Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Having allowed a few days of reflection and watched from afar as the journalistic vultures circled around the carnage of Saturday’s game with their prophecies of doom, the time is now right for an analysis of the highs and lows of St Louis’ 34-6 defeat to Minnesota. Once one was able to shake off the freshness of the Rams’ latest debacle, it was surprisingly easy to identify three of the former, while not getting too beaten up about the negatives. Hopefully, next week it will be even easier.
What I Liked…
T. J. McDonald Somewhat overlooked in many of the reviews of the Rams’ defense was the performance of the second-year safety. McDonald had five total tackles and one pass defended, but those watching the game could not help but notice him involved in many defensive plays. McDonald was all over the field, and while this omni-presence might not have registered too spectacularly on the stat sheet, it was nonetheless encouraging to see such a young player display such instincts and such a keen nose for the ball. Yes, he made a few mistakes in coverage and had a few missed tackles, but McDonald is starting to emerge as a leader on a secondary that so desperately needs them. With Janoris Jenkins also having a good game, it is pleasing to see these players step up in the thinner end of the defensive roster.
Brian Quick The third-year receiver has attracted pre-season attention before, but it seems some of this promise might finally be coming through. Despite the instability at the quarterback position on Saturday, Quick led the team with 99 receiving yards and would have gone beyond 120 had it not been for a careless entanglement with a facemask. Quick ran good routes, and perhaps in contrast with former efforts, fought for the ball on a number of good throws. With Kenny Britt largely absent from the offense, it was important for Quick to use his size to dominate and cause problems downfield. This uncertainty at quarterback will require a receiver to stretch the field and make difficult catches – Quick could just about be the man. Finally.
Containing Adrian Peterson Holding one of the NFL’s most talented rushers to an average of 3.6 yards per carry represents an impressive outing for the Rams’ front-seven. Michael Brockers and Alec Ogletree were particularly responsible for this, but the unit as a whole were successful in meeting this defensive priority. This has been a historical problem for the Rams in recent times, so it is encouraging to see a noticeable improvement. The run defense forced the Vikings to find answers elsewhere; unfortunately, they found them.
What I Didn’t Like…
The Offensive Strategy Even before the game blew apart, the Rams seemed to be unsure about their game plan on offense. The running game was never given a chance to develop, and quarterback Shaun Hill found himself with an increasing load of responsibility that was later passed on to Austin Davis. The lack of imagination despite the weapons available was evident, and the Rams even seemed to lack confidence in using Tavon Austin effectively, with a few token plays that failed to generate either excitement or yardage. Zac Stacey continues with his pre-season struggles, although that was not helped by a poor effort by the offensive line. The Rams need to stick with either a simple strategy that focuses on hard-nosed running, or on an imaginative use of these offensive weapons, but this middle-of-the-road, vanilla game plan clearly does not work given the players on the roster.
That Patterson Play Cordarelle Patterson’s 67-yard touchdown run was the nadir of an awful day at the office. There were no fewer than five missed tackles on the play as the second-year player simply carved his way through a defense that seemed caught in the perennial headlights. Shockingly, Patterson’s run should not have come as a surprise. The Vikings had attempted similar plays with Patterson running out of the backfield, all with varying levels of success. That the defense was so caught out was unacceptable. If they needed any indication of how to handle this offensive approach, they had only to watch across the field to how the Vikings defense kept Tavon Austin in check.
Penalties Of course. And, yes, the general increase in penalties across the NFL is a factor but, once again, the Rams made themselves the victims of careless mistakes that included a roughing the kicker call, unsportsmanlike conduct through taunting, holding, neutral zone infractions, etc. Some of these penalties – particularly Quick’s facemask grasp and Chris Given’s offensive pass interference – halted the little momentum that the Rams offense generated. And, yes, some calls were dubious, but the team does not help matters by giving the officials reasons to throw these yellow flags that have become so synonymous with Rams Nation’s frustration.