No need to pinch yourselves Rams Nation, this is not a dream. The St. Louis Rams showed up to play in all three phases of the game on Sunday, laying the hammer to an opponent who was favored by +7.5 points to start last week. In fact, the offense, defense, and special teams all scored at least 7 points against the Texans, leading to the 38-13 rout. Obviously, there is plenty to talk about, so here are Ramblin’ Fan’s quick thoughts on the game.
1. Since Jeff Fisher first introduced the concept of the “extended preseason” after the Week 5 win over Jacksonville, where he suggested the opening four games were merely practice, the St. Louis Rams have truly looked like a new team. The offense is efficient and balanced, the offensive line is protecting their quarterback and opening holes in the run game, the defense is “bending, but not breaking” in the red zone, and the special teams units are not committing multiple penalties every game. Hopefully, this is the Rams team we will see the rest of the season.
2. Sam Bradford was nearly perfect yesterday running the offense, completing 12 passes on only 16 attempts for 117 yards and 3 touchdowns, finishing with an adjusted completion percentage of 80% (excluding the one drop). More impressively, even with only 12 catches on the day, Bradford completed a pass to nine different receivers. The fourth-year signal caller now has 13 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions this season, both of which are Top 5 numbers among six-game starters.
3. Obviously Bradford cannot do it all on his own, which was made obvious during Week 3 and Week 4. Not-so-coincidentally, the Rams quarterback had his most “effective” day as a passer on the heals of another shutout performance by the St. Louis offensive line. Heading into Week 6, the Houston Texans defense was ranked 9th in the pass rush, led by J.J. Watt, the highest graded overall player, at any position, in the NFL (according for Pro Football Focus). In fact, since the season opener against the San Diego Chargers, Watt had averaged 1 sack, 1.5 hits on the quarterback, 3.5 hurries, and 5 defensive stops per game. Yesterday, matched up against Joe Barksdale, Harvey Dahl, and a handful of other tight ends and running backs chipping on the end, Watt managed no sacks, no hurries, no defensive stops, and only one hit on the quarterback.
4. The last piece of the offensive puzzle has been Zac Stacy, who put on another brilliant, hard-nosed performance Sunday. Stacy took 18 carries for 79 yards, once again eclipsing the 4.0+ yards per attempt mark. More impressively, Stacy averaged 3.0 yards after contact (1st among running backs with 10+ carries) and forced 6 missed tackles (1st), including two by J.J. Watt, who had not missed a tackle all season until Sunday. The rookie running back and new left tackle are quickly becoming best friends this season, with Stacy averaging 7.4 yards per attempt when running behind Jake Long over the last two games (9 carries for 67 yards).
5. What happens when all three of those units are working perfectly in-sync? The St. Louis Rams scored on four of their opening five offensive drives of the game, with only one ending in a punt. More impressively, Bradford and Co. strung together two drives that consisted of 10 plays and 80 yards, both of which resulted in a passing touchdown. Aside from the “waste time” drives at the end of the game, the Rams offense converted on 60% of their 3rd-down attempts, and were 100% when they entered the red zone. Credit the players and Brian Schottenheimer for formulating and executing a perfect game-plan this week!
6. WELCOME BACK DEFENSE! The St. Louis Rams got blanked in the opening quarter of the season, in terms of defensive touchdowns, only to have replacement safety, Matt Giordano, end the drought against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Heading into the game, the pressure was on for the defense to force the continuance of Matt Schaub’s consecutive pick-6 streak. Sadly, Schaub went out with injury… but, not to fret, his replacement took over right where he left off. Alec Ogletree recorded his first defensive touchdown Sunday, returning an interception 98-yards for a touchdown, tying the current NFL-record and setting the rookie record for longest pick-6. Janoris Jenkins finally got on the board as well, snagging a “gimme” interception in the end zone… although, he did foolishly bring it out of the end zone.
7. While the St. Louis Rams did give up 420 yards, they personified the “bend, but don’t break” defensive philosophy. Arian Foster and Andre Johnson appeared to gain yards at will in Sunday… at least until they got into enemy territory. At that point, St. Louis seemed to flip a switch. The Houston Texans had five offensive drives of 60+ yards, whereby they generated a net total of -1 points. Here is summary of those: +74 yard (fumble), +78 yards (field goal), +63 yards (field goal), +63 yards (interception; pick-6), and +66 yards (interception). As a result, the Texans finished 1-for-6 in the red zone (16.6%), with that one successful trip coming in garbage time at the end of the 4th quarter. Obviously, the St. Louis Rams should strive for toning down their yards allowed figure. However, as long as the opponent isn’t putting touchdowns on the board, I doubt anyone will be complaining…
8. The St. Louis Rams defensive line finally converted those lesser “pressures” into official sacks, wrangling down Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates five times on Sunday. Michael Brockers led the pack with two sacks, accompanied by Robert Quinn, Chris Long, and Janoris Jenkins. Quinn will obviously maintain his spot atop the NFL as the leading pass rusher, recording the highest overall grade in that department this season (according for Pro Football Focus), after tallying another three pressures against the Texans.
9. Janoris Jenkins continues to make a case for a Pro Bowl birth this season, allowing a mere 50% catch rate, 23 total yards, no touchdowns, and an interception against another, arguable, Top 5 receiver in the NFL. To this point, Jenkins has been matched up against Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones, Dez Byrant, Anquan Boldin, and Andre Johnson. Over the last four games, Jenkins has allowed only 30 yards per game, 44 total yards after the catch, a 58.8% catch rate, and no touchdowns in coverage, all while recording two pass deflections and one interception. Even Trumaine Johnson is coming into this own as the replacement starter for Cortland Finnegan, and will likely receive the highest overall grade for a cornerback in Week 6.
10. For the first time this season, the St. Louis Rams special teams unit did not commit a penalty. In fact, they did the complete opposite, forcing a fumble and returning it for touchdown late in the second half to “ice” the game. Johnny Hekker and the punt coverage unit were, again, fantastic, allowing only six total return yards on two attempts. Greg Zuerlein remains perfect on the year kicking, nailing his 9th consecutive field goal of the season.