The Rams second consecutive shutout on Sunday was by no means perfect, but if you simply glanced at the box score it would look something like a Picasso.
I know all of you read my keys to the game last week, but let’s review them:
1. Don’t turn the ball over.
Checkmate. Defensively, they snagged two interceptions and sniffed out a fake punt, essentially a third turnover. The Rams are now 4-0 when they do not commit a turnover.
Gregg Williams attacked Colt McCoy, blitzing on half of the Redskins 44 dropbacks, generating 5 sacks with such pressure. McCoy was seemingly flushed out of the pocket all day long, and like I predicted, he did not last the entire game. Name one team that wants to play the Rams defense right now…
Jeff Fisher pointed out in his Monday press conference that if you take away points generated off giveaways, the Rams defense ranks 2nd in the NFL in points allowed per game. This defense is built to win for a long time.
3. Would Brian Schottenheimer expose Shaun Hill?
I don’t know what it will take for the Rams offensive coordinator to run the football in the Red Zone. He just won’t do it. The Rams went 1-for-3 in the Red Zone, in part thanks to Greg Zuerlein’s forgettable day. But all in all, Hill did a good job managing the game, and most importantly, not throwing interceptions.
Once again, Hill did a nice job of continuously getting positive yards on every down. Short gains of 2, 3, 4 yards on early downs bring up manageable 3rd down situations… in which St. Louis went 6-of-12 (50%)
It was refreshing to hear Fisher talk about Hill’s message at halftime, with the team clinging to a disappointing 6-0 lead. I wonder if Sam Bradford is taking notes. Let’s hope so.
4. Special Teams.
Zuerlein’s horrific first half should not get overlooked, but the rest of the unit picked him up, including the NFL’s richest punter, Johnny Hekker, who dropped bombs inside the 20 all afternoon. The turning point in the game was the Redskins failed fake punt. Rookie Trey Watts did a great job getting a piece of punter Tress Way allowing backer Darren Bates to finish him off. The Rams followed with 14 unanswered points, including Tavon Austin’s 78-yard punt return score.
2 things on Zuerlein: 1) I wouldn’t worry about him; I mentioned the pathetic FedEx field condition 2) The story about Fisher having Zuerlein kick a football into a locker after the game in front of the team is priceless.
5. Win the game.
The Rams won, and this is important. Fisher is trying to build a winning atmosphere. With any football team, especially a roster filled with youth, it’s imperative for them to reap the benefits of winning on Sunday after preparing and game planning all week.
I know some will find these wins as garbage, and yes, they won’t be awarded a top draft choice… But as I told a friend on Twitter, this team does not need anymore top 5 picks, they need wins with the players they’ve already invested in. Last April, GM Les Snead adamantly said he hoped 2013 was the last time they held a top 5 pick.
Never underestimate the effect winning has on a locker room. It’s contagious.
And to a certain extent, never underestimate what a winning football team can do for a city that needs a lift from just about anywhere in the worst way.
Like many of you, I have followed this team through the severe peaks and valleys. This is the best football I have seen the Rams play in some time. The defense is playing incredibly fast while generating turnovers and (literally) knocking people out. The offense has found a groove with Tre Mason at running back and a group of receivers that doesn’t change on every down. It only took half the season for the team to remember what they had in Stedman Bailey.
Things are clicking and it’s fun to watch, because wow, it’s been a minute.
3 NFL THOUGHTS
1. Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis called Johnny Football a ‘midget’. I typically have no problem with insults, but this one hit home…
Actually, Lewis should just shut the hell up and worry about the Bengals, who are barely hanging on to a playoff spot atop the AFC North. The Bengals have lost the Wild Card playoff game four out of the last five years, Andy Dalton is severely overrated at quarterback and oh yeah, that midget’s team stomped all over Lewis’ Bengals 24-3 five weeks ago.
2. The Arizona Cardinals continue benefiting from insanely fortuitous bounces. This is perhaps the most overrated 10-3 football team known to man. Last Sunday, the officials overturned a play in which KC Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce fumbled as he went down at the Arizona 22. Kelce did indeed fumble, but seemed to regain possession and be touched down… but no. Arizona was awarded the football with five minutes left in the game, ending the last serious KC threat.
Arizona won, yay. They’ll need to ‘ice up, son’ after Thursday night. Mark my words.
3. If I had to pick a Super Bowl winner, I’d take Green Bay because of how well Aaron Rodgers is playing. He is by far the best quarterback in the NFL. Having said that, the Packers Achilles heal is always defense, and last night’s 2nd half meltdown hardly dispelled any qualms.
1. If the Cubs can somehow land Jon Lester, it would be a massive acquisition. In fact, count me on the Joe Maddon bandwagon. I see him running circles around Mike Matheny.
2. The South Siders are making news, too. They grabbed Jeff Samardzija from Oakland and signed former Yankees closer David Roberston. They overpaid for Robertson, but the Sox now have Samardzija and Chris Sale anchoring the rotation. That will immediately send shock waves through the AL West with the Tigers likely losing Max Scherzer and Kansas City opting to let James Shields walk.
Speaking of Oakland, what are they doing?
I hope Oscar Taveras’ death can, at the very least, influence better decision-making for everyone, including other professional athletes.
In particular, I’m referring to Carlos Martinez.
It’s nice to see Carlos will honor Taveras by wearing #18, but I wonder if Martinez has any different perspective on his opportunity after the tragic death of his good friend. It’s no secret Martinez enjoys the night life– and disclaimer: I’m not here to preach about lifestyle, I have my own problems to worry about…
But Martinez has tremendous talent, and it’s fair to suggest he needs to mature both as a player and a pitcher. He has an incredible opportunity to be great within a winning organization, and I hope he takes all necessary steps towards achieving those goals.
There are a lot of young people, especially in the Dominican, who look at Martinez as a role model not only in baseball, but life in general.
Thanks for reading.