Over the last two days (October 18 and 19) the Cardinals held days of media availability and RealSport were there to hear from Cardinals players and coaches ahead of the game at Twickenham Stadium.
Tyrann Mathieu, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Adrian Peterson, Bruce Arians, James Bettcher, and Harold Goodwin all spoke to the media and touched on several topics, including Todd Gurley and the Rams offense, Wade Phillips’ effect on the Rams defense, the adjustment to being in London and more. Here are the biggest takeaways from the last two days.
Not only did Tyrann Mathieu speak on Thursday, he was a big focus for the media. In 2015 he was enjoying a Defensive Player of the Year caliber season for the Cardinals before a torn ACL cut it short. Since then, despite being full fit, he has been able to have the same effect on games.
“For the most part I’m just trying to be consistent. Not really worrying about splash plays” is what Tyrann had to say about his play. He faced many questions regarding his play and how he felt he was playing compared to 2015 and he frequently referred back to that point.
He did, however, add: “I think plays like that, it really just, it comes with opportunities, you know? Quarterbacks and offenses need to give you those kinds of opportunities.” Though he isn’t wrong, you’d expect him to think more about creating those opportunities himself. That begs the question: Is he as confident as he has been through his career?
Bruce Arians thinks that is the only thing holding Mathieu back. When asked whether Mathieu was back to his 2015 form, Arians had this to say: “No. Health-wise he is, but he’s not playing that way.” The reporter then asked if it was confidence related: “Probably.”
So how do the Cardinals get the best out of Mathieu? “Confidence comes with, like I said, making splash plays. Just making the plays that I’ve made since I was five-years old.” That was Mathieu opinion on the matter. To me, it sounds as though Mathieu has been playing too tight, too concerned with being technically sound and not pushing for those “splashy plays” he frequently referred to.
On the Rams
The general opinion on the Rams seems to be that they are for real. Everyone who spoke complimented something about the Rams and the Cardinals are well aware of the magnitude of this game. Bruce Arians particularly.
“Obviously it’s a very big game, a division game.”
That last point is key. The Rams currently sit atop the NFC West with a 4-2 record, whilst the Cardinals are sitting at third with a 3-3 record. Having not played the Rams yet, and this game technically being a Rams home game, the Cardinals have a huge opportunity to get one up on the Rams with a game in Glendale still to come.
If they lose they will be below .500 and two games back on the division leaders going into the second half on the season. That is not a situation they will want to be in.
So how do they overcome the Rams? The key seems to be stopping this explosive offense, particularly Todd Gurley. Tyrann Mathieu, Bruce Arians, and James Bettcher all singled out Gurley as a key in this game.
“A scout team guy, he was wearing the number 30 jersey and he just came right through the line of scrimmage, and, you know, that’s not a pretty picture, that’s not a picture any deep safety wants to see.” – Tyrann Mathieu, defensive back
(About Gurley) “He’s had some nice run after the catches, running the ball hard. I think one of the things that you see right now, that’s a little bit different than a year ago, is a running back with a ton of confidence.” – James Bettcher, defensive coordinator.
“They still have that young running back, who’s great.” – Bruce Arians, head coach
The Cardinals are well aware of Todd Gurley and he will be a key to the game come Sunday.
Another big storyline surrounding the Cardinals is their offense, specifically the ground game. They started the season with arguably the best running back in the game, he got injured. Now, after several weeks of getting by/under performing on the ground, they have the greatest running back of this generation.
Adrian Peterson ignited the offense last week in his first game since being traded by the Saints. He ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. That type of production is huge, and the players and coaches know that. They are also aware of his impact to this team:
“He’s always had a chip on his shoulder, that’s just part of his nature.” And “He put us on his back last week. His first week being here, he got acclimated with the system, understood the terminology… He’s got a lot more experience playing over here and in the conditions than any of us do, so we’re actually following his lead this week.” – Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver
“With Adrian, when everyone knew we’d got him, just excitement in the locker room… He’s made a world of difference… He just plays hard, runs hard, and it’s just exciting to see.” – Harold Goodwin, offensive coordinator
With what we saw last week, and with how people talked about him, Peterson will likely be a big part of this weekend’s game plan for the Cardinals.
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