Quick Thoughts On The St. Louis Rams Win Over The Washington Redskins


Dec 7, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (L) and Rams guard Greg Robinson (79) celebrate after their game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. The Rams won 24-0. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another shutout. Just par for the course in St. Louis, right? Well, we might be getting ahead of ourselves. Either way, the Rams managed another impressive win over a lesser opponent this week, and moved one step closer to finishing the season with a winning record. Obviously, there is a lot to cover after a performance like Sunday. Without wasting anymore time, here are our quick thought on the game.

1. To start, we want to give another tip of the hat to Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams coaching staff. Despite battling nearly-insurmountable odds to reach the playoffs, this squad is playing their hearts out on the field. The offense, defense, and special teams are all playing at extremely high levels, now putting together four impressive performances in as many weeks. If you look back to the 2011 roster that Jeff Fisher inherited and juxtapose it next the current 2014 roster, the difference is night and day; not only in terms of raw talent, but in experience, attitude, resiliency, and drive to win. Building a roster from scratch is difficult, but forming a new “mentality” is even tougher. Fisher has done that in St. Louis.

2. There have been six shutouts in the NFL this season. Two of those belong to the St. Louis Rams, who are the only ones to accomplish the feat on the road this season. With his players finally acclimated to his defense scheme, Gregg Williams is having his way with opposing offenses. Yesterday, the Redskins were 3-for-15 on 3rd/4th down conversion attempts, and managed only 206 total yards on 55 plays. Moreover, the Rams won the turnover battle for the third time in four games, including finishing with a +2 or higher turnover differential for the second-consecutive week.

3. Speaking of turnovers, the majority of those takeaways this season are coming from interceptions (12); a stark turnaround from last season where fumble recoveries were king. After T.J. McDonald snagged a Colt McCoy pass in the second half yesterday, every member of the Rams starting secondary unit has nabbed an interception this season. In fact, aside from McDonald, the other four “starters” (McLeod, Jenkins, Gaines, and Johnson) each have at least two picks on the season. As a result, the Rams are currently tied for 10th in the league in takeaways, and rank in that same spot in overall turnover differential on the year (+4).

4. However, takeaways is not the only area that the St. Louis Rams are ranked highly in this season. After starting off with a historically-low one  total sack in the opening five games of the season, the St. Louis Rams are currently tied for 7th-most in the NFL (35). The Rams unyielding pass rush has managed 18.0 sacks in the last four games, more than Atlanta (14) and Cincinnati (15) have amassed all season. The Rams are also tied for the league-lead in interceptions returned for touchdowns this year, and are one of only eight teams with 3 or more defensive scores on the year. Lastly, the Rams are allowing only 37.8% of third down conversion attempts to be completed (9th), and are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t allowed a successful fourth-down conversion attempt this season (min. five attempts against).

5. Going back to the Redskins game, in particular, the Rams pass rush seemed nearly unstoppable. While James Laurinaitis was likely the happiest player on the field, recording 1.5 sacks within hours of Ohio State being named into the College Football Playoff, the most meaningful takedowns came from Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald.

To start, Quinn’s 1.5 sack day pushed him over the 10.0 threshold for the third-consecutive year, and currently slots him 9th overall in the league in quarterback takedowns with three “sack-friendly” games left on the schedule. It is unlikely he’ll be able to catch Elvis Dumervil or Justin Houston, who both have 16.0, but it isn’t out of the question, considering his 1) resume against Russell Wilson and the Arizona Cardinals and 2) how easy Eli Manning goes to the ground in New York.

While Quinn breaking the 10+ sack barrier is impressive, it might not be as meaningful as Aaron Donald, who now has 7.0 sacks on the season, paired with 11 tackles for loss, and one forced fumble. According to Pro Football Focus, Aaron Donald is the No.2 overall graded defensive lineman in the league this season, trailing only likely Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt. Not only should Donald be considering for the Pro Bowl, as easily one of the top six interior defensive linemen, he should also be the front-runner for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. At this point, Donald handily leads all rookies in sacks, tackles for loss, and defensive stops, and trails only “rush specialist” Khalil Mack in run defense. Aaron Donald has been arguably the best player on one of the best defenses in the NFL this season. The vote shouldn’t be close.

6. Time to flip over to the offense, who had a pretty good showing of their own against a previously “high-ranked” Redskins defensive unit. Shaun Hill, in particular, had a wonderful showing, despite regularly facing “3rd and forever”s following a penalty or sack. The Rams’ backup managed 16-of-22 passing for 213 yards and two touchdowns, finishing with a 133.3 passer rating on the day. Hill is showing why he is considering one of the best backup signal callers in the league, going 3-1 over the last four games. The Rams should make a concerted effort to re-sign him this offseason.

7. However, you cannot talk about Shaun Hill’s big day without also talking about Jared Cook, who muscled through a cheap-shot blow to the head by Redskins safety, Ryan Clark, early in the game. The Rams dominating tight end finished the day with four catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns, including a 35-yard catch-and-run up the seam. Cook is currently leading St. Louis in receptions for the second-consecutive year, and will likely finish the season as the leader in receiving yards as well. Despite playing the majority of his career in St. Louis with Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis, and Shaun Hill throwing him the football, Jared Cook has been about as good as any tight end in the league over the past two seasons. Worth every penny of his contract.

8. However, a number of players from the receiving corps have been turning it up lately, both through the air and on the ground. Tavon Austin, in particular, has truly seemed to find his place in the Rams offensive over the last month, including 8.5 yards per touch against the Redskins on Sunday. That doesn’t count his performance on special teams, where the dynamo accumulated 143 punt return yards, including a 78-yard touchdown. Kenny Britt is also looking like his former self, taking over for Brian Quick as the Rams “deep threat” and recording his 10th 20+ yard catch of the season yesterday. He should be looking at a respectable two- or three-year extension at the end of the year.

9. Days before the Rams kicked off on Sunday, St. Louis rewarded Johnny Hekker with a six-year extension worth up to $19 million, which also happened to be the largest guaranteed contract for a kicker or punter in NFL history. How did he respond?

Well, in Week 14, Hekker was the highest graded punter by Pro Football Focus, managing 42.8 net yards per attempt, allowing only three total return yards, and pinning 3-of-4 punts inside the 20 yard line. Oh yea, and he scored more points than the entire Redskins offense, completing a two-point conversion attempt to Cory Harkey. Worth every penny.

10. Even though we started with a tip of the hat to Jeff Fisher, it wouldn’t be right to not end with another shoutout to the St. Louis Rams head coach for the ultimate display of “high-class trolling.” On Sunday, Fisher sent out six players for the opening coin toss at FedEx. However, instead of sending out the usual four captains, he sent out Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Stedman Bailey, Zac Stacy, Greg Robinson, and Alec Ogletree. The significance? Those were the six “active” players that the Rams acquired in the massive trade for Robert Griffin III. If only “the man himself” had been out there for the Redskins, instead of sitting on the bench. Janoris Jenkins said it best after the game…