It took a long time to figure out how to open this last “quick thoughts” piece of the 2012 season. The St. Louis Rams performed nearly as well as anyone could have asked this season, showing their youth at times, while also giving glimpses of the pure talent the team possesses, which should have Rams fan excited for the future. Naturally, every time the St. Louis Rams have pulled out a 2-14 record, there is always some hope that the team will do better in the coming year. However, this time feels different… young team, tons of talent already on the roster, stable front office, stable head coach, and a couple of 1st round draft picks to top it all off. The fact that the season is officially over for the Rams will likely set in relatively soon, especially with two NFC West teams in the playoffs. However, today is not that day, and so, here are our quick thoughts on the final game of the season
1. There was not a penalty flag throw in the opening three quarters of the Washington/Dallas game on Sunday Night Football, and yet, there were 24 throw throughout the entirety of the Rams/Seahawks game. To put that in perspective, the Atlanta Falcons have only had 55 penalties called against them this entire season. Maybe the “12th Man” had something to do with the massive amount of flags that were being throw, but, regardless, there should be some consistency among officiating cohorts around the NFL. Both teams should have been allowed to play football, but the ghost defensive holding call against Janoris Jenkins and the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Chris Long were both game changing, and likely effected the end result of the game.
2. With that being said, Russell Wilson looked much better than he did earlier in the season, but still was given a ton of trouble by the St. Louis Rams front seven. The Rams wrangled down Wilson six times throughout the game, most coming in the first half, which is the most sacks the Seahawks have allowed all season. Coming into the game, the St. Louis Rams were ranked third in team sacks, but finish the season tied with the Denver Broncos for the “sack crown.” Both Robert Quinn and Chris Long, thanks to his three takedown day against Seattle, will finish the year with double-digit sacks, both among the Top 20 this season. Only Denver, Carolina, Cincinnati, Dallas, and the St. Louis Rams have two players with double-digit sacks. Heading in to 2013, that might the statistic for the Rams can hang their hat on, especially facing off against some of the better offensive lines in the NFL (Seattle, San Francisco) twice a year.
3. On Saturday, Ramblin’ Fan posted our version of the NFC Pro Bowl outside linebackers, taking a bold stance that Jo-Lonn Dunbar deserved a spot over DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews for his performance this season. Dunbar did nothing to shoot down that claim on Sunday, leading all players with 11 tackles, while also recording 1 sack, 1 hit on the quarterback, and 1 tackle for a loss. Dunbar has been “lights out” this season, sorry Alex Smith, no pun intended. He has likely been the best free agency pickup this offseason for the Rams, which a bold statement considering the contributions that Rob Turner, Cortland Finnegan, and William Hayes have made to the team.
4. Austin Pettis must be watching too much film on Dez Bryant, because it seems as if he can only catch the ball if it is a wildly overthrown or in the end zone. Pettis has clearly stepped up to the plate this season, setting career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns this season. The St. Louis Rams receiving core as a whole has stepped up this year, with four difference players finishing above the 500 receiving yards mark this year (Gibson, Amendola, Givens, and Kendricks). Until this season, the Rams haven’t had three 600+ yard receivers since 2006, when Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt (Steven Jackson being the third) were still the leading receivers on the team, and haven’t reached that mark with three actual receivers since 2001, when Az-Zahir Hakim was still lining up in the slot.
5. Sam Bradford will finish the season with (full season) career highs in passing yards (3702), yards per attempt (6.7), touchdowns (21), rushing yards (127), and quarterback rating (82.9). More importantly, he has set new career lows in interceptions (13) and lost fumbles (1). An increase in production and decrease in mistakes means that the franchise quarterback the St. Louis Rams drafted in 2010 is showing some clear signs of progression. Against Seattle, Bradford went 25 of 45 passing (59.5%) for 252 yards, with a touchdown and a late-game interception. The play at the end of the game seemed forced, but the St. Louis Rams were in desperation mode, needing a touchdown with little time left on the clock. Bradford was on target more often than not against the Seahawks, throwing beautifully accurate passes in tight coverage that the Rams receivers simply could not hold onto. However, this is a defense that had been destroying quarterbacks in the past three games. That was not the case on Sunday…
6. Speaking of destroying quarterbacks, Sam Bradford has, for the first time in his career, played in two consecutive games without being sacked. Some, myself included, were not necessarily impressed by the Rams holding the 30th ranked Tampa Bay Buccaneers without a sack. However, the Seahawks have some premier pass rushers on their team. With Harvey Dahl out, and Barry Richardson getting hurt midway through the game, Chris Williams and Wayne Hunter did a phenomenal job on the right side of the offensive line. In fact, it would not be ludacris to assuming that one or both of those player might stay in the starting lineup, depending on how the offseason and the draft pan out.
7. In the grand scheme of thing, the loss does nothing to the Rams or the 2012 playoff standings. However, the win by the Redskins on Sunday Night Football effects St. Louis in a couple of ways. First, it means that the Rams won’t get to use the Redskins’ traded pick until, at minimum, the 20th spot in the 2013 NFL Draft. It also means that the St. Louis Rams will not be playing against Robert Griffin III in 2013, and will instead play the Dallas Cowboys on the road next season.
8. Pete Carroll has to be the most hated coach in the league at this point in his young tenure as the head coach in Seattle. After seemingly running up the score on both the Bills and the Cardinals, and bragging about the “win” over the Green Bay Packers, the disdain for the ‘Hawks spirited leader has to have nearly reached it’s peak for a single season. Making matters worse, the attempted onside kick after a ghost call on Chris Long should have swayed away any Rams’ fans that might have still thought highly of Carroll (likely only a few, loyal Los Angeles Rams’ fans that also closely follow USC).
9. Bobby Wagner did nothing to assert himself as the front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year in yesterday’s game. Yes, the rookie led the Seahawks with 10 tackles, but making tackles is your responsibility as the middle linebacker. He ended the day with no sacks, no tackles for loss, no pass deflections. Nothing out of the ordinary, especially with the level of talent on the defensive line and in the secondary…
10. It may have taken Steven Jackson longer than he wanted, but he did surpass the 1,000 yard mark for the eighth consecutive season with a 14 yard yard gash over the left guard early in the second quarter. Jackson enters his name among historical greats with that mark, joining a list of five Hall of Fame running backs, and one soon-to-be enshrinee, LaDainian Tomlinson. The focus on Jackson now turns to his future with the St. Louis Rams. Jackson seems to believe that he will finish his career in St. Louis… lets hope that is the case. Here are a couple of quotes from his post-game interview:
“This team is definitely headed in the right direction, (with) a lot of young talent … anyone that follows this team closely sees that we are a different team, a team to be reckoned with. The NFC West will have to deal with us.” - on the St. Louis Rams’ future
“The negotiations are going to be (about) that. My agent and the Rams (management) will sit down. The organization has been first class with me. To even give me a chance to be a free agent, that shows the respect that we have for each other. We’re going to keep an open mind and hope to get this done.” - on his future with the Rams and if he will be returning to the team next season
“What I said was, I will seek all options and that’s an option for me. I love the game of football. I have a lot left in my tank, and let’s just get the deal done. How about that?” -on the rumors of retirement after the season