 yards or longer.
"For Todd to have over 100 yards on 23 carries and the long be 14 shows you how efficient we were running it -- guys were getting good knockoff," Rams coach Sean McVay said, referring to Gurley's game against the Jaguars.
He will have the full attention of the Cardinals' defense, according to defensive tackle Josh Mauro.
"He's a really, really good back," Mauro said. "He's got really good size, speed, strength, vision and he can catch the ball, too, so he's going to be a tough task to handle as a defense."
Adrian Peterson, scheduled to make his second start for the Cardinals after his trade form the New Orleans Saints, figures to offer just as much of a challenge to a Rams run defense that has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards in the league at an average of 139.5 per game.
"Adrian Peterson is not Adrian Peterson in 2008, 2009," cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said in the postgame locker room as a few stunned teammates looked on and listened. "He's not the same Adrian Peterson, and I think everybody knows that."
Or are the Rams really concerned about the 32-year-old Peterson at all?
All Peterson did in his debut with the Cardinals, though, was run for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries against the Buccaneers and win NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in the process. That's the eighth time he has won the award, which is the most of any non-quarterback.
Peterson has proved the skeptics wrong before, like when he returned from a torn ACL.
"Yeah, I think I did that a little bit in 2015. I came back after a year off and led the league in rushing, but yeah, because it is what it is," Peterson said. "A lot of people like to put a stamp on guys that it's over, running backs especially that are over 30, 32, but that doesn't mean anything. You've got guys that are playing at a high level, not at the running back position.
"You've got a couple guys that are still out there, but everyone is different. Everyone approaches it differently, as far as their mindset, the tools that they have, the ability that they've been blessed with. So I don't think they should attach that to every single player, especially running backs."
If Peterson does his thing, which should allow quarterback Carson Palmer to bide his time and not have to throw the ball so often, all the Cardinals have to do is make sure their defense shows up and finishes the game.
Los Angeles blew a 21-0 lead against Tampa Bay and almost paid for it.
"We have to understand that once we have a team down, we have to find a way to keep them there," said Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is nursing a sore quadriceps tendon. "We understand that momentum shifts in games. At the end of the day, we have to find ways to weather the storm.
"Luckily, we did last week, and we just have to continue building on finding ways to finish games. We started out fast, but we didn't finish fast. We'll start slow, then try to finish fast. We have to find ways to put both of those together so we can become that dynamic team that we know we are."
Updated October 19, 2017