My mood is significantly improved today, so let’s look at the Rams loss to the Niners on Sunday. First, let’s see how my keys to the game shaped up.
Heisman Showdown – As I was watching the end of Sunday’s game, I finally realized what it is about Troy Smith that made me nervous. The guy is a winner. He did it in college, and he did it again on Sunday. He might not be the best passer or the greatest decision-maker, but when the game is on the line, he finds a way to get it done. On the Rams’ side, Sam Bradford was very good yet again. As has been the case for most of the season, Bradford looked the best in the no huddle two-minute drill, and I really wish the team would look into running more of that kind of offense. When they open it up a bit and put the ball in Sam’s hands, the offense moves.
Road Woes – Nothing really needs to be said here. For the second road game in a row, the Rams were in position to win a game and failed to do so. You can’t consider yourself a contender for anything if you give games away on the road. It’s as simple as that.
Bye-Bye – This category was actually heavily in favor of the Rams. The Niners had a week off to get everything on the same page, and they continuously shot themselves in the foot. There was little doubt that the Rams were the more prepared and disciplined team, but they didn’t take advantage of the Niners’ mistakes.
Big Targets – I said in my preview post that this was the key that scared me the most, and it was just as bad as I feared. Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are both supremely talented, and they proved it on Sunday. Davis had several big plays negated by penalties, and Crabtree had a couple of huge catches, especially on the late fourth quarter drive. We don’t have playmakers in the receiving game like these two guys, and it was evident.
I feel like I need to discuss some positives from this game, and after I calmed down a bit, I realized it really wasn’t all bad. First, Steven Jackson just proved how good and how tough he is. The man has pins in his finger, and he still stepped up, made some big catches, and ran the ball extremely well. He is a gamer, and I hope Rams fans realize how lucky they are to have a guy like this. Also, the punting game was outstanding. Donnie Jones was on all day, and he and the coverage team didn’t allow a return all day. Finally, the Rams defense held the Niners to 0-for-11 on third down. That is awfully impressive, although the 3rd-and-22 and 4th-and-18 sequence that cost us the game should be factored into that as well.
My final thought is that the pass interference call on OJ Atogwe in overtime was complete B.S. There’s no way that ball was catchable, and it’s unfortunate when a call like that impacts the game.