Football is back, and so am I.
The Rams scored 14 unanswered points in the 4th quarter Sunday to come back and beat Arizona 27-24. It was the first victorious season opener since 2006, and a game that no Rams team since 2006 could have won. In years past, the Dan Williams tipped “pick-6” would be catastrophic. But the 2013 St. Louis Rams have adopted Jeff Fisher’s calmness when adversity seems insurmountable.
“I think it starts with our coach, all week he talked about weathering the storm and that we were going to have to overcome something like this” – Cortland Finnegan.
Speaking of Finnegan, he had his worst game as a St. Louis Ram. TWO 15-yard penalties for unnecessary roughness, and Finnegan let up 96 yards on seven targets, surrendering first downs or a touchdown with each reception.
That’s overkill. First of all, he had a bad game, get over it. His numbers dropped off significantly last year because he played through a nagging thigh injury. His versatility allows him to cover any wide receiver. He’s the leader of a young, promising secondary. Enough.
James Laurinaitis had a forgettable opener but nobody seems to mind his poor positioning on play-action fakes.
5 Things You Already Know
- Jared Cook’s fumble was inexcusable. However, Cook finished the game catching his last six targets for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns to bring the Rams back into the game. What. A. Beast.
- Robert Quinn owns the Arizona Cardinals. Last year, it was D’Anthony Batiste, this season Levi Brown had the privilege. Quinn recorded three sacks, and two forced fumbles. Brown got away with holding and illegal hands all day and Quinn just kept powering through him. Also, Michael Brockers had a strong game bottling up the Cardinals run game.
- Brian Schottenheimer was too conservative in the early going. I understand getting Sam Bradford into rhythm, but all offseason they hyped up his new toys — and he didn’t start using them until the Rams trailed by 13 points. And suddenly, wow, they won!
- Defensively, I have no idea why the Rams secondary thinks giving Larry Fitzgerald a 10-yard cushion on 3rd-and-2 makes sense. Bruce Arians attacked the off-coverage with quick strikes and easy first downs. Arizona converted 23 first downs, and went 50% (7-for-14) on 3rd down.
- The Rams have a top special teams unit in the NFL. It all starts with coach John Fassel. His coaching allowed for guys like Ray Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates to make the team. His scouting brought Greg Zuerlein and Johnny Hekker aboard. Both are elite. Add Tavon Austin’s punt return ability; the unit has significant influence ESPECIALLY on this team.
Darryl Richardson saw a lot of action. He rushed 20 times for 63 yards while catching 5 passes for 33 yards. He also had a 20-yard rush wiped out by a Jake Long holding penalty. Richardson’s burst is exciting, and he showed some nice moves when he had space.
The running game will get some help when Isaiah Pead returns this week from his 1-game suspension. Somebody has to emerge as the grinder. St. Louis only ran the football twice on 3rd down for a total of -2 yards. Even after Trumaine Johnson intercepted a Carson Palmer pass to the 4-yard line, the Rams settled for three points because nobody could pound the football in.
Rookie safety T.J. McDonald left his mark on a few Arizona receivers, but Palmer kept targeting him — and had success. But wow, ouch.
Arizona is a much improved football team. Bruce Arians has revamped the passing game and getting Carson Palmer will prove as a nice addition. The defense is still stingy, but now they can score points.
St. Louis needed this game, bad. The offseason hype, the home opener, and they play two consecutive road games … it was a much-needed win. They got it, but a lot of work is in order before Sunday’s contest in Atlanta.