12.22.2009 3:42 pm
A Rams game worth seeing
By Andy Dapron
Once again, I joined the vast majority of Rams Nation on Sunday that was unable to make it to the Edward Jones Dome to watch the Rams take on the Houston Texans, and that couldnít follow them on TV either, thanks to the local television blackout. Just like three weeks ago, when the Seattle Seahawks swooped in to massacre the Rams in St. Louis, my only practical option for following the Rams was my radio.
Unlike three weeks ago, I was actually disappointed that I wasnít able to witness this game with my eyes.
Before I go any further, let me say that I realize that continually saying ďAlmost!Ē like itís something to be proud of can get tiresome, especially when the Rams have ďalmostĒ won about half a dozen times, compared to only one actual win. No amount of almosts can substitute for actual wins, but hey, when youíre starving, that half-eaten, week-old bagel can start looking pretty tasty.
So, even though the Rams ultimately fell to Houston 16-13, losing for what feels like the zillionth time in a-zillion-and-one tries, this game did get me excited, and not just because the Rams *almost* pulled it out. Among the things I would have enjoyed seeing:
ēSteven Jackson turn in another gritty performance. Okay, so it actually is making me nuts seeing our hands-down, undisputed best player continue to be exposed when I know heís battling something as serious as a back injury, and the Rams arenít playing for anything more than personal satisfaction. At the same time, those dismal circumstances are what make his gutsy (and still usually productive) performances over the past few weeks downright inspiring. His 82 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving led the team in both categories.
Iím reluctant to highlight anything other than Jacksonís work ethic and dedication to the Rams, since thatís whatís really setting him apart as a leader on this team, but I canít overlook the way he stood his ground to Texans safety Bernard Pollard. In the fourth quarter, Jackson was blocking a blitzing Pollard on a pass play. Pollard threw a punch. Jackson lost his helmet, and apparently sustained a bloody lip and a bruised face, but he didnít back down. I point that out, not because I want to see players fighting (Richie Incognito doesnít work here anymore), but because I think itís indicative of the fire in Jacksonís heart ó a fire that hopefully will spread among the Rams as Jacksonís time here progresses. In a season where Jackson has every reason and excuse to pack it in, he obviously hasnít.
ēA stellar performance by WR/KR Danny Amendola. The former Texas Tech standout nabbed his first touchdown in the big leagues Sunday, all the more notable because it was the Ramsí only touchdown on the day. However, it was as a return man that Amendola really made his mark. He amassed 159 yards on five kick returns Sunday, and his 55-yard sprint on a kickoff in the second quarter helped set up his score. I didnít even realize, but, according to Jim Thomas, while I havenít been paying attention, Amendola has set the Rams record for kickoff return yardage in a season, with 1,435 yards. He has almost (I know, I know, that word again!) gone all the way several times this year, including Sunday. Itís only a matter of time before Amendola starts taking them to the house. For all the longstanding issues that still linger with the Rams, I think itís safe to say they can put their search for a real return threat to rest.
ēSolid offensive line play. No, the o-line didnít have an outstanding afternoon. QB Keith Null was sacked three times, and pressured on some other occasions (including when he threw his lone interception). Jackson was hit for a loss a few times.
HoweverÖ Null had enough time on most of his other throws, and the big men upfront did help Jackson to 123 all-purpose yards, bad back and all, including some big gainers. This after after a week that saw major upheaval along the line, with Mark Setterstrom and John Greco taking over for Jacob Bell (injured reserve) and Incognito (released) at the guard spots, and center Jason Brown battling the swine flu. And, may I add, no penalties committed by this group. That fact in itself represents improvement.
Iíve always liked what Setterstrom brings, anyway. If he can stay healthy, he can be a fixture on the Ramsí offensive line. As for Greco, weíll get a chance to see what heís about over these last two games.
ēA Rams rushing defense that yielded only 52 yards on 24 carries. Before you tell me it was only the Texans and their 31st-ranked rushing attack, donít forget that the Rams gave up 170 rushing yards in week 12 against Seattle, and 120 a week later in Chicago, with both of those teams ranking last in rushing at the time. So, 52 yards on the ground is a good thing, no matter who itís against. True, Andre Johnsonís otherworldly 196-yard receiving performance took the pressure to produce off of Houstonís ground game, but again, they tried to run the ball 24 times. Itís not as if they abandoned the run.
ēA Rams offense that finally showed a little daring. Hey, the Rams can actually deploy four wideouts on the same play! Before Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur sent Ruvell Martin out to join fellow WRís Donnie Avery, Brandon Gibson, and Amendola Sunday, I thought maybe the Rams had been bound to Pro Bowl rules ó you know, a tight end in the game at all times. Alright, not really, but it was nice to have the Rams try and spread the field a little, just to keep the Texans off-balance. On top of that, there were a few more deep calls in this game. Plus, I was glad to see the Rams show some cojones in the first quarter by not only going for it on 4th and 1, but actually throwing to pick up the first down. I was also intrigued to see the Rams put the ball in Nullís hand in that situation. Which bring us to the biggest aspect of Sundayís game I wish I could have witnessed firsthandÖ
ēAnother step in the development of Null. Again, Null was not spectacular in going 18-for-27 passing for 173 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, but he was significantly better than last week against Tennessee. Null managed the game well, and continued to show moxie running the Rams offense. He executed that aggressive 4th and 1 call well, and although I wasnít there to see it, all indications are that he did a good job progressing through his reads. For a rookie QB of his stature, those developments say a lot. ďSpectacularĒ is too much, but ďsolidĒ might be a fair appraisal of Nullís performance. Given the recent state of things around Rams Park, Iíll take solid any day.
Personally, I donít see any reason for Null not to start the Ramsí two remaining games. He had two major blunders Sunday, one on a botched center-quarterback exchange when he tried to make something out of a dead play, and one when he tried to force a ball that should have been thrown out of bounds. Each of those plays resulted in turnovers that were critical to the outcome of the game. However, the beauty of those mistakes is that they are very correctable, and apt to disappear as Null continues to play. Save for those errors, Rams fans might be saluting Null for leading the team to victory.
Now, that, I definitely would like to see.
Before I go, I want to wish all readers many blessings this holiday season! The Rams may not be winning, but Iím sure we all have something to be thankful for. Take the time to appreciate the good things in life, and the people whom you love and who love you!
See you next time!