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Rams beat Tampa Bay 31-23; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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  • Rams beat Tampa Bay 31-23; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    In what may have been the Rams last game in St. Louis, the squad played their best half of the season, jumping to a 21-3 lead and coasting to a 31-23 victory over Tampa Bay. The Rams pushed their record to 6-8, leading to a second consecutive week of head scratching as we all ask ourselves what could have and should be been different this season. Two wins in a row does not make up for all the disappointments this year, but it's clear that the Rams have not quit on Fisher and that we do have talent and the capability of playing at a high level. Alas, the story of the Fisher era to date is lack of consistency, and tonight's performance is really nothing more than another tease. We can all complain all we want, and we have every right to do so. The fact remains that we are about 3 plays away from being 9-5 right now. Many teams in the nfl could probably make similar claims as close doesnt count, but as i did last week, i am bemoaning our failure to achieve our potential since its clear that the Rams have it in them to play good football. Functional qb play sure makes a big difference doesn't it?


    The Good

    Keenum was outstanding tonight. He was better than a pure game manager, posting 14-17-234 2 td's, a qb rating of 158 and no turnovers. Sure, almost all of that came in the first quarter and a half, but so what? That is what the Rams offense is designed to do, get a lead, manage the game and run out the clock. He made some outstanding throws, including a 60 yard bomb to Britt for a td. He was on target almost every time, with multiple big throws to Cook, gurley, kendricks and austin (td). He showed mobility and he did not make any big mistakes, although he did get lucky a couple of times. He had two terrible plays all night, one of which changed the game. Right before the 2 minute warning, Rams at midfield, up big by 21-3 and looking for more, he throws a terrible ball that hits the tampa linebacker right in the hands and looked like a pick 6 to me. That would have been a real disaster, fortunately, the guy dropped it, huge break for us. Same series, he takes a 12 yard sack rather than getting rid of the ball, knocking us way out of position to try and score a field goal. If Keenum played like this every game, he would actually be a potential long term answer at qb in the fisher system.

    Benny was sensational returning kicks. 4 for 188 including a spectacular 103 yarder down to the 4 yard line that led to a field goal effectively putting the game away by making it a 3 score game (especially considering that this week we were able to fall on the onside kick).

    Very limited penalties this week and no turnovers, essentially as clean a game as we have played in my memory under fisher. Not perfect of course, but can anyone name the last time they watched a Rams game that didnt have a block in the back on punt or kick returns and no holding penalties on the offense (and no pass int on the defense)?

    Hekker was great again, 5 punts for a 44 yard average but 3 inside the 20 and 2 inside the 5. He is clearly a pro bowl caliber guy.

    Give credit to Cook. He had 4 catches for 64 yards and appeared to have spent time with Lancaster Merrin before the game (please note one of my favorite movie references). Maybe it was national tv, but cook made tough catches and tough runs and held onto the ball. This is what we thought we were getting for all that money.

    Two nice td's for tavon, a 26 yard reverse and a bubble screen for 17 yards. He really is elusive in the open field, isnt it great to see what happens when the coordinator can actually call plays to get him into space?

    The Red Zone defense was excellent and added to the 2 turnovers, kept tampa from getting back into the game despite collecting massive yardage in the second half.

    Aaron Donald was a beast of epic magnitude yet again. No sacks, but 3 hard qb hits, 5 tackles, 2 for loss and a HUGE tackle for loss on a 4th down play early in the game that made a big difference.

    The defense played as well as any defense can play in a game in which you give up 30 first downs and 509 total yards and have no sacks. So much of that yardage was in what was really garbage time. Sure, you would like us to tackle better and pressure the qb better to completely knock the other team out sooner, but we dominated completely in the first half and that is where the game was won (we managed no sacks despite winston throwing 50 passes). Trumaine had an INT and 9 tackles. He has to be resigned. Barron was a man possessed with 8 tackles and some qb hits. Alexander showed that he can play in the nfl, excellent depth guy (7 tackles) for next year. McLeod also had 8 tackles. We were aided defensively by some dropped balls and stupid penalties, but the defense got the job done in the red zone when it had to and did enough to win the game. Nice to see the defense rewarded without having to be perfect by virtue of the offense actually scoring points.

    Excellent special teams play by Bryant, two big hits/tackles.

    I thought the offensive line passed blocked pretty well tonight. Both sacks allowed were on keenum who held the ball too long and he had time to throw especially off play action and some of the rollouts. Run blocking was another story, see below.

