Quick Thoughts On The St. Louis Rams Win Over The Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Sep 14, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Austin Davis (9) and linebacker Daren Bates (53) celebrate as time expires in the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. St. Louis Rams defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you woke up this morning and pinched yourself, you’re not alone. The St. Louis Rams did, in fact, win their matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last night, even being on the road with their third-string quarterback leading the charge. Unlike last week, you do not have to dig far to find some positives from the game. Without wasting any more time on the intro, here are our quick thoughts on the St. Louis Rams win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

1. Last week, we ended our thoughts with multiple paragraphs lambasting Brian Schottenheimer, his offensive game plan, and his play-calling, particular early in the game. This week, likely with some input from Jeff Fisher, Schottenheimer reverted back the “style” that led to Rams to four wins in the brief Kellen Clemens era. At no point did the Rams abandon the run, nor did the offense rely too heavily on checkdown throws. Instead, they hammered the weakened Tampa Bay defensive line, which set up the play action game. Hat tip to you, Mr. Schottenheimer.

2. One of the biggest concerns heading into the game was how well the Rams smaller defensive backs would handle the towering duo of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson on the outside; particularly with both Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner not dressing on Sunday. The response was fairly impressive, allowing only eight combined receptions for 100 yards and zero touchdowns between pair, with 29 of those yards coming the last second, desperation bomb to Evans. If EJ Gaines, Janoris Jenkins, and Brandon McGee can hold their own versus this caliber of receiver, it is scary to think how the secondary will look once Johnson and Joyner return to the lineup.

3. Speaking of the secondary, we would be remise if we didn’t tip our hat to Janoris Jenkins, after putting on a man-to-man clinic for the second time in as many weeks. Helped by playing in Gregg Williams’ aggressive scheme, Jenkins allowed only three catches on six targets for 18 total yards in coverage. Last year, Jenkins struggled mightily in Tim Walton’s “soft zone” defense, leading some to wonder if his rookie season was an anomaly. We appear to have our answer…

4. However, even with a shutdown performance, Janoris Jenkins was still not the most impressive member of the St. Louis Rams secondary on Sunday. T.J. McDonald, for the second week in a row, was the enforcer of the Rams defense, including a bone-crushing hit on Mike Evans that essentially sealed the win for the Rams.

As impressive as McDonald was in the deep secondary, he was more impressive on special teams. Not only did he tip a punt, but he channeled his inner Superman to block a field goal late in the game. With less than a full season under his belt, McDonald is quickly turning into the leader of this young secondary. That’s something that was sorely missing last year.

5. As we mentioned last week, it was a bit too early to slap a label on the St. Louis Rams offensive line after only 60 minutes of NFL play. This week, they showed why, with an impressive showing in all aspects of the game. According to Pro Football Focus, the three highest-graded offensive player on Sunday for the Rams were offensive linemen, led by Joe Barksdale, Jake Long, and Rodger Saffold. In fact, Barksdale was the highest overall graded offensive tackle in the NFL during Week 2 (so far), with Jake Long ranking Top 10. Not bad, boys. Not bad.

6. Solid offensive line play typical means solid offensive numbers. That was certainly the case for the Rams on Sunday, managing 339 total yards and 14 first downs. As mentioned in our “keys to the game,” the running game played a huge role on that success, with Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham combining for 25 carries, racking up 86 yards and setting up the play action game for Austin Davis and the St. Louis Rams receivers.

7. We cannot talk about the St. Louis Rams offense without mentioning Brian Quick, who, for the second consecutive week, led the team in receptions and receiving yards. This week, Quick managed seven catches for 74 yards against a solid Buccaneers secondary, and was in position for a couple of other big gains. While it still might be a bit early to claim this will be his “breakout” year, he is certainly on the right track.

We also have to give a tip of the hat to Austin Pettis, who came in for the injured Tavon Austin and tangibly changed the game for the St. Louis Rams. Trailing late, the Rams needed to convert a long 3rd down to continue their comeback march. Austin Davis, with plenty of time, rocketed a deep ball to Austin Pettis in double coverage. The pass landed perfectly between the corner and the safety, with Pettis snagging the ball at the highest point and hauling it in to set up the would-be game-winning field goal.

8. Another week, another strong performance for Aaron Donald, who, again, graded as the top Rams defender on Sunday. Donald was a force on the inside, tallying three defensive stops along with recording St. Louis’ only sack, after putting the Buccanners center on skates and sending him flying back into the Josh McCown.

9. Of course, it would be blasphemous to get through our quick thoughts without crediting Austin Davis for a solid performance in his first start as an NFL quarterback. Davis showed poise, leadership, and patience to let some of the longer routes develop. Setting aside the Shaun Hill vs. Austin Davis debate for another day, it was great to see the former undrafted free agent step in and pull out a gutsy victory on the road.

10. Per usual, we’ll end the thoughts with a shout out to our All-World special teamers, Greg Zuerlein and Johnny Hekker. Despite some putrid conditions, the holding/kicking duo nailed all four field goal attempts, including the game winner with 36 seconds left on the clock. Hekker, as always, was tremendous in his punting duties, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting outside of their own 25 yard line only twice in their nine drives. The Rams “Red Rifle” appears to be well on his way to his second Pro Bowl, with Greg Zuerlein potentially joining the flight if he can continue to perform at a high level the rest of the season.