In the immortal words of Dr. Suess, “A win is a win, no matter how small”! Okay, maybe that wasn’t the exact line, but you get the point. The St. Louis Rams were in desperate need of a victory on Sunday, and they got it, albeit over possibly the worst team of the last decade. In the spirit of positivity, we’ll try and keep these thoughts as cheerful as we can!
1. Apparently Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams lockerroom are treating this week’s win as the “season opener,” made evident by multiple personnel alluding to the opening four games as “preseason.” In sports, obscure tactics are sometimes extremely helpful in unifying a team. As Nick Wagoner said in his “Morning Ram-blings,” who are we to question there approach, especially if it helps the team moving forward.
2. Considering the massive changes that have taken place over the last week in the Rams’ secondary, you have got to be impressed overall with the unit. Rodney McLeod, Darian Stewart, and Matt Giordano all took significant snaps at safety and were relatively effective in coverage, aside from the blown coverage on the Justin Blackmon touchdown (which was officially charged to Darian Stewart). Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne might not be the best measuring sticks for a defensive backfield, but they were in “desperation mode” from the start of the second half and only managed 10 points in their comeback attempt. Oh yea, are the Rams finally got their pick-6!
3. Jo-Lonn Dunbar must have been the missing piece to the St. Louis Rams run defense, allowing under 100 total rushing yards during the game on Sunday. Maurice Jones-Drew did not continue to trend of “breakout” rushing performances against the Rams, being held to only 71 yards on 17 attempts. Even that number is slightly skewed by some “garbage time” yards gaining late in the game while the Rams sat back in their prevent defense.
Through the opening three quarters of the game, Jones-Drew managed only 3.0 yards per attempt. Here is a listing of those rushes: no gain, +4 yards, +1, +3, no gain, +1, +20, -1, -1, +1, +9, no gain. For those “math people” out there, statisticians occasionally prefer the “median average” to the “mean average,” since the measure isn’t heavily skewed by outliers in the data set. The median figure for his rushing attempts is +1 yard, which is likely a better overall representation of Jones-Drew’s performance on Sunday. Good work run defense!
4. John Fassel either needs a stern “talking to” from Jeff Fisher, or to be fired immediately. The Rams’ special teams units have amassed 19 penalties in only five games this season, and that number does not appear to be on the decline. Young players making mental errors is part of the game. Young players continuing to make those mental errors is poor coaching.
5. In an attempt to objectively analyze the running back situation, the Jacksonville Jaguars were/are the 32nd ranked rushing defense in the NFL. With that in mind, Zac Stacy did appear to give the St. Louis Rams some spark on Sunday, rumbling for 78 yards on 14 carries. A two-headed monster of Stacy-Richardson might be the right combination for the Rams ground game going forward, with Stacy taking a bulk of the load early in the game. Steven Jackson always talked about “wearing down” the opposing defense with short, physical gains to start the game. A heavy dose of Stacy early, mixed with the fresh legs and speed of Richardson later in the game could absolutely be a recipe for success. Only time will tell…
6. Sam Bradford quietly had another successful day in the offense, even after an extremely slow start. Bradford targeted 10 different players throughout the game, and had four receivers with at least three receptions by the time the clocked ticked down to 0:00. It was obvious that the Jacksonville Jaguars planned on taking away Chris Givens and Jared Cook, which left Lance Kendricks and Austin Pettis in mismatched single-coverage throughout the game. As a result, the duo combine for eight catches and all three receiving touchdowns. Staring down receivers and being over-reliant on one pair of hands can lead to the downfall of a quarterback. Bradford has shown, if nothing else, that he will find the open target and get him the football.
7. Speaking of Sam Bradford, he is on pace for over 4,200 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and only 9 interceptions. Using last season as a general measuring stick, that would likely slot him borderline-Top 10 in passing yards, fringe-Top 5 in passing touchdowns, and easily in the Bottom 5 in interceptions. Based on the play-calling and offensive scheme that the St. Louis Rams have run to this point, there is nothing to suggest Bradford’s numbers will deviate from their current trajectory. That should be good news for those Bradford-haters out there!
8. Robert Quinn continues to be the most dangerous pass rusher in the NFL, even if he is beginning to fall behind in the “sack race.” Quinn registered another eight “quarterback pressures” Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, including three hits on the quarterback. More importantly, Quinn graded out positively against the run for the third time in the last four games; something that occurred only once all of last season. Robert Quinn and the St. Louis Rams will again have have their hands full next Sunday against Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
9. Johnny Hekker is starting to run away as the lead candidate for the NFC Pro Bowl punter. For one, our sophomore kicking phenom recorded a 5.6 second hangtime on a punt, matching the league-long(?) kick for the season (a record which he also set earlier in the year). He averaged 47.3 yards on six punts, landing two inside the 20 yard line. Most impressively, they allowed only five total return yards on four return attempts, meaning that all of his kicks were getting plenty of distance and had the necessary hangtime for the coverage team to get in position for the tackle. The formula for the “perfect punt” is complex, but it certainly appears as though Hekker is getting close!
10. The St. Louis Rams finished the day converting on 42.1% of their 3rd-down conversion attempts. That is following 17.6% against the 49ers and 7.6% against the Cowboys! That is what we like to call “progression.”