Football is not a game that is won or lost on a single play. The outcome of a game is a culmination of individual battles, which play out for 60 minutes, and ultimately decide a winner. Theoretically, the winning team will be the one that is able to win the most individual bouts on the field, offensively, defensively, and in the special teams game. Unlike basketball, no individual can carry the team on their shoulder to get a win. Eli Manning can’t throw for 501 yards and lead the Giants to a 4th quarter comeback without the linemen setting the pocket and the receivers making plays against the opposing secondary. The Cardinals cannot beat the Patriots without the defensive linemen beating their man and getting to the quarterback, and those linemen don’t have the time to make it to Brady without the defensive backfield covering the receivers. This week, the Rams play the Chicago Bear in, what should be, their toughest game so far in the young season. The Bears can be explosive offensively, but will be most impactful on the defensive side of the ball. If St. Louis wants to bring the streak to 2 wins, they will need to win the individual battles, on both side of the ball. So, how to the Rams stack up against the Bears? We are going to start by comparing the quarterbacks and offensive linemen…
Yesterday, Ramblin’ Fan broke down the some of the St. Louis Rams statistical leaders in the NFL, one of which is Sam Bradford. He is in the Top 5 quarterbacks in completion percentage, touchdowns, and quarterback rating, all while leading the Rams to a win over the high-flying Washington Redskins. On the other side of the coin, Jay Cutler is at the bottom of the league with a 51.6 completion percentage through 2 game, while already throwing 5 interceptions.
To be fair, Bradford and Cutler are two completely different styles of quarterback. Bradford is a pocket passer, specializing in accurate throws that control the tempo of the game and keep the chains moving. Cutler, on the other hand, is a gun-slinger, a quarterback that is not afraid to toss the deep ball, take the top off of a defense, and trusts his arm to streamline passes through tight windows. So, far the latter has not been effective.
Cutler was completely taken out of the game by, historically, one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL last season. The gun-slinger mentality forced 4 interceptions, which makes it difficult for even the most organized of offenses to stay in the game (ask Peyton Manning after his Monday Night appearance). He has been unimpressive in both contests against mediocre pass defenses, which is surprising given the Bears talent at the skill position. Worse, Cutler’s attitude and antics have become a distraction for the team and has likely lost the respect of some of the players in the locker room (although I wouldn’t ask Brian Urlacher about it). Bradford has not “wowed” anyone with his performances, but he has controlled the game and put points on the board without turning the ball over. More importantly, he has been the calm leader in the game, demanding the huddle and earning the respect of the players around him through his toughness and play on the field.
Advantage: St. Louis Rams, 1-0
This has been a problem for both teams in the opening 2 games of the season. With Rokevious Watkins ankle injury, St. Louis has now sent two starting interior line to the IR, while LT Rodger Saffold will likely not see the field again for another 4 weeks. However, the “replacements” have fared pretty well so far against the dominating front four of Detroit and against the injury stricken Washington Redskins. The line was able to open holes all day for Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson, both running for 55+ against the Redskins. Bradford has taken 6 sacks, which puts him in the upper tier of that category, but has not let the pressure effect him. Against the Redskins, Bradford was 9 for 9 on 3rd down passing attempts, and has only given the ball away on a turnover once in two games.
The Bears’ offensive line is going through some similar struggles, especially at the outside tackle spot. J’Marcus Webb took some well-deserved heat from Cutler against the Packers, resulting in the infamous “bump” on the sidelines. However, Webb isn’t their only problem, as Clay Matthews tore up the interior of the offensive line, which may have led to the benching of left guard Chris Spencer in favor of the recently signed Chilo Rachal. Cutler has already taken 9 sacks this season, which has single-handedly given Clay Matthews the lead in the sacks title race. The pressure has caused Cutler to make some poor decisions, leading to 30 incompletions and 5 interceptions. The offensive line has done relatively well in the run game, but with Matt Forte hurt, the Bears will need Cutler and Marshall to get back into their Week 1 grove.
Advantage: St. Louis Rams (surprisingly), 2-0
Next we will break down some of the skill position, specifically the running backs and wide receivers. Stay tuned to Ramblin’ Fan for all the latest news on the St. Louis Rams throughout the week, including more previews for the Rams versus the Chicago Bears on Sunday.