Heading into the season, the vast majority of writers, analysts, and pundits covering the St. Louis Rams, myself included, predicted that this young squad would likely finish the season with a record somewhere between a 7-9 and 9-7. With the win yesterday, they accomplished that goal, despite starting off the season ice-cold and losing their franchise quarterback to injury in the opening half of the year. Taking down Tampa Bay gives the Rams the opportunity to end the season with their best record since 2006 (8-8), when Scott Linehan was the head coach and Marc Bulger was still the starting quarterback. However, before we move on to the Seattle game, let’s take a minute to savor the victory.
1. There is no other suitable way to start this article off than by thanking Robert Quinn for an amazing performance, both yesterday and throughout the season. Quinn finished Sunday with six solo tackles, three sacks, and four hits on the quarterback. In the process, he passed Robert Mathis to take the lead in the race for the Deacon Jones award and broke the St. Louis Rams single-season sack record, which currently sits at 18 takedowns. Cheers to you, Mr. Quinn! Let’s hope that he can add Defensive Player of the Year to his laundry list of accolades at the end of this season.
2. Nate Latsch, of Fox Sports Midwest, posted a beautiful piece following the St. Louis Rams win on Sunday. The article, as the title implies, is obviously an attempt to make a case for Quinn as Defensive Player of the Year. However, instead of listing off statistics and rankings he goes another path…
“I really went into this game today thinking I was going to really have a dominant performance,” [Tampa Bay left tackle, Donald Penn] continued. “It started off great for three quarters. Then the end is just …”
Penn shook his head again.
Penn isn’t the first offensive tackle that appears to need therapy in the aftermath of facing the best pass rusher in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals ended up trading Levi Brown shortly after he allowed three sacks and five total quarterback disruptions in the opening game of the season. Then, just last week, the New Orleans Saints benched Charles Brown in the second half after he allowed two sacks and five disruptions. Quinn doesn’t just dominate his opponent physically, he tears them down psychologically, draining every last ounce of confidence before moving on to his next victim. As William Hayes said after the game on Sunday, “He’s special. We don’t run across people like that. Not since I’ve been in the NFL. I haven’t seen nobody close to him.”
3. However, the effect that Robert Quinn has on the opposing offense doesn’t just show up on his stat line… or even in the defeated tone of his opponent’s following the game. The attention that he demands opens up the game for other players, which was made evident on Sunday. Four other players recorded at least 0.5 sacks on Sunday, including the first sack of T.J. McDonald’s career. His sack, which nearly resulted in a safety, showed just how much attention Tampa Bay focused on Quinn. Just watch as the entire offensive line shifts towards his side of the field, leaving only the tailback to attempt to block both Alec Ogletree and T.J. McDonald… unsurprisingly, Quinn still almost gets the sacks!
— Daniel Doelling (@Daniel_Doelling) December 22, 2013
4. Speaking of T.J. McDonald, the rookie has had an impressive two weeks, in terms of milestones. Against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, McDonald recorded his first career interception. This week, against an impressive offensive line, he managed his first career sack; and nearly his first safety. If and when the St. Louis Rams draft Haha Clinton-Dix, this young secondary could be one of the better units in the league, bar none.
5. Alec Ogletree is also finishing out the year nicely, one that should have him as a legitimate candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Ogletree is currently ranked 3rd overall in forced fumbles, after causing two yesterday against the Bucs. His progress this season, much like that of Robert Quinn and Trumaine Johnson, has been amazing to watch. Credit Jeff Fisher and Les Snead for piecing together this impressive, young defensive roster.
6. Kellen Clemens is now 4-4 as a starter in St. Louis, with five touchdowns and zero interceptions in those winning bouts. Yesterday, the veteran backup completed 16 of 20 passing attempts, posting a 99.6 quarterback rating. His efficiency at quarterback has been nothing short of outstanding this season.
7. However, it doesn’t hurt that a majority of Clemen’s time in the backfield is spend handing the ball off to Zac Stacy. The “steal” of the 2013 NFL Draft topped 100 yards for the fourth time yesterday, becoming the first back this season to reach that feat against the highly-touted Tampa Bay run defense. Stacy is now only 42 yards short of passing the 1,000 yard mark this season, with one last game against the Seattle Seahawks to reach that milestone. From an outside perspective, that might seen like a daunting task, considering the respect that most give the ‘Hawks defense. However, last time the division rivals faced off, Stacy rumbled for 134 yards on 26 carries, his career-high…
8. Stedman Bailey may have “officially” earned a starting spot on the 2014 roster with his performance on Sunday. The other West Virginia rookie lead the team with three catches for 44 yards, averaging nearly 15 yards per reception. More impressively, he recorded his first NFL touchdown, taking a double-reverse for a 27-yard, diving score to help the Rams secure the lead in the second quarter of the game. There is a strong possibility that we could look back in a couple of years and find that the Rams three biggest offensive weapons all came from the 2013 NFL Draft class (Stacy, Austin, Bailey).
9. Greg ‘the Leg’ was finally released on Sunday, going 3 for 3 on field goal attempts, including a season-long 55-yarder to end the 3rd quarter. Hekker was also impressive, as usual, averaging 44.0 net yards per punt on his two attempts.
So, just to put everything into perspective:
- The St. Louis Rams best defender, Robert Quinn, is only 23 years old
- Both starting cornerbacks, the “nickel” outside linebacker, and the best safety on the roster are all either rookies or sophomore players
- Both the starter kicker and punter are second-year players
- Three of the Rams’ top four offensive weapons are rookies; and even Jared Cook is only 26 years old
10. The lone dark spot on Sunday was the injury to Jake Long, which is feared to be another dreaded ACL tear. The St. Louis Rams prized free agent signing was ranked as the No.5 offensive tackle in the NFL headed in Sunday, and was undoubtedly a crucial part of the Rams success in 2013. Our thoughts are with Jake, his lovely wife Jackie, and the rest of the Long family as they work through this process together. Here’s to a quick recovery!