Quick Thoughts On The St. Louis Rams Win Over The San Francisco 49ers

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November 2, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; St. Louis Rams guard Greg Robinson (79, left) and running back Tre Mason (27) celebrate after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi

Mondays seems to be a lot easier when your squad is not losing by 30+ points to their in-state rivals. That is especially true when that “non-loss” is the result of a last-second, goal line stand victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams are now sitting pretty with a 2-1 record over the last three games, with that other win being a special teams-featured trouncing of the Seattle Seahawks. So, what can we take away from Sunday?

1. First and foremost, we have to give a tip of the hat to Gregg Williams and the St. Louis Rams defensive unit. Many started off the year questioning the highly-touted defensive coordinator, as the team’s struggles to adapt to the new system were compounded by an unusual low amount of sacks. Now, as the season has progressed, the Rams seem to be settling in, particularly against the run. After a putrid start, St. Louis has allowed less than 60 yards rushing by feature backs in three of their last four game. That includes yesterday, where Frank Gore was held to a mere 49 yards on 14 carries.

2. Stopping the run wasn’t the only area where the Rams struggled early in the season. Through five games, the Rams had registered only one sack; that coming from Aaron Donald against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Over the previous two games, the Rams had begun to hit home a little more frequently, registering five sacks in two bouts against Alex Smith and Russell Wilson. Then, yesterday, the floodgates opening. By the end of the first half, the Rams had already recorded six sacks, including Robert Quinn’s first strip-sack of the season. They would end with eight total sacks from six different players, with at least one from each of the four starting defensive linemen. #SackCity?

3. Speaking of defensive lines, it would be egregious not to give credit to some of the individual performers. Aaron Donald continued his case for Defensive Rookie of the Year, officially registering three pressures and two defensive stops. Moreover, he was largely responsible for three of the Rams sacks on Sunday, regularly collapsing the pocket on the interior, and forcing Kaepernick to move out of his “comfort zone” and into the waiting arms of a Rams defender.

4. Robert Quinn has also back in All-Pro mode, managing two sacks in each of the last two games, and five total sacks in the last three games. The reining Professional Football Writers of America’s Defensive Player of the Year still has a long way to go before he can make a case to repeat as a Hawaii-invitee. However, with the defense beginning to “click” and Chris Long soon returning from injury, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Quinn finish for the third-consecutive year with 10+ sacks.

5. However, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns for the St. Louis Rams defense. The young secondary continue to make young secondary mistakes. Late in the game, both Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner bailed out the 49ers offense with long pass interference penalties. That was only trumped by Marcus Roberson losing Anquan Boldin in coverage earlier in the game, allowing the 49ers only touchdown of the day. While some might blame the defensive coordinator for putting these inexperienced cornerbacks in one-on-one situation on the outside, at the end of the day, these players should be expected to do the job they are being paid for… Let’s hope they continue to progress as the season rolls.

6. A special shout out does need to go to James Laurinaitis, who showed Richard Sherman exactly what it looks like to “possess” the ball after an end-of-the-game fumble. With :02 seconds left, Colin Kaepernick attempted to sneak into the endzone. From the snap, the 49ers’ signal caller never seemed to have complete control. With his knees never touching the ground, the ball (at some point) came completely free, and the Rams middle linebacker made it a point to show that St. Louis recovered it from the pile. His “demonstration” of the football led to the official call on the field, which “stood” after review, presumably due to lack of sufficient evidence to overturn. Laurinaitis certainly deserved that football, after officials had wiped away a fumble return for a touchdown earlier in the game.

7. Switching over to the offense, there isn’t much positive to talk about…

Tre Mason continued to impress on the ground versus a very, very stout San Francisco front-seven. Despite playing behind a mangled, inexperienced offensive line, Mason managed 65 yards on 19 carries, good for 3.4 yards per touch. Mason also impressed in pass protection, laying one particularly eye-catching block on a free-rushing outside linebacker. At this point, there should be little doubt that the “hot hand” is Tre Mason, and he should see the majority of carries the rest of the year.

8. Greg Robinson, in his first start at offensive tackle, played admirably against a seasoned veteran, Justin Smith. Despite a pedestrian grade on Pro Football Focus, he only allowed one pressure in 57 offensive snaps. Also, this…

9. Sadly, Austin Davis appears to be regressing back to his “third-string” form. With Brian Quick out and teams having enough tape to gameplan against him, Davis has struggled to get anything going in the last couple of games. Davis now appears to be more of a “Kellen Clemens” than a “Kurt Warner,” which will likely force the Rams to go quarterback hunting in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Jameis Winston, anyone?

10. Since getting a punt blocked against the Philadelphia Eagles, Johnny Hekker has truly returned to All-Pro form. Yesterday, he went head-to-head to another perennial All-Star, Andy Lee, and destroyed him in the field possession kick-off contest. Hekker boomed six punts for a 46.8 yard average, including landing two inside the 20 yard line. After handing out gameballs to everyone on the defense, the “Red Rifle” of the punting world should be next in line.