The magical streak in the Kellen Clemens-era was bound to end at some point, after averaging 40.0 points per game over the past two contests. It certainly did on Sunday, with the St. Louis Rams falling to the San Francisco 49ers by 23-13, in a testosterone-filled, NFC West throwdown. Even in the midst of a defeat, there are always things that can be taken away from the game! Here are our quick thoughts.
1. Just to get it out of the way early… it is very rare that ranting at officials can cross over from sport to sport, especially those that are so dissimilar. However, for those in Rams Nation watching the game, the phrase “Call it both ways” likely squeaked out of your mouth at least once during the game on Sunday. If that gentle nudge by Stedman Bailey is offensive pass inference, than Anquan Boldin should have been flagged on 99% of his routes. The officiating crew essentially dominated the game for the opening half, and by the time they had settled, there was no chance of the Rams recovering….
2. However, it wasn’t just the officiating that “lost the game” for the St. Louis Rams. Jared Cook and Chris Givens appeared to be competing to see who could drop the more crucial pass in the game. Cook started off hot with a couple of key drops on 3rd down that sent the punting unit onto the field. However, Givens may have iced the game for the 49ers with his drop on 3rd and 11, which likely would have resulted in a touchdown had he been able to haul it in the pass. Tavon Austin even joined the party late, letting a slightly overthrown ball bounce off of this hands and into the arms of Carlos Rogers on the final drive of the game for St. Louis. It doesn’t matter who is taking the snaps for the Rams under-center, the quarterback cannot throw and catch the ball…
3. Despite the box score statistics for the 49ers receiving corps, Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins held their own on the outside against Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. A handful of early penalty flags forced the cornerback duo to play a little “softer” in their coverage, which allowed some easy comeback throws. However, for the most part, both young backers played tough, physical football on the outside; progress!
4. Most will criticize Jeff Fisher for his fake punt attempt late in the game, which failed spectacularly. At that point in the game, especially with the 49ers in rhythm offensively, the St. Louis Rams had no other choice but to try something drastic. On those types of trick plays, you have to take the good with the bad… and the Rams have certainly seen their fair share of “good” over the last two seasons on fakes.
5. Not counting that ghost sack on the opening drive, the St. Louis Rams offensive line was pretty effective in both pass and run blocking against the 49ers on Sunday. Zac Stacy still managed 3.8 yards per carry, rumbling for 72 yards on 19 attempts. More impressively, Benny Cunningham, Kellen Clemens, and Tavon Austin also posted “explosive” runs of 10+ yards on Sunday. These are the types of runs that had been non-existent for the Rams in the opening quarter of the season (and even dating back over the last half-decade), so it should be a good sign that St. Louis is still able to rip them off against a stout San Francisco front-seven.
6. Kiko Alonzo may very well have already been crowned the Defensive Rookie of the Year, but Alec Ogletree should certainly get some looks if he continues to impress for the remainder of the season. Ogletree leads all rookies in solo tackles and forced fumbles, and is one of only five rookies with a defensive touchdown this season. He is also tied for seventh among rookies in pass deflections, matching Alonzo with nine on the season. The Bills’ middle linebacker has all of the “sexy” stats, including four interceptions that he acquired in the opening quarter of the season. However, Ogletree has been one of the better outside linebackers in the NFL this season, and may even threaten to derail James Laurinaitis’ streak of four seasons leading the Rams in tackles.
He finished yesterday’s game with 10 total tackles, one tackle for a loss, and one “key” forced fumble that led to the Rams only takeaway of the game.
7. This Rams defensive line has got to be in the conversation for “best” in the NFL this season. The St. Louis Rams managed four sacks against Colin Kaepernick, including three by the Rams interior defensive lineman. Kendall Langford is certainly showing some signs of improvement, while Michael Brockers is continue to put a muzzle on the draft “experts” that claimed he couldn’t be a successful pass rusher in the NFL.
8. Frank Gore Stat Line: 15 attempts, 42 yards, 2.8 per carry. It is safe to say that the St. Louis Rams have “found their way” in terms of stopping the run.
9. Johnny Hekker’s Weekly Stat Line: 5 punts, 48.8 yard average, 5 total punt return yards allowed. #PuntersArePeople #ProBowl
10. Let’s play a decoding game! 27, 18, 9, 28, 24…
No, those are not this week’s lottery numbers. Give up? Those are the ranking for Robert Griffin III this season in passer grade (according to Pro Football Focus), touchdowns, interceptions, quarterback rating, and completion percentage. Currently, RG3 has magically turned into RG3-9, which is the current record of the Washington Redskins. As a result, they are slotted to pick second overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, which means… the St. Louis Rams are slotted to pick second overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. Thank you Robert Griffin, for transforming an otherwise miserable Sunday into a day of celebration in Rams Nation.