Rams Report Card: Grade A defensive effort

BY JEFF GORDON | Posted: Monday, October 31, 2011 12:05 am | (16) Comments

Here are the grades for the St. Louis Rams after Sunday’s 31-21 victory over the Saints:

QUARTERBACK: A.J. Feeley had receiver Brandon Lloyd open twice for TDs on the first drive of the game. He missed short, then long. His untimely goal-line fumble propelled the Saints back into the game. But Feeley made some big throws and finished off the victory. Winning efforts from back-up quarterbacks are hugely appreciated in the NFL. GRADE: B.

RUNNING BACK: Steven Jacksondid it all Sunday. He fired up the team with a pre-game speech. He blasted the Saints for 159 yards and two TDs on the ground. He caught four passes for 32 yards. He made emotional wake-up calls to teammates when they screwed up. He led this downtrodden team to its first victory with a hallmark performance. GRADE: A-plus.

RECEIVERS: Lloyd dropped the potential clinching touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. But he called his own route on his earlier 8-yard TD reception and also made a diving catch that helped the Rams eat most of the remaining fourth quarter block. Rookie Greg Salas (5 catches, 37 yards, plus an 8-yard run) was also very good in this game. Minus Danario Alexander (hamstring) and Mark Clayton (Achilles tendon), the group had a solid showing.GRADE: B.

TIGHT ENDS: Billy Bajema had a bad pass drop, but otherwise the group had a solid game in all aspects. It would be nice to see bulldozing rookie Lance Kendricks targeted for more catch-and-run plays, but that is nitpicking. GRADE: B.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Minus injured right tackleJason Smith, the group had a solid outing. The unit delivered strong run blocking throughout the game. Feeley absorbed four sacks, but overall the pass protection held up against the pressured Saints. A spate of penalties caused some distress late, but the group gave a winning effort. GRADE: B.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Chris Longearned three sacks and swatted down a pass coming off the edge. Rookie defensive end Robert Quinn and veteran defensive tackle Fred Robbins also earned sacks. Bouncing back from total capitulation at Dallas, the front seven remained stout against the run. New Orleans gained just 56 yards on 20 carries. GRADE: A.

LINEBACKERS: The man in the middle,James Laurinaitis, played like an All-Pro. The press box statistics credited him with 10 tackles. He also broke up two passes, earned a sack and put two more hits on Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Chris Chamberlain helped set the defensive tone with two early tackles for a loss and Bryan Kehl also earned one while starting in place of Brady Poppinga.GRADE: A.

SECONDARY: Safety Darian Stewart was huge. He made five tackles, broke up two passes and sealed the victory with his “pick-six.” CornerbackJosh Gordy also had an interception to go with his seven tackles. His run support was outstanding. CornerbackAl Harris broke up a couple of passes. Brees tested the makeshift unit with 44 pass attempts and the defensive backs excelled. GRADE: A.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Quinn triggered the late second-quarter surge with a blocked punt. Josh Brown kicked a 38-yard field goal, punter Donnie Jones averaged 42.6 yards per kick and the coverage team held Saints return specialist Darren Sproles in check. GRADE: A.

COACHING: The Rams were ready to play. They had good offensive and defensive game plans. They remained aggressive even after taking a big lead. Steve Spagnuolo let Feeley throw the ball late, allowing the Rams to gobble up some clock. The Rams began falling apart, making one mistake after another . . . but then they pulled themselves together. This was a giant upset. GRADE: A.