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Rams beat Lions 21-14; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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  • Rams beat Lions 21-14; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    In what may turn out to be their final Sunday home game in St. Louis, the Rams used a strong defensive effort and dominating second half performance from Todd Gurley to defeat the Lions 21-14, snapping a five game losing streak and moving their record to 5-8. Today's win and overall performance has to raise all the "what ifs" and "what could have been" and "what should have been's" about the Rams season. At 5-8, barring a miracle, we are out of the playoff race and obviously can't finish above .500. But today we saw the Rams that Fisher and Snead built and what we expected to happen all year. Pound the ball, shorten the game, play strong defense, cause turnovers and win games in a physical old school style with a game manager qb that can make the occasional throw without making mistakes. Who knows, a play here or there and the Rams beat any combination of Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Baltimore and the season looks a lot different, despite the decimation by injuries of our young offensive line, the loss of several starters on defense and horrific qb play. The Rams have plenty of talent on this team, i will debate that with anyone. Are we missing key ingredients? Of course we are, but the key difference between this team and a team right in the hunt for a solid playoff season is a functional qb and consistent offensive line play. Sure, the receivers arent much, but in the cap era, i think a lot of times people forget that its hard to have everything. Fisher may well lose his job over the Foles situation, but i will again debate to the death with anyone who does not agree with the statement that the Rams have about 100x more talent today than when fisher and snead took over. Solid win today against a team that was actually playing very well of late and if not for the hail mary against the packers last week, would have been in the thick of a shot for the playoffs. I am not going overboard and getting too excited about beating a 4-8 team at home, i am simply making the point that things arent as bad for the future as people are making them out to be, if, and its a BIG IF, we can get a real qb and retain key players on defense (Jenkins, Tru, Brockers and probably barron), while reallocating our cap and using the draft to improve our offensive line and hopefully getting some help at the receiver position.

    The Good

    Not sure what to say about Todd Gurley any more than others have already said. I will repeat what i have been saying for the sake of consistency. With any kind of blocking at all, he is a home run threat everytime. He would up with 16-140 and two tremendous td's, along with a big 49 yard run (great block by kendricks) and several other runs of 15 plus yards where he broke tackles, made guys miss, and then just turned on the speed. Vision, moves, speed, strength, balance, this guy really does have it all. The jump cut on the td was extraordinary and I for one can't wait to see him next season when he is truly at full strength. Gurley was 7 carries for 13 yards at the half with no blocking at all and then went nuts in the second half, this against a stout detroit run defense that had been playing exceptionally well. The Rams overall running game was also excellent winding up with 29-203 (including 4-40 for tavon). That is Rams football for sure!!!!

    The defense had a spectacular first half holding the lions to 132 yards and while the lions finished the game with 2 second half tds and 2 red zone conversions, we effectively won the game on the defensive side of the ball because Trumaine's INT td was the difference on the scoreboard. We had a consistent pass rush with four sacksand did an outstanding job in coverage. I am not sure that we allowed a single play of over 20 yards all game (if we did, it was towards the end and certainly not often). We held stafford to 331 overall yards (30-46-245 throwing and 20-111 running, although our tackling in the run game could certainly have been better) and really used hekkers field position to our advantage. We stopped them when we had to, and it was really well done, considering we were playing today without Quinn, Tree, Janoris and TJ (and a hobbled chris long). That is a ton of defensive talent not on the field!

    Some great individual performances on defense. Aaron Donald is a beast of biblical magnitude. Five tackles, 3 sacks (now at 11 overall) and massive disruption, all of this without teams having to double team quinn on the outside! Getting closer to unblockable all the time, clearly the best interior defensive tackle in the NFL. Trumaine had a pro bowl day, holding megatron to 1 catch for 16 yards, a career low (and the one catch was in the slot, not even against trumaine). Trumaine also had the great 58 yard INT for TD along with 5 tackles and two pass breakups. Trumaine is a big physical corner who tackles well and is really coming into his own. I can not see letting him leave via free agency and really think we need to keep both him and Janoris. Barron had another strong game with 11 tackles. Roberson had 5 tackles, 2 breakups and generally held up well in a starting role. He allowed 9 catches to Tate, but only for 60 yards. He wasnt great, but he was adequate, and remember where he is on the depth chart, behind Janoris, Trumaine, Gaines (remember him) and Joyner in the slot. In my view, we have the best starting corners in the NFL and the most depth of anyone at the position. Brockers was strong again with a sack and doing the dirty work up the middle. We need him signed. Keep in mind defensively that the lions ran 20 more plays than we did and won the time of possession battle quite convincingly 34-26 minutes, making the defensive performance that much more impressive.

