Rams Thrash Colts 38-8; The (very) Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Well, just when you think the Rams are fading into the abyss of a lost season without hope and without their QB, on Isaac Bruce's birthday, Coach Fisher rallies the squad for a thoroughly dominating road performance against a playoff caliber team with an elite qb on the road. The Rams are certainly the Jekyll and Hyde of the NFL at this point, in every aspect of the game. When they are good, they are very very good, flashing the promise of the future for the league's youngest team. We are really two plays away from being 6-4, despite losing Sammy. There is no quit in the Rams, and it goes without saying that if we play defense like we played today, there are more quality wins ahead before the end of the season. Along with the Houston game, this game represents just about peak performance for the Rams, and this one is even more encouraging because it comes without Sammy. Today was the NFL coming out party for Tavon Austin, who beat the Colts every which way possible, showing the speed and elusiveness that made his such a sought after commodity in the NFL draft last April. Lots of good to talk about today, and lots to be encouraged about heading into the bye week.
Tavon Austin has 2 catches for 138 yards, both long tds. A 57 yard bomb where he beat the defender by 5 yards to catch a perfect throw from Clemens and an 81 yard td on third down that effectively put the game away at the start of the second half, which featured what we have all been looking for all year-getting the ball to Tavon in space and watching him do his thing. He had a tremendous game changing 98 yard punt return as well, and he electrified the offense in a big way today. The Rams won 38-8 despite only having 12 first downs and having Stacy pretty much held under control. Austin's huge plays and three td's with 314 all purposes yards were a significant part of that performance. Sure, he had another drop today (an early third down miss) and leads the league in dropped passes, but when you look at the overall numbers, despite the ups and downs, and consider that he is playing now without sammy, i dont think people can complain much and he is likely to only get better as his career progresses and he gains experience as a professional receiver.
You can't criticize clemens today. He was 9-16-247-2 tds and a qb rating of 140.6. He didnt throw much and he didnt have to. He was a bit nimble and completed some big third downs to givens (2 catchs), and austin with the game in doubt. While we had only 12 first downs, we were a respectable 7-15 on 3rd down, which really made a difference early in the game.
The defense, in all respects, was outstanding from start to finish. We caused five turnovers, a fumble and four INT's. We had three sacks and hit Luck countless times, leading to many inaccurate throws. We played hard on every play and were outstanding against the run, allowing 18 yards on 14 carries. We held the colts to 2-12 on third down. Most of the colts passing yards were mop up stuff, as they had 5 yards rushing and only 74 total yards in the first half. Unlike last week, we were very strong in the second half on defense and didnt let them back into the game.
Quinn is effectively a force of nature. He is starting to look like a combination of Leonard Little and Jack Youngblood, and you can't give the guy any higher praise than that. He had two sacks and several hits, including the early sack/fumble that was picked up and run in by Chris Long for a 45 yard TD. Anyone that doesnt double team Quinn at this point is really asking for trouble, and those double teams should continue to help Chris Long, who had a sack of his own today along with the fumble returned for the TD.
Our kickoff coverage today was the best we have seen in 20 years. We had four tackles inside the 20 and two inside the 10. Bailey had a great tackle at the 7 yard line.
Zac Stacy didnt do much statistically (26-62 yards, one td) but he had a number of really tough runs, including the td and a big 3rd and 4 run for a first down where he dragged the defender the last two yards to convert.
Laurinaitis had another solid game with 8 or 9 tackles and an INT, but he missed some plays in the 4th quarter after almost getting his ear ripped off and heading to the locker room, which i believe ends his incredible streak of not missing a play in like three years!
The offensive line did reasonably well protecting clemens after the first two sacks by Mathis early in the game. Interesting to have Saffold playing guard the entire game. I like the theory of having your best five guys on the field, and i think its interesting that Barksdale stayed at tackle all game. I think the staff likes what it sees in barksdale and i know we debated this on the board last week, but i think we should all keep a close eye on his development.
Nice to see the Leg actually convert a field goal, albeit a 32 yarder.
Hecker punted nicely averaging 48.4 on five kicks.
Nice long run at the end for Benny (7-72)
Anytime you have 5 takeaways and only 1 turnover, there is pretty close to a 100% chance you are going to win an NFL game. Kudos to the defense, again, especially the pass rush and the complete elimination of the colts running game.
Two many offsides penalties on the defense.
Some shoddy tackling in garbage time, especially on the screen passes.
Early sacks allowed to mathis by Jake Long and Harkey.
Drops by Cook and Austin.
The taunting penalty on the HG Wells Character (The Invisible Man, aka Pead) on the touchback on the opening kickoff was ugly and it lead to Pead never getting off the bench for the rest of the game.
Early fumble on 3rd and 2 from the four yard line looked like a bad handoff by clemens. Fortunately, this didnt bite us in the butt his week as it has recently.
Observation on where the game turned-
Even in a blowout like this one, there are a couple of plays that really make all the difference. Rams up 14-0, colts driving, third down, incomplete, pass interference call, and the officials pick up the flag, leading to the punt, which austin returns 98 yards, a huge turning point in the game. Tim Ryan (who i think is an outstanding color guy) thought it was interference. I thought the receiver and the defender got to the ball at the same time. Either way, how often do you see that flag picked up when the ball isnt deflected? It was a break for the Rams, and we will take it.
Where do we go from here?
Under the circumstances, this win has to feel great heading into the bye week. The season is still riddled with what iffs, given the Sammy injury and the narrow losses to seattle and tennessee. The Rams will continue to fight hard, and hopefully develop their young players. What the Rams need more than anything else is consistency, especially on defense. It is practically impossible to explain how we can play this well on defense for a full game on the road against an elite team and play so poorly last week in the second half to lose us a game. We cut out most of the stupid penalties today (not all, but much better) and we didnt shoot ourselves in the foot with the exception of the one terrible fumble. With our pass rush, we have chances to stay in every game and while we will likely lose more than we win for the rest of the way, teams that look past the Rams are going to be in big trouble if they happen to run into the Rams on one of the weeks where the "good" Rams team shows up.
Ramming speed to all