Well, the NFL world was stunned today when the Rams took down the San Diego Chargers 20-17 in the “Terror Dome”. Ummm … I certainly didn’t see it coming, but I don’t think I was alone. As I was watching the game, I kept wondering when the Rams were going to blow it, and then I realized that this isn’t the same old “Lambs” we have gotten used to over the last few years. This team battles on every snap, and they really believe they are going to win games. It’s refreshing to see the effort this team gives every week, and it makes it hard to root against them.
Now, on to how exactly how this happened. First, let’s look at my keys to the game from yesterday to see how they factored into the win.
Don’t Let SD “Phil” It Up – It was of vital importance that the Rams keep Phillip Rivers in check, and they did just that. They sacked him 7 times. I don’t know if our defense had 7 sacks all last season. The defensive line, namely James Hall and Chris Long, made Rivers uncomfortable all day, and he was really only effective when they started running the two-minute drill. As critical as I’ve been of the D-Line this season, they really have been playing well and they were the main reason we won today.
Stiff On The Ground – Ryan Mathews did some decent work when given the chance today, but the Bolts never really had a chance to get the running game going after they fell behind early. Mathews averaged 5.3 yards per carry, but that was mainly due to one 19-yard run. If you take that play out, he only had 45 yards rushing. Mike Tolbert got in the end zone, but he finished with just 3 yards on 3 carries. Again, great work by the D.
Close The Gates – Admittedly, this point was helped by the fact that Gates left with an injury, but he still only had 2 catches for 12 yards when he was on the field. Gates had caught a TD in 7 straight games before today, so it was vital that the D shut him out.
The Teams Are Special – It’s been well-documented that the Chargers have struggled in this area, and I think the turning point of the game was Nate Kaeding’s missed field goal. The Rams also did a great job bottling up Darren Sproles, and Josh Brown nailed two big field goals. Overall, this one was a big check.
Who Catches The Ball? – I saved this one for last, and the fact that I haven’t mentioned Danario Alexander yet in this post has been absolutely killing me. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan, and if Rams’ fans weren’t excited about him before, they better be now. All he did in his NFL debut was catch 4 passes for 72 yards and a beautiful touchdown. Coach Spags really did a good job keeping DX’s status a secret this week, but the secret is out now. I’m not ready to put him in a Pro Bowl or anything, but a healthy and experienced Alexander brings a new dimension to this offense. As he gets used to the NFL game, he could really develop into a nice player.
Stars Of The Game – This could go to a bunch of guys, but my defensive star goes to Chris Long. The guy has been so close to breaking out for a long time, and two sacks today really has to give him confidence going forward. If Long can develop into a consistent pass-rusher, this defense can be even better. Offensively, as much as I would like to give it to Alexander, I have to give it to SJ39. The guy stepped up in big situations today, and he really is the force that makes this offense go.