The Arizona Cardinals were without starting right guard Evan Mathis for the team's game in Buffalo last Sunday, and the effects of his loss were felt throughout Arizona's 33-18 defeat.
Reserve offensive lineman Earl Watford subbed in for Mathis at right guard, and made just his third career start against a Buffalo Bills' front that dominated the Cardinals at the point of attack throughout the contest.
Arizona surrendered five sacks against the Bills as Watford and right tackle D.J. Humphries struggled on the right side of the offensive line, and Thursday, Cardinals' offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin addressed the team's troubles.
"We have to do a better job of just handling some of the games as far as twists and stuff of that nature," Goodwin said. "A couple of times we got picked and we shouldn't have gotten picked, and we have to do a better job of snapping the penetrator on just a simple T-E (tackle and end) twist and pick based off a back going to get his guy and then him running his guy into us, but that's no excuse. We have to do a better job protecting the quarterback and do a better job of getting the ball out and receivers have to get open."
An unstable offensive line was just part of Arizona's problem Sunday, as the team went three-and-out on its first five drives of the game and failed to score in the first quarter for the third straight game.
The Cardinals' first team offense put together concerning performances during preseason action, but head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer insisted Arizona wouldn't miss a beat once the regular season rolled around. Still, Arians and Palmer haven't exactly backed up their word, as the Cardinals fell behind 17-0 Sunday thanks to a lackluster offensive effort that Goodwin said set the tone for the way the entire team played.
"As a unit, we have to do a better job because everything begins and ends with us and if we don't play well, this team doesn't play well," Goodwin said. "We have to set the tone and offensively we all know we have to do a better job with a fast start. Too many times we're easing into games, we have to do a better job putting the peddle to the floor and get going because there's way too much talent on this team to play like that."
Arizona knows it can't afford a fourth straight lackadaisical start against a division opponent that gave the team troubles last season. The Los Angeles Rams may not have a great offense, but the team's defense has carried it to a 2-1 record and Jeff Fisher's squad already owns a key early season victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Goodwin said the Rams' defense will force the Cardinals to pick up their production, because the unit knows it needs to carry its weight if it wants to topple the current NFC West leader.
"We have a very good defensive team that's coming in here, great front seven, great back four, fast, athletic and tough team coming in that's on a roll right now," Goodwin said. "Offensively, we've got to pick it up, we've got to carry our weight around here and hopefully we can get that done on Sunday."
The hallmark of the Rams' defense is its pass-rush which features hyper-productive assets like Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald, one of the most explosive defensive tackles in the league. While Mathis is a game-time decision for Sunday's contest, Watford has had a full week to practice and prepare if the Cardinals need to call on him against an elite front Arizona knows it must be able to control.
"It's pivotal and it comes down to guys getting their hands on people, making sure we get our hands on them in the run game to slow down the pass rush," Goodwin said. "These guys from (Robert) Quinn to (Aaron) Donald to (William) Hayes, they're some of the best in the league so it's a hell of a challenge. For the most part, if we can run the ball we can slow them down and we have to do a good job of that first."null