Last week, the St. Louis Rams got stonewalled in the opening half against the Atlanta Falcons, plagued by blown coverage, a tipped interception, and almost “predictable” penalties on both special teams and the offensive line. This week, the Rams will face-off against the Dallas Cowboys, who currently sit with a 1-1 record in a wide-open NFC East. Looking back at the Falcons-Rams tape, there were obviously some key “observations” that could be taken away from the game. Here are Ramblin’ Fans positives and negatives from that game that will likely effect their chances at a win on Sunday.
Positive: Blocking for Sam Bradford
For the second consecutive week, Sam Bradford did not take a sack throughout the entirety of the game, leaving him as the only remaining quarterback in the NFL who has yet to be taken down. Even after the injury to Rodger Saffold, the Rams’ signal caller had plenty of time to throw the football, leading to a near comeback in the waning quarters of the game. Joe Barksdale played admirably, allowing only three total pressure on Bradford in 51 offensive snaps. He will likely start next week after reports surfaced that Saffold suffered a strained MCL, and is considered week-to-week.
Negative: Punt Return… Everything!
The St. Louis Rams committed seven penalties, over half coming on punt return for holding or illegal blocks in the back. Even with the “extra help” the return blocking was atrocious, leading to Tavon Austin’s six total return yards on four attempts. The St. Louis Rams average starting field position was behind their own 20 yard line. You cannot win games backed up that often.
Positive: Rookie Defensemen
The combination of Rodney McLeod, T.J. McDonald, and Alec Ogletree drew some tough responsibilities on Sunday, being primarily responsible for maintaining Steven Jackson out the backfield, Tony Gonzalez from tight end, and Julio Jones deep. Ogletree started off the game on fire, recording four tackles, a pass deflection, and injuring both Steven Jackson and Bradie Ewing. McDonald and McLeod contributed 10 tackles of their own, including a handful of booming run stuffs and some solid open-field tackling. The trio will draw a similar assignment next week, with Jason Witten and Dez Bryant both playing well for the Cowboys.
Negative: First Half Inefficiency
Much like the Arizona Cardinals game in Week 1, the St. Louis Rams were less-than-stellar in the opening half of the football game. On Sunday, the Rams opening eight drives of the game resulted in a net -3 points for the team, with four drives concluding with fewer than 10 total gained yards. A combination of penalties, bad field position, and conservative play-calling could be considered the culprit against the Falcons, but Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams offense cannot continue this trend of trailing in the fourth quarter if they want to win football games this season.
Positive: Rams “Run Through The Pass” Game
Anyone who looks at Daryl Richardson’s box score through the opening two games and deems that new starter “ineffective” has obviously not paid attention to his play on the field. In a mere 101 offensive snaps, Richardson has averaged 88 yards from scrimmage per game. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, Richardson is currently ranked 11th overall among running backs. The Rams running back, on paper, may look ineffective, but we knew from the start of the season that they were going to be moving more towards the Green Bay style of running game, with less hand-offs and more quick passes to the running back out of the backfield. To show that with numbers, Richardson had 5 receptions for 45 net yards, but gained 47 yards after the initial catch; with all but one catch coming at, or behind, the line of scrimmage. Effectively, that gives Richardson 5.3 yards per touch for the game. Not too bad, especially considering the Rams fell into a three-touchdown hole early in the game.
Positive: Defensive Line Pressure
The St. Louis Rams may be trailing in the “team sacks” department, but they are certainly not failing to get pressure on the quarterback so far this season. Robert Quinn leads all defensive ends in the league with 16 total pressures on the quarterback, including 4 sacks, ranking him the Top 4-3 DE in the NFL through Week 2. Also in the Top 15 are William Hayes (T-13th) and Chris Long (T-13th), who have a combined 15 pressures on the quarterback. Moving over to defensive tackle, Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford can tack on another 5 pressures. According to Pro Football Focus, the Dallas Cowboys are ranked 14th in pass blocking and 25th in run blocking, despite playing against sub-par front-fours on the New York Giants (28th in pass rush) and Kansas City Chiefs (17th). Tony Romo has thrown for only 144 yards this season when “under pressure.” That should be good news for the St. Louis Rams.