Rams Team Report
Rams tight end Randy McMichael has a simple way of describing running back Steven Jackson.
Said McMichael, "We call him 'The Beast.'" He added, "Best running back in football, without a doubt."
It was hard to debate that Sunday. Jackson accounted for 166 yards of total offense, 46 percent of the team's 362-yard total, and many of the yards came on sheer will and determination. For the game, Jackson rushed for 149 yards on 22 carries and added 17 receiving yards. His 25-yard touchdown run that won the game Sunday against the Lions was his and team's first rushing touchdown of the season.
"Steve was a man the whole game," defensive end Leonard Little said.
Talking about the run that won the game, center Jason Brown said, after blocking a lineman to the ground, "You look up and you see No. 39 getting smaller and smaller. And you say, 'Thank you ... thank you so much.'
"One guy can't take him down; he's a horse ... a stallion."
Jackson knocked over defenders, dragged them for extra yards, and even bowled over an official on a 17-yard that came one play before the touchdown.
Of the touchdown, Jackson said, "Man, that run felt really good. We knew that ... whoever had the ball last was going to have a pretty good chance of driving the ball and putting the game away. We really felt like it was our time to take over."
Said tight end Daniel Fells, "It couldn't happen to a better guy. Steven is the rock of this team. We all look up to him."
Added coach Steve Spagnuolo, "That was especially special because it was him and the way he did it ... that's Steven. Just the way the run (went), breaking all those tackles and busting into the open; he was determined to get into the end zone, and that's what he's all about."
After the same offensive line started five consecutive games, right tackle Adam Goldberg slid to his left for the game against the Lions because right guard Richie Incognito was sidelined with a foot injury. Rookie Jason Smith returned for his first start at right tackle since injuring his knee in Week 2 against Washington.
Then, in the second half Sunday, left guard Jacob Bell left the game with an apparent concussion and was replaced by Mark Setterstrom.
Said Spagnuolo, "That's a credit to the coaches. Steve Loney and Art (Valero), they do a great job with the O-line, and when Jacob got dinged we've got to put another guy in there, but they didn't seem to skip a beat. Steven stayed effective; that's the confidence that Steven has in the O-line. Anytime you take a backup and put him in the game where he hasn't had all the reps during practice, I think the coaches deserve some credit.
"That means they're coaching, not just the starting five, they're getting everybody ready and every player that's a backup in this league is an ankle turn away from being in there playing."
Said Jackson, "I'm really proud of what the guys did up front. I don't think I can give them enough praise. The team as a whole, everyone answered the challenge."
Concluded quarterback Marc Bulger, "He played like Steven does every week. Unfortunately for him, people don't get to see how great of a back he is because, win or lose, that's how he runs, and I'm glad he finally got to get in the end zone, and we finally get a win."
—The Rams' first touchdown was scored on a fake field goal in which PK Josh Brown ran to his left and lobbed a pass to TE Daniel Fells. The line of scrimmage was the 36-yard line, and the play began with 1:03 remaining in the first half. Fells caught the ball at the 28 and was able to see DE Cliff Avril coming at him with an angle, and he stiff-armed him at the 15.
Originally, the Rams lined up to go for the first down on fourth-and-8, but QB Marc Bulger called timeout. Said Bulger, "We got to the line a little bit late and it just didn't feel comfortable." Noting that coach Steve Spagnuolo and quarterbacks coach Richard Curl don't like to see timeouts being wasted or used unnecessarily, Bulger added, "I was willing to take the fall for it because I thought it was an important part of the game. It worked out."
During the timeout, the decision was made to attempt a 54-yard field or employ the fake if the Lions gave a look special teams coach Tom McMahon had noticed on film.
Said Fells, "We'd seen that look on film all week long. Coach dialed it up at the right time."
Still, they didn't actually practice it until their Saturday walkthrough, and it was with TE Randy McMichael as the intended receiver. Fells took his place because McMichael had bruised ribs.
Said Brown, "It was a play that we worked on for about six minutes on Saturday."
Added Fells, "They were a little worried: 'Oh, he doesn't know what's going on.' But I knew the play. I studied just like everybody else."
The play was also designed where Brown could have run for the first down if a defender went with Fells. Brown believes he would have made it, but concluded, "(He) was just too wide open to not take advantage of somebody who has the ball in his hands a little bit more often. It was the best decision."
Brown said the Lions had two players to his left whose job was to get push on the kick rush.
Brown said, "We had watched tape and they came every single time when they were set up that way. It was ours for the taking."
—It took some extra effort by Rams players to douse Steve Spagnuolo with a Gatorade bucket after his first win as an NFL head coach Sunday.
When S James Butler and DT Leger Douzable went to get the bucket, they found nothing left in it. That caused some scrambling.