    Offensively, while the Rams receivers and Keenum (14-22-124) didnt do much, Keenum made just enough throws to keep detroit honest, including some huge third down conversions. We have an incredibly long way to go on offense, 14 points isnt something to jump up and down about, but today was something to hopefully build on for next week's game against tampa bay (thursday night). Miraculously, new offensive coordinator boras is aware of a third down slant route, and we completed a couple of key conversions (one huge one to britt on 3rd and 3 in the 4th and one on a 3rd and 7 to cook). Keenum had a nice 25 yard throw to britt who overcame a pass interference call to beat a blitz. Tavon had a nice diving catch. Welker caught ball #900 for his career. Marquez had 3 catches for 32 yards and had another really good day on special teams (with a great ball downed on the 1 yard line). I think marquez is a small piece to the overall rams puzzle next year (notwithstanding the ugly onside kick play, see below). Tavon had a spectacular punt return TD called back on one of the worst calls of the year (see ugly section below). The Rams were 4-11 on 3rd down, which surely isnt great, but its a lot better than we have been doing and a couple of those third down conversions in the fourth quarter were huge because the defense needed some rest at that point of the game. 15 first downs is not good enough, but i am trying to minimize the bad this week, we all can use the good news of a win and a week of mostly positive thoughts.

    Kudos the offensive line today, at least in the second half. The first half resulted in 100 yards of offense and no blocking of any kind for gurley. Our 7-0 halftime lead was all on the Trumaine INT pick six. However, in the second half, we gave gurley some room and he ran wild. Sure, gurley broke tackles, but thats what he is supposed to do. THe fact that gurley wasnt getting killed in the backfield in the second half was a great step forward. The Rams will go as far as our offensive line will take us (there, i got the line in as i do every week) and today, the performance was overall solid for the second half and was a key to the victory. Lots of room for improvement (see below on Robinson and Barnes of course). I would add that Keenum was only sacked once again today. That's two sacks in three weeks. I get it that we are not great on pass blocking, but 2 sacks in three weeks allowed is nothing to complain about. The chances were there to make the throws and with better qb play, we would look very different on offense. Believe it or not,w e actually averaged 6.1 yards per play this week, and scored our first offensive td in 9 quarters (after 1 td in the prior 27 drives!)

    The Rams managed to have only 5 penalties today for 48 yards. That is a major improvement.

    Hekker is simply phenomenal. 6-47.3 with 4 inside the 20 and some real bombs. In a low scoring field position game, he makes a big difference.


    The Bad

    Greg Robinson had major problems today trying to block Ziggy and of course, had a major penalty, a chop block that negated a 20 plus yard gain for cook. The INT keenum threw at the end of the first half when we still had a chance to get into field goal range was a miss by Robinson. His future has to be inside at guard to maximize his run blocking skills, i think we probably need a left tackle.

    I continue to believe we are terrible at center and need a major upgrade.

    Stupid face mask on bryant early on a fair catch punt return.

    We all know the offense can do a lot better, especially at the receiver spot, qb spot, more consistent offensive line play, getting the ball down the field. 14 points, 15 first downs and 312 yards, while big numbers for the rams, is not an offensive outburst. I put this into the bad category so people dont think i am ignoring the issues and getting too giddy about a victory over a 4 win team.

    The failure to sack stafford and the missed INT right before the two minute warning by Trumaine could have been very costly, but we dodged the bullet

    We should tackle better in the run game (ayers out of position a couple of times)
    We still dont cover the tight ends very well


    The UGLY

    The Dome looks so empty, i have to call it ugly again.

    The failure of Marquez to fall on the onside kick that was directly at him was ugly in the extreme and could have cost us the game.

    Two of the ugliest calls of the year by the Refs, one against each team. A horrible phantom chop block on detroit in the first half cost them a first and goal and the 7 and negated a huge pass play. The holding call on Benny on the Tavon punt return td was almost equally as terrible.


    SUMMARY

    It sure feels good to write about a win with limited bad and almost no ugly on the Rams side this week. The season remains a MAJOR disappointment and that is almost impossible to change no matter what happens the rest of the way, but i just can't get my head around the fact that we lost three games that we were in right at the end, two against backup qb's. Missed field goals, fumbles, dropped passes with games on the line, purely physical mistakes that i really can't put on fisher. We could so easily be 7-6 or even 8-5 right now, even when you take into account the two eggs we laid against chicago and washington, two very winnable games. Could have, should have and would have doesnt count for much, but i still can't get it out of my head.

    Interesting observation today watching stafford again (who has the best nfl arm since jeff george possibly). Stafford today became the qb to reach 25,000 yards passing in the fewest number of games (90). He has had his ups and downs for sure and he has played with megatron (albeit with a very limited running game over the years and some highly suspect offensive line play). With Stafford, lions fans have to feel that they always have a chance to have a real season, even with all their other problems over the years. The luck of the draw is a funny thing. THe Lions had the stafford pick and the Rams got bradford. Look at the overall difference between the franchises on just the luck of those two guys. Can you imagine what the Rams would look like with Stafford at qb? We are a 10-6 team easy with a guy like that. The Bradford situation, which led to the Foles situation, just really killed us, some of which was pure bad luck with the injuries, and some of which was lousy offensive line and receiver play. Different topic for another time, just an observation from today.

    Tampa Bay is up next in what may be the last rams home game in st louis. This is a game we absolutely should win. Can the Rams play another solid game and take care of business by playing great defense and blocking enough to allow gurley to take over the game? Time will tell since predicting what the Rams will do in any given week is highly suspect at best and if i was that psychic, i would be much better off buying lottery tickets!!!!

    Enjoy the win for today and let's spend some time focusing on the positive, rather than what we know are still some real negatives and areas for major improvement.

    Ramming speed to all

    general counsel
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