St. Louis Rams v San Francisco 49ers: What I Liked, What I Didn’t Like


Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It was another close, nail-biting affair but, mainly led by their suffocating defense (at last!), the Rams scored their third win of the season, beating the arch-rival San Francisco 49ers by 13-10. The Rams have now defeated both of last season’s NFC Championship teams and are, suddenly, one game away from third place in the NFC West. With a team decimated by injuries and morale crushed after the loss lopsided to Kansas City, this was just the win St Louis needed as it heads towards the second half of the season.

What I Liked…

The pass rush          Hello Sack City!! The much-vaunted but largely disappointing Rams defensive line finally came to life with, by far, their most dominating performance yet. In just one game, the unit virtually doubled their total sacks for the season and set the tone for the game. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick lost over a fifth of his yardage to St Louis’ pass rushers and seem rattled in many plays. Impressively, the Rams’ eight sacks were shared out among six players, led by Robert Quinn, who is finally starting to live up to his billing. The line also stood strong against the run, holding perennial thorn Frank Gore to 3.5 yards per carry. The defense has, surprisingly, been responsible for some of the Rams’ losses this season, but, this time round, they were clearly the reason behind the win.

The linebackers      As disappointing as the defensive line has been this season, the linebacking corps has also been poor. Veteran James Laurinaitis has been a tackling machine but largely quiet in terms of making big plays, but one of the bigger shocks of the season has been the regression of second-year player Alec Ogletree. After a rookie year where he made a number of big plays, Ogletree has seemingly struggled in Greg Williams’ new defensive scheme, and this has been obvious against nifty quarterbacks. Against San Francisco, however, the linebackers – aided by the awesome defensive line – contained the running game and came up big, particularly in the goal-line scrum that saw Laurinaitis strip the ball from Kaepernick for the win. Ogletree had a quieter game, but he made an impact deflection that was close to an interception. The team clearly needed these defensive leaders to step up, and they did.

The team response             Getting hammered by the Kansas City Chiefs was a massive blow. Losing key players – particularly tackle Jake Long – to injury made things worse, and the prospects did not look good as the Rams stared at the more uphill sector of their schedule. The team’s response, though, was excellent. Leaders like Quinn and Laurinaitis were big factors in this, but rookies Aaron Donald and E. J. Gaines also played their part, as did Greg Robinson, who did a good job in filling in for Long. The team did more than just not miss a beat; they gave one of their most convincing performances yet in a difficult environment against a tough foe, showing a maturity in the team’s ability to rise over adversity, a maturity usually lacking in days gone by.

What I Didn’t Like…

Austin Davis             It was going so well. The quarterback’s poised and dynamic performances against teams such as Dallas, Philadelphia and Seattle had made many Rams fans start to think that their quarterback of the future was in their bullpen all along. Now, after two shaky performances in as many games, opinion may be changing on the youngster. It seems as if teams have started to figure Davis out, and his limitations are becoming more obvious. Davis threw two picks, both of them woefully inaccurate and ill-advised throws that almost cost the Rams the game. Behind a patchwork offensive line and missing two of his favorite receivers – the injured Brian Quick and the out-of-work Austin Pettis – Davis look rattled and clearly struggled when rolling out to his right. His average of 4.4 yards per catch reminded many of Sam Bradford’s check-down days, although he still managed to distribute the ball to eight different receivers, a trait I like in him. He also led a scoring drive when it mattered, and this may buy him some time before Rams fans start calling for……well, no-one else, for now. But, while the Rams have been competitive in other games because of Davis, this time they won despite him.

Lack of offensive firepower         For the second week running, the Rams only scored one touchdown, and this cannot solely be blamed on Brian Quick’s absence. While it is encouraging to see that the team has a more stable plan for the running game, this only 3.4 yards per rush, although, admittedly, against a stingy defense. Tre Mason has gone from inactive to the team’s featured back, but he is still failing to produce consistent yardage. The lack of offensive imagination is perhaps best exampled by the repeated – and failed – attempts to hand the ball off to Tavon Austin in the backfield. Naturally, much of this offensive sterility is down to Davis’ performances, but the Rams have in the past proved that they can move the ball effectively and score points. This is not a good time to stop doing that.

Other thoughts and observations…

What does Tre Mason’s promotion mean for Zac Stacy?…Greg Robinson more than held his own in his natural position…talking about holding, are opposing linemen exempt from this penalty if it is to Robert Quinn?…at this halfway point of the season, Aaron Donald is the team’s MVP – followed by Johnny Hekker!…Tavon Austin: safety does not always come first!