At 9:00 P.M. ET on Wednesday, ESPN will host their version of the academy awards, highlighting the top players, performances, and achievements from the previous year. For a team like the St. Louis Rams, with a losing record and no Pro Bowl-caliber players coming back from devastating injuries, the chances of hearing their name called on stage are slim to none. We at Ramblin’ Fan think it is unfair that the underdogs never seem to get their time in the spotlight. As a result, we figure we would have our own version of the ESPYS.
Since the actual ESPYS cover all teams and all sports throughout the year, some of the major categories had to be slightly modified. Anyways, without further ado…
Best Comeback Player
As a rookie, Kendricks was thrust onto a Rams’ roster void of talent and plagued with season-ending injuries. He struggled through most of the season, ending the year with a mere 28 receptions for 352 yards, without scoring a touchdown. Worse, he recorded an abysmal 52.8% catch rate, leading the team with 9 dropped passes. Of all returning skill players, few had bigger question marks than Kendricks.
In 2012, Kendricks showed tremendous growth as a blocker, receiver, and as an overall player. As a pass catcher, Kendricks hauled in 41 catches for 500 yards, with 4 receiving touchdowns. More importantly, he cut his dropped balls nearly in half, and recorded and impressive 71.9% catch rate on the year. Kendricks also found a new role in the blocking game, taking the reins as the “starting” fullback on the roster after Brit Miller was let go in the middle of the season.
Best Breakthrough Athlete
After being misused and abused in the New Orleans Saints defense, the St. Louis Rams took a chance on the Boston College alum, and tossed him into the starting linebacker lineup next to James Laurinaitis. Prior to St. Louis, Dunbar had accumulated a mere 159 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions, and 65 defensive stops in four seasons. In just one year under Jeff Fisher in the St. Louis’ defense, Dunbar racked up 115 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, and 62 defensive stops. Dunbar struggles a little in this pass coverage, but played a vital role on all three downs for the Rams throughout the season. In fact, Dunbar and Laurinaitis were essentially the only two linebackers on the field last season, with Fisher opting to play primarily out of the nickel package. The St. Louis Rams have done an amazing job making-do with the leftovers from other teams (Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, etc.). Dunbar might be our first defensive diamond in the rough.
Best Single-Game Performance (Offense)
Danny Amendola, Week 2 vs. Washington Redskins
Danny Amendola started off this game with arguably the worst play of the season, making a quick reception, fumbling, and watching Josh Wilson jog 30 yards in the other direction on a scoop-and-score touchdown. After that play, Amendola was unstoppable, catching 15 of his 16 targets for 160 yards, including 83 yards after the catch. Amendola single-handedly kept St. Louis in the game for the first half. In the second half, he essentially dragged Washington’s entire secondary towards his side of the field, leading to a wide-open touchdown throw to Brandon Gibson. His 12-catch performance in the opening half tied the NFL record set by Reggie Wayne in 2007. More importantly, his contributions would jumpstart a 3-1 streak by the Rams over the next four games.
Best Single-Game Performance (Defense)
Janoris Jenkins, Week 12 vs. Arizona Cardinals
After being benched against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10, Jenkins rejoined the starting roster with a vengeance, finished the season as hot as any defensive back in the NFL. Against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12, Jenkins showed why he was labeled by most as a “Top 10″ prospect in the draft, before dropping due to the dreaded red-flags. He toyed with poor Ryan Lindley in coverage, picking off two of his passes, returning both for touchdowns. Not only was he the definition of a “game-changer,” he was excellent in every-down coverage, allowing a mere 28.6% catch rate when thrown at by Lindley. In fact, the Cardinals’ signal caller posted a 5.4 QB Rating when throwing at Jenkins… that’s right, 5.4!
Best Record-Setting Performance
Steven Jackson (Eight Consecutive Season with 1000+ Rushing Yards)
After sustaining a groin injury early against the Washington Redskins, Steven Jackson was at a mere 400 rushing yards heading into the Bye Week, needing to average 75.0 yards per game for the rest of the season to meet his mark. Jackson, with an increased work load, turned up the heat in the second half of the year, averaging 79.8 yards per game, including a monster 139 yard performance against the Arizona Cardinals. It took until the last game of the season, but Steven Jackson shattered the 1,000 yard mark in Week 17 against the Seattle Seahawks, permanently etching his name into the record books. Prior to Jackson, there were only five players in the history of the NFL with at least eight consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons: Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, Thurman Thomas, and LaDainian Tomlinson. All five of those players are, or will be, Hall-of-Famers. Jackson is now on that prestigious list.
As an “honorable mention,” Jackson also surpassed 10,000 career rushing yards, becoming only the 27th player to ever accomplish that feat. He also finished his St. Louis career as the all-time leading rusher, in terms of yards, and is tied with Eric Dickerson for 2nd place in rushing touchdowns.
Johnny Hekker to Danny Amendola (Fake Field Goal Touchdown Against the Seahawks in Week 4)
The Seattle Seahawks held the St. Louis Rams’ offensive without a touchdown in Week 4, with Sam Bradford and Co. struggling to get anything going offensively. Luckily, the special teams group came to play on Sunday! At the end of the first quarter, Greg Zuerlein nailed a 58-yarder to put the St. Louis Rams on the board. Still trailing by four points headed towards the halfway mark the Rams marched into the red zone, with Bradford nearly completing a 3rd down throw to Amendola in the endzone. Sadly, the pass was low, and the field goal unit was sent jogging onto the field. The snap, the hold, the… Johnny Hekker stands up with the football, looks right, and tosses the lob to Danny Amendola hiding in the endzone. TOUCHDOWN! Soon after, Greg Zuerlein would hit another trio of field goals, including a 60-yarder, setting a NFL record with two 55+ yard field goals in the same game. Hekker and Zuerlein would score the only points of the game, as the Rams upset the Seattle Seahawks.
St. Louis Rams Overtime Win Against the 49ers in Week 13
As a result of a handful of mistakes in overtime against the 49ers in Week 10, the St. Louis Rams were forced to end the night with a bitter-sweet tie. However, three weeks later, both teams would get an opportunity to settle the score, facing off again in Week 13. The game was an all-out battle of defenses, with Frank Gore rushing for the only touchdown of the game for either team. A Janoris Jenkins defensive touchdown off of a scoop-and-score play on a mis-toss by Colin Kaepernick matched the 49ers’ touchdown, before the two teams headed to extra time for their second consecutive overtime showdown.
The Rams would win the coin toss in overtime, but both teams would get their shot at scoring. On the 49ers second possession of overtime, David Akers was in range for a 51 yard field goal attempt. The kick went up… and wide right! Taking over the ball in excellent field position, the Rams drove 21 yards to the San Francisco 37 yard line. On 4th and 1, Greg “the Leg” Zuerlein marched onto the field for a 54 yard attempt. The kick went up! Actually, we’ll let Jeff Fisher walk you through the finish…
Think the award went to the wrong player? Think that we missed an award? Just want to give your $0.02 on the St. Louis Rams’ ESPYS? Leave us a comment and let us know!