With a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the St. Louis Rams have shown they are finally beginning to shed that inconsistancy bug they had in the middle of the season. The team looks much more poised, matured, and seems to be settling into their offensive and ‘ defensive systems. With the Christmas season upon us, Ramblin’ Fan is going to try and be as positive as possible in these quick thoughts…
1. This “winning” thing seems to be becoming a habit for the St. Louis Rams at the end of the season. Since the bye week, after the dismal losses to the Patriots and Packers, the Rams are 4-2-1. St. Louis has won 4 of their last 5 games, with only the loss to Minnesota sandwiched inbetween, and they have not lost on the road since Week 6 versus the Miami Dolphins. With that, they are rolling on their first 3-game winning streak on the road since the 2003 season, when the team went 12-4, Marc Bulger took the reins from Kurt Warners, and Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt were still tearing defenses up on the turf. To put that into even more perspective, the St. Louis Rams haven’t even won three road games throughout an entire season since 2006. Progress my friends, progress
2. For the first time since the beginning of the season, the St. Louis Rams seems as if they should be winning the game. Clearly, the Rams have had the ability to win games, and, aside from one or two matchups, have been fighting for the win until the waning seconds of every game. Still, it was a relief to have that feeling in the back of your mind of “they got this,” a sense of “knowing” your team is going to get the win, regardless of the events currently transpiring on the field. Maybe that was just us, but it truly seems as though they have gained their confidence back; the Fisher swag.
3. The Rams were again sub-par on third down, converting only 4 of 11 attempts, and picking up only 14 first downs throughout the entire game. However, for the first time, the St. Louis Rams won the field possession game, starting three drives inside Tampa Bay territory and five outside of the STL 20 yard line. They scored two of their three touchdowns on those drives, and would have likely had another had Bradford not thrown the easy interception in the end zone.
4. The field position was the result of some amazing play on the defensive side of the football, espeically from the two rookie cornerbacks against one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. Freeman may have completed 30 passes for 372 yards, but a majority of those were in garbage time at the end of the game, when Fisher was allowing anything and everything underneath to keep the clock ticking and the Bucs from getting the “big play.” The key number in Freeman’s stat line was the four interceptions, which could have easily been six had Trumaine Johnson been able to pull in two of his “pass deflections.” In all honesty, all four of the picks were tremendous catches, but clearly Janoris Jenkins shole the show with his 41 yard touchdown return.
5. Speaking of rookies, this game itself was a hightlight reel for the rookie defensemen on the St. Louis Rams. Jenkins was 4th on the team with six tackles in the game, and didn’t give up the “big play” in man-to-man that we had seen occur against some of the premier wide receivers in past games. Trumaine Johnson “locked down” Mike Williams for a majority of the game, topping a four tackle, one interception, one tacke for a loss, three pass deflection night for the newly promoted nickelback. Lastly, Michael Brockers had a tremendous day on the field, although the his stat line will likely not show his true effect on the game. Brockers ended the game without a tackle, but shut down the middle of the line, allowing Doug Martin to average only 3.4 yards per rush attempt, with a long of 8 yards. He also had his hands and arms in Freeman’s passing lanes all day, including a pass deflection that ended in a Eugene Sims interception. The St. Louis Rams hit absolute gold in the first three rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft, which may be highlighted by a Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
6. Janoris Jenkins had a bit of a breakdown in the middle of the season, showing off some true “rookie moments” in some of the big losses prior to the bye week. Since then, especially after Week 12 against the Arizona Cardinals, Jenkins has been a pure playmaking monster. He has truly put up some amazing numbers this season, and not just with the defensive touchdowns he has amassed. Jenkins has 72 tackles this season, which is 5th on the team, 1st among rookie cornerbacks, and 9th among all corners in the league. Jenkins has 18 pass deflections, which leads the Rams and is tied for 11th in the NFL. However, most impressively, he is tied with Charles Tillman at the top of the NFL with three interceptions returned for a touchdown, and leads the NFL with four overall defensive touchdowns, including the fumble return against the San Francisco 49ers. Casey Hayward is the only rookie with more interceptions, but trails Jenkins by 20 tackles, and has not scored defensively. To put Jenkins scoring into perspective, he has scored as many, or more, touchdowns than all but 16 running backs in the league, including players like Fred Jackson, DeMarco Murray, and Willis McGahee, and would be in the Top 50 wide receivers in touchdowns.
7. Craig Dahl…
8. Sam Bradford did not take a sack on Sunday! That is a truly profound statement, which was made even more profound after researching through his short career. The last game that Bradford started a game without a taking a sack was on Nov. 21, 2010 against the Atlanta Falcons. In fact, that was the only other time in his three-year career that he has not been sacked throughout the entirty of a game. Sadly, he has been sacks four time or more in a single game on eight separate occasions. Hopefully, this is the start of an increase in the prior number of sacks in a game and a signifcant decrease in the latter category.
9. Speaking of Bradford, this is his first season with 20+ touchdowns, with a full-season low of 12 interceptions (assuming he doesn’t throw three in the finale against the Seattle Seahawks). Sam Bradford has now thrown for at least two touchdowns in 7 of 15 games this season, completed over 60.0% of his passes in 8 out of 15 games, throw for 300+ yards in 3 games, and ended with an 80.0+ QB Rating in 10 of 15 games this season.
10. With 19 carries for 81 yards against the top ranked rushing defense in the NFL, Steven Jackson is a mere 10 yards away from surpassing the 1,000 yard mark for the eighth consecutive season, putting him in an exclusive category of elite running backs. Jackson is averaging 66 rushing yards per game this season, and 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. With that math, Jackson would need only three carries against the Seattle Seahawks to break the historic milestone, which should not be a problem considering he has average 16.4 attempts per game this season. Seattle is allowing 104.7 rushing yards per game, at a rate of 4.5 yards per attempts. However, those number are always inflated by long quarterback scrambles and a handful of long runs throughout the season. Jackson put up 55 yards on the ‘Hawks in Week 4, and barring some catastrophic injury, will get his 10 yards against the division rival in the final game of the season.