Rams mess with Texans
Jim Thomas: Bradford amazingly efficient
HOUSTON • Who could have seen this one coming? Certainly not the Houston Texans. They were pummeled 38-13 by the Rams on Sunday at Reliant Stadium — and none of it could be blamed on beleaguered quarterback Matt Schaub.
It was the highest point total for the Rams since 2006, Scott Linehan's first year as Rams head coach.
For the second week in a row, the opportunistic Rams mixed the run and the pass with winning results, leveling their record at 3-3 with an emphatic road victory. Quarterback Sam Bradford threw only 16 passes; but thanks to three short touchdown passes, posted a career best 134.6 passer rating.
Running back Zac Stacy had another strong day, despite sore ribs, gaining 79 yards on 18 carries. But it was the struggling Rams’ special teams unit, and the Rams’ defense that turned this one into a rout in the second half. The Texans, considered one of the leading Super Bowl contenders in the AFC entering the season, fell to 2-4 with their fourth consecutive loss.
Arian Foster had nearly 100 yards rushing in the first half, and the Texans outgained the Rams 248 yards to 115 in the opening two quarters. But it was the Rams who took a double-digit lead into the locker room at halftime for the second week in a row.
Last week, the Rams were up 24-10 against Jacksonville at intermission; this week it was 17-6 Rams after a pair of Bradford touchdown passes and a Greg Zuerlein field goal.
The Rams’ defense didn’t have many answers for Houston’s stretch/cutback running game at the outset. Foster had 18 yards on his first carry of the day and 11 on his second. But the Texans didn’t get any points out of their first possession, or their second series for that matter.
Meanwhile, the Rams scored their first offensive touchdown of the season in the first quarter, thanks in large part to a 40-yard pass interference call against Kareem Jackson trying to cover Brian Quick on a deep pass down the right sideline. That play advanced the ball to the Houston 25. Four plays and two first downs later, the Rams had a first-and-goal at the 2.
The Rams sent out four tight ends on the next play, and it was one of those four — Cory Harkey — who leaked out of the backfield after lining up at fullback for the TD. It was Harkey’s first NFL touchdown reception, and only his fourth career reception.
The Rams added the Zuerlein field goal for a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter after Alec Olgetree forced a fumble after a 12-yard reception by Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins. James Laurinaitis scooped up the loose ball and raced 43 yards to the Houston 43. But the Rams managed only one first down after the takeaway, and settled for a 42-yard Zuerlein field goal — his ninth in as many times this season.
Houston put together drives of 78 and 63 yards over the rest of the second quarter, but managed only a pair of Randy Bullock field goals as the Rams defense stiffened twice in the red zone.
In between those two kicks, the Rams struck for another TD with their best drive of day. Establishing the run and sprinkling in a pass here and there, the Rams drove 80 yards on 10 plays, scoring on a Bradford-to-Kendricks 2-yard TD.
Things unraveled in a big way for the Texans in the third quarter. On the Rams’ first possession of the quarter, Bradford stood strong in the pocket, absorbing a big hit by Brooks Reed while firing a rope to tight end Jared Cook for a 34-yard gain to the Houston 7.
Two plays later, Bradford threw a quick slant to Brian Quick against an all-out blitz by Houston for a four-yard TD — Bradford’s third touchdown pass of the afternoon.
It didn’t take long for the Rams’ lead to grow from 24-6 to 31-6. On the ensuing kickoff Rodney McLeod clobbered Texans return man Keshawn Martin, The ball popped out, Rams special teamer Daren Bates caught the ball in mid air and ran 11 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.
Bates took an exaggerated plunge into the end zone and may have hurt his hip in the process.
Houston fans showed their ugly side on the Texans’ next series, when Schaub was injured after getting sacked by Chris Long. Many in the crowd cheered when it became apparent that Schaub was hurt. And they gave their biggest cheers of the day when backup T.J. Yates trotted out to replace Schaub.
But Yates was less than stellar. On his seventh play in the game, he threw an interception near the goal line. It became the Texans’ fifth "pick 6" allowed in as many games when Ogletree raced 98 yards for a touchdown and a 38-6 Rams lead with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.
It was the second-longest interception return for a TD in Rams’ history — bested only by Johnnie Johnson’s 99-yard return for the Los Angeles Rams in 1980.
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