    Congrats to gurley for becoming the 3rd rams rookie running back to break 1,000 yards. Let's hope his overall career is as good as both Dickerson and Bettis, the two prior Rams to achieve that feat.


    The Bad

    We couldnt knock them out and put them completely away, letting them hang around too close for my comfort knowing how often things go badly wrong in Rams world. We had a total of 318 yards of offense and 16 first downs, almost all of which came in the first half. We could not punch the ball in after benny's kickoff return and we had countless three and outs in the second half, especially in the 4th quarter. We were a miserable 2-10 on third down. Against a better team, we might have really gotten into trouble offensively in the second half, especially without the turnovers and great red zone defense. The Rams are built to get the lead then run the ball, and we got a big lead, but we could not run the ball. Gurley essentially had no chance again tonight, finishing with 21 carries for 48 yards and a nice TD run, along with 2 catches for 31 yards. There simply were not holes for him and the middle was clogged over and over in the second half. Tonight we went as far as our offensive line took us (to a victory) because we were tremendous in the first quarter and change. After that, not so good and we hung on and won with red zone defense and 2 turnovers, not a functional running game. 33 rushes for 98 yards is pretty lousy.

    Interesting "bad" play, not really bad but showing how much better gurley is than mason. Mason had a 7 yard run early through a huge hole. Same play, gurley gains 30 or more yards because he is that much more explosive.

    Jenkins had a terrible 15 yard late hit penalty in the 3rd quarter which negated a 3rd and 9.
    False start by robinson, offsides by hayes and simms.

    Did it occur to anyone to cover Mike Evans? 9 catches for 157 yards? Really?
    Our tackling wasnt great in run defense, martin and company carved us up for 27 carries for 146 yards. Good thing we got a big lead to negate their running game, they really clobbered us up front early.

    Tavon got up once and did a nice job catching a short punt, but he needs to do that every time. He let one bounce early and it cost us about 25 yards in field position on a shanked punt and that should not happen.

    Chris long is either still very hurt or he has completely disappeared. I know people want him back at a reduced rate, he better be very very very cheap given the help we need in other places and the core younger guys we need to resign.

    Bad decision by reynolds to field the pooch kickoff return, the ball was going out of bounds.


    The Ugly

    Rams up 28-6, Hekker pins them on the 2 yard line with about 12 minutes left, and they go 98 yards in 4 plays? That was really the only truly ugly thing in this game.

    The attendance was ugly. Upper deck almost completely empty. Club level mostly empty, lower level tons of empty seats. If tonight was the last game in St. Louis, it sure didnt look like too many people were nostalgic about it.


    SUMMARY

    As i said last week, i think we should celebrate and enjoy the win. The Rams have not given up on the season and neither should we. Sure, barring a complete miracle, we are out of the playoffs, but i see no reason we shouldnt beat the whiners in the last week of the season and who knows, we have a punchers chance on the road at seattle next week and we should be well rested. I can't get the what ifs out of my head from the Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Minnesota games. Crucial missed field goals, terrible fumbles in critical situations and a ginormous drop by Kendricks at the end of the Steelers game. It is no joke that we are 3 or 4 plays from being 9-5. As bad as those close losses were, not showing up against the Bears and Redskins hurt us just as much. You can't cry over spilt milk, but i continue to believe that with some upgraded personnel on the offensive line and any kind of consistency at qb even as a game manager, we are a solid playoff team (assuming we can resign the key guys on defense). I am NOT suggesting that this win wipes away all the crappy stuff from this year so please dont jump all over me about celebrating, but a win is a win and it is rewarding to see the performance of so many of our young guys and to see our depth on defense. The season is lousy, but its not quite as bad as it looks. The Foles trade just absolutely killed us, and its really not much more complicated than that, even though as bad as the Foles trade was, Greg the Leg and one horrific drop from Kendricks really killed us almost as much.

    On to play the chickens in a game with nothing but upside. Showing up against Detroit and Tampa is one thing at home, being able to play a clean and complete game on the road against seattle is another story. Let's hope we dont wind up in blowout city again like we did against arizona and the bungholes. THe chickens are playing very well and this is the kind of game where we badly miss quinn and the tree. In any event, if the Fisher era has taught us anything, its pretty darn hard to predict what rams team is going to show up from quarter to quarter, let alone from week to week.

    For tonight, we are winners.

    Ramming speed to all

    general counsel
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