The first game of the Jeff Fisher era ended in disappointment for the St. Louis Rams, but not without promise as well. The Rams led the Detroit Lions, a 2011 playoff team, by three with only seconds to go. On the road no less. But in the end, the Rams lost the kind of game young teams lose, failing to make one last play when it mattered most as Matthew Stafford marched the Lions 80 yards in the closing moments for the winning touchdown. It’s a tough lesson for a young team. Hopefully, they will learn from it. Here’s what I learned about the St. Louis Rams today.
I know the Rams have modest weapons on offense. It’s essentially Steven Jackson and a bunch of guys. But, no more excuses. It’s time for Sam Bradford to start playing like the franchise quarterback everyone keeps saying he is. He badly underthrew a wide open Chris Givens and missed badly on several other throws. He also held on to the ball and turtle shelled, watching the pass rush instead of his receivers, and took several sacks. He’s essentially a game manager. Not a game changer. When you’re the first overall draft pick and being paid what Bradford is, you have to do more than avoid interceptions.
Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson are who we thought they were. Amendola is Bradford’s security blanket and the Rams most consistent receiver. He can be counted on to make the chain moving catch. Gibson is a four catch for 51 yards kind of guy. No more. No less. Can he consistently make plays like the touchdown he scored today? That’s the question.
The Rams need to incorporate more speed into their offense. We saw a few brief flashes of it. Darryl Richardson looked like the fastest Ram on the field in his limited action. Chris Givens blew by the Detroit secondary when given a chance. But by and large we saw the same plodding, dink and dunk offense of the past three years. It takes the Rams too many plays to score points. And when you’re prone to drive killing penalties and quarterback sacks, that’s not good. Rookie Brian Quick was a non factor today, but hopefully as the season progresses, he and the rest of the speedy rookies will play a bigger role.
The Rams have playmakers on defense. Janoris Jenkins ended the Lions first scoring threat with a goal line interception. Jo-Lonn Dunbar did the same thing shortly after. Then Cortland Finnegan added a pick-six. With Robert Quinn and Chris Long rushing the passer and first round pick Michael Brockers soon returning from injury, the opportunities for big plays should be there all year.
The Rams have themselves a kicker. The strong legged rookie Greg Zuerlein was three for three with his field goals against the Lions, including the go ahead 46 yarder with just under two minutes left. When the Rams had advanced to the Detroit 41 yard line on their final drive, I actually thought they were in field goal range. Not many teams can say that. He will be a huge weapon for this team.
And most importantly, I learned that these will not be the same bungling, shoot yourself in the foot, get out coached on a weekly basis, fold like a house of cards, St. Louis Rams. Their new coach has changed the mentality of this team. This is a tough bunch. They will not be an easy out for anyone. There’s a long way to go for sure, but they will be fun to watch and I have no doubt there are happier endings to come.