The Rams no longer see the NFL’s new breed of dual threat quarterbacks as freaks or unique challenges. They seem to be confronted with a new one every other week. And they win those games more often than not.
But Rams players and coaches speak of the Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray as something different among the league’s many running quarterbacks.
Before the Rams (7-4) can beat the Cardinals (6-5) in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday, they will have to take Murray.
They sum up Murray as Seattle’s Russell Wilson with more foot speed, resembling Gavin Newsom with better hair.
“It’s a little bit like those Russell Wilson-type games, but he’s a little bit more athletic, a little bit faster,” said Rams safety John Johnson of what awaits the defense.
Johnson then compared Murray to another elusive bird.
“He’s like the Roadrunner. He doesn’t look like he’s covering a lot of ground, but that’s because he’s taking a lot of steps, ”said Johnson.
“It’s just electric,” said Rams’ defense coordinator Brandon Staley. “With every down you have to be on the cusp because he can change the game at any time. He really is a rare player for the position. ”
Sean McVay, Rams coach, said, “Sometimes you just watch and say, ‘Holy… This is a joke, man. I can’t believe we have to defend this guy crazy. ”
The Rams have figured out how to defend against most double threats, going 7-3 in 2019/20 against top-10 rushing quarterbacks. This year they lost to the Bills’ Josh Allen, but defeated Wilson, the Giants’ Daniel Jones and the Eagles’ Carson Wentz. Last year, they lost badly to the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, but defeated then-Panther Cam Newton, went 1-1 against Wilson – and swept Murray and the Cardinals.
Murray was in those two games, posting below-average ratings from passers-by of 56.4 and 81.9 and only rushed six times for 28 yards and one touchdown.
But Oklahoma’s No. 1 overall pick at the time was a 22-year-old rookie on a 5-10-1 team, and he’s now a more mature quarterback on a playoff contender.
“He’s eliminated so many negative plays that we got behind the sticks last year when maybe he was trying to do too much, or didn’t know when the party was over and (he should) get off it and avoid those bags. , ”Said Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury.
“You can just tell he’s playing more confidently,” said Aaron Donald, Ram’s defensive tackle. “He plays better football than last year, and he has some good guys around him who help him too.”
Arizona is enjoying its first full season with the receding Kenyan Drake, swapping the off-season for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who will renew his rivalry with Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Murray’s run, which leads the NFL quarterbacks by 600 yards, remains a key to the Cardinals’ success. They are 6-1 this season if he carries the ball eight times or more, 0-4 if he carries less than that. They are 6-2 in games where he both passes and runs for a touchdown.
But Murray is teasing teams aiming to keep him in the bag.
“If they want to take me along, that’s fine with the run game,” Murray said during the week. ‘I’m going to give the ball to my boys. I have faith in all of them (and) the O-line. ”
If the Rams defense, No. 1 in the league in yards per game allowed (4.7) and yards per pass (6.2), can’t handle Murray, that could be bad news for NFC West for years to come .
It would certainly shake up the division race this year, just as the December playoff run kicks off.
The Rams start the month in second place, one game behind Seattle, 8-3 and one for Arizona, after falling out of the lead with last Sunday’s 23-20 loss to San Francisco.
Quarterback Jared Goff’s two interceptions and one fumble in that game – and 10 turnovers in the past four games – were the subject at the Rams’ facility all week if Murray wasn’t asked.
“We were totally amazed at (the 49ers game), but we moved forward, and it’s really easy to move forward when you have a good team that you play, another division game, another team that really takes a lot of time. Spend on and focus on, ”Goff said.
For the second week in a row, the Rams’ workout routine was disrupted. Ahead of the 49ers game, high winds in Thousand Oaks and concerns about what turned out to be false-positive COVID-19 tests caused McVay to halt Friday’s practice. This time, more wind caused McVay to move Thursday’s practice to SoFi Stadium.
The effects of the pandemic will be felt during Sunday’s game, which will be played without fans in the stands at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, and four days later during the Rams’ game against New England on Thursday night at SoFi. Stadium, where fans continue. are excluded.
The only prominent player expected to miss Sunday’s game due to the virus is Cardinal’s wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who remained on the COVID-19 reserve list on Saturday.
The Rams got a key player back when outside linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo was activated Saturday after five games in an injured reserve with an elbow sprain. But Sebastian Joseph-Day’s defensive tackle is listed as questionable with a hip injury.
Both positions can be vital to keep Murray from getting loose.
“It’s that one step up, and he’s out of there,” said corner-back Troy Hill of what Murray is doing.
At least the Rams know what’s coming.