Sep 9, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive back Cortland Finnegan (31) intercepts a pass for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US Presswire

St Louis Rams 2012 Season Review: Week 1 At the Detroit Lions

The St Louis Rams traveled into Motown as the underdogs against Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions.  The Rams were coming off of a forgettable 2-14 record in 2011 that brought about an organizational housecleaning, ushering in the Jeff Fisher/Les Snead era of Rams football.  On paper the Rams season opener had all the makings of a disastrous start, the NFL’s youngest team (coming off of a 2-14 season) going on the road to play a 2011 playoff team in their first game under a new head coach.  Fortunately for the Rams their new head coach happened to be Jeff Fisher who had his team ready to play.  This game laid the foundation for what the gameplan would be for a majority of the Rams 2012 season.  Conservative offensive playcalling combined with a stout “bend-don’t-break” defense that relied on the teams above average kicking game to help generate points.  Fisher was well aware that the Rams offense was going to be limited, and that the defense was the strength of the team.  For the Lions this may have actually been the high point of the season, pulling off a thrilling last second victory at home had to rate fairly high in a 4-12 season that saw only one other win at Ford Field.

Most Rams fans were cautiously optimistic prior to the start of the 2012 season, optimistic that Jeff Fisher could turn the Rams around but with the realization that there was quite a bit of work to be done.  Prior to the start of the season the Rams draft was very hard to grade, sure they loaded up on talent but even the most gifted players (say Janoris Jenkins or Brian Quick) were not without their question marks, which made projecting what would be a reasonable amount of progress difficult to do.  The first game of the season showed that the Rams were ready to take a huge step back towards NFL relevance again, and while they couldn’t close the game out they put forth a pretty solid effort.  Some quick thoughts related this game before we hit some of the game statistics. The Rams first round pick, Michael Brockers, missed this game due to an ankle injury suffered in preseason.  Scott Wells and Rodger Saffold both left this game due to injury, with Saffolds injury initially appearing to be quite serious.  Titus Young was penalized for headbutting Janoris Jenkins, one of the first in an impressive string of mis-steps for the former Boise State team-mate of Austin Pettis.  The Rams received significant contributions from 3 new defenders as JoLonn Dunbar, Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan all had interceptions in the first half, with Finnegan returning his for a touchdown.  The Rams defense did allow the Lions to pile up the yardage, but they held the scoring in check and had the team in position to win.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at the statistics, which pretty well tell the story of why the Rams managed to let this game slip away at the end.  Sam Bradford had an efficient day going 17/25 for 198 yards and 1 TD with 0 INTs for a 105.1 QB Rating, although he was sacked 4 times.  Steven Jackson struggled to find running room as he managed only 53 yards on 21 carries coupled with his 4 receptions for 31 yards.  Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson each had modest days hauling in 5 passes for 70 yards and 4 for 57 respectively.  Greg Zeurlein went 3/3 to begin his impressive rookie season, including one from 48 yards.   I put together this table of some of the team statistics from this game, since I already covered the 3 first half interceptions of Stafford earlier in the article I excluded turnovers from the table.

Rams

Team Statistic

Lions

14

First Downs

28

4/12 (33%)

3rd Down Conversion (%)

4/9 (44%)

251

Total Yards

429

7-65

Penalties-Yards

3-27

0-1 (0%)

Red Zone Efficiency (%)

3-5 (60%)

30:06

Time of Possession

29:54

If you were to look at this just this table you probably would have assumed the final margin was 10 points or more in favor of the Lions.  The Rams offense had trouble sustaining drives in this game, which isn’t all that unexpected given their lack of playmakers on the outside and the fact that it was the first game in Schottenheimers offensive system.  Looking back at th 2012 season as a whole, and seeing how much of a force inside Brockers turned out to be down the stretch its hard not to think that his absence cost the Rams in this game.  He would have been a rookie playing in his first NFL game so it may not have been the difference between winning and losing, but with is natural ability to make plays and the fact that the Rams were 1 defensive play away from victory it sure makes you wonder.

So is there anything that we can take away from looking back on this game?  Other than looking to see how far the Rams progressed from week 1 to week 17 under Jeff Fisher I would say no.  It would be nice to think we could project how the team will develop through year 2 based upon their first years successes and failures, but the team will be seeing several new faces in starting roles when they kickoff the 2013 season.  If anything though you can bet that Jeff Fisher will have his team well prepared to start the season regardless of the number of new players.  Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have often been quoted discussing the level of player progression from year 1 to year 2, with a team that is so heavily dependant upon those year 1 and 2 players its possible the Rams could make a similar step forward in 2013.  It is also quite possible several of those key 2nd year players could suffer from the dreaded “sophomore slump”, dragging the Rams back in the wrong direction.  If I were a gambling man I would bet on the Rams to take  a step forward instead of backwards, but either way I can’t wait to watch.   Thanks for reading and as always, Go Rams!!!

Tags: St. Louis Rams

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