Said Butler, "We had to put water in, get the ice. We had to do all that."
Said Douzable, "It's got to be perfect. It can't be too early, 'cause he'll see you. If it's too late, he might be already on the field."
It wasn't totally perfect because the bucket wasn't very full, but it worked nonetheless.
Asked about the feeling, Spagnuolo said, "All I know is it makes me cold. I've got to get out of these quick, but it felt good — that was kind of nice."
Immediately after the game, TE Randy McMichael presented Spagnuolo with the game ball, which the coach said he would have everyone sign.
Said McMichael, "It was an honor to be able to deliver him the game ball with his first win in the National Football League. And I know for a fact it won't be his last. I told him how much we appreciated that with all the stuff we've been through, all the support that he's given all of us. You could see the emotion that was in him."
—Near the end of practice Friday, two days before the game, media in attendance were asked to leave with four plays remaining so no outsider would be in earshot of Spagnuolo's post-practice words to the team.
The message was about consistent effort and intensity.
Said FB Mike Karney, "At some point you've got to put your foot down. And he did that. I think our team responded well — offensively, defensively and special teams."
Added DE Leonard Little, "He just put the onus on us. Somebody has to step up; more people have to step up for us to win. Today, a lot of people stepped up."
Of course, there were mistakes, perhaps none bigger than one by SS James Butler on an end-zone interception. With the line of scrimmage the 12-yard line, the odds were Butler wouldn't reach the 20-yard line, much less go significantly past that.
Yet, Butler tried to bring the ball out of the end zone, went back in and was tackled for a safety.
Said Butler, "I thought I could come out. I saw a clear lane. I made one (player) miss, but I didn't see the other guy from the other side. Next time I'll see him."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With the Rams entering their bye week, players will practice Tuesday and Wednesday, then be given four days off until Monday, when preparations will begin for three consecutive home games, beginning with the Saints on Nov. 15.
—WR/KR Danny Amendola suffered a concussion Sunday against Detroit, and he will have a baseline test to test his recovery on Wednesday.
—OG Jacob Bell suffered neck and head injuries Sunday, but coach Steve Spagnuolo said it was more to his neck and declined to label it a concussion. However, Bell will have a baseline test Tuesday to make sure on the concussion angle.
—TE Randy McMichael injured ribs Sunday but X-rays on Monday were negative.
—OG Richie Incognito is still in a boot because of a foot injury suffered Oct. 25 against Indianapolis. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said it was "a tough call" when asked if Incognito might be available for the game after this week's bye.
—OG Mark Setterstrom played 22 snaps at left guard Sunday against Detroit, and coach Steve Spagnuolo called his play "very solid."
REPORT CARD VS. LIONS
PASSING OFFENSE: D — There were a variety of problems. QB Marc Bulger was victimized by numerous drops, and he had a bad interception of a screen pass in the red zone. The only bright spots were WR Keenan Burton, who had five receptions for 54, and TE Billy Bajema, who had 43 yards on two catches. TE Randy McMichael had multiple drops, including one in the end zone two plays prior to Bulger's interception.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A-plus — Behind a line that was minus RG Richie Incognito to start the game and then lost LG Jacob Bell in the second half, RB Steven Jackson was bound and determined to carry the offense on his back. He gained 111 of his 149 yards in the second half, with 80 on eight attempts in the fourth quarter. Except for one carry of minus-1 yard in the final quarter, his other seven rushes were, in order, 6, 7, 11, 10, 5, 17 and the 25-yard game-winning touchdown.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus — Most of the Lions' yards came on short passes, many when the Rams were blitzing. The only breakdown came on a 36-yard completion to Bryant Johnson that led to Detroit's only touchdown. Two receptions by Johnson were the only ones by a Lions wide receiver during the game. Running backs had seven receptions for 81 yards, and tight ends had 44 yards on five catches. DE Chris Long got his first sack of the season, and QB Matthew Stafford's passer rating was 46.0.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus — A tale of two halves. The Lions were successful running in the first half with 76 yards on 19 attempts. However, Kevin Smith was rarely used in the second half, and Detroit totaled just 51 yards on 14 carries in the final two quarters.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A — Tough to give any other grade considering the fake field goal for a touchdown late in the first half. Of course, a key to pulling it off was K Josh Brown's overall success from 50-plus yards, making a 54-yard attempt believable. Brown had a 41-yard field goal, and P Donnie Jones placed three punts inside the 20.
COACHING: A — Coach Steve Spagnuolo made the call on the fake field goal, and he got his first win as a head coach. The Rams had only five penalties for 27 yards. Spagnuolo maintained an even keel through a seven-game winning streak. Yes, they beat a team that has won twice in its past 31 games, but anything less than a top grade on this day would be nit-picking.