– The Rams’ win against New Orleans on Sunday afternoon was stunning to many but not to the 53 players and assorted coaches in the locker room. It may have been a surprise to you and I but it wasn’t to them. For all they’ve taken and dealt with in the first six weeks of the season, the one thing about this team that was clear is that it doesn’t quit.
– On Sunday, it all came together against a very good opponent. It turned into a 31-21 win that brought some combination of elation and relief to the locker room. It was a locker room that only four hours or so before the jubliation was filled with stone cold silence save for the passionate words of captain and running back Steven Jackson.
– See, nobody likes losing but nobody hates it more than Jackson. He’s done enough of it in his career to have a special hatred in his heart that maybe nobody else can truly understand. So it was that Jackson found himself awake in the wee hours of Sunday morning and staying up another hour and a half trying to find the right words to tell his team before the game.
– What Jackson came up with was, in essence, a challenge to his team. What do you do when you get punched in the mouth? How do you react? We all know the Rams have been hit time and again this season but Jackson wanted to see a response commensurate with his own disdain for the losing and the mistakes that have reared their ugly heads in the first six games.
– So the Rams went out and put it all together. There was no weak link, this was a total team victory that left the Saints stunned and sent the city of St. Louis into a further state of St. Louis sports euphoria.
– Before we get into some of the specifics, a quick run through a short injury report:
– DE James Hall was poked in the eye. TE Lance Kendricks cramped up. Both returned to the game. As of now, nothing appears serious and the Rams came out OK. We’ll find out tomorrow if anything else pops up.
– WR Danario Alexander (hamstring), CB Justin King (groin), LB Brady Poppinga (calf), T Jason Smith (concussion/neck), DT Darell Scott (concussion) and QB Sam Bradford (ankle) did not play because of their ailments. Updates on them coming tomorrow.
– I don’t know exactly where to start with divvying up the credit for this one but let’s go ahead and start with the defense.
– The Saints hadn’t posted less than 382 yards in a game this season entering Sunday’s game. They finished with 283 an 80 of those came on a late, purely cosmetic touchdown drive.
– For the Rams, it was back to basics. They tackled well and they stopped the run even better. New Orleans rushed 20 times for 56 yards.
– With the run a non-factor and the Saints a one-dimensional team, the Rams were able to fire up the pass rush and get after QB Drew Brees. The result? Six sacks, countless hurries and a flurry of missed holding penalties.
– Leading the way was DE Chris Long, who went for the hat trick. Hats off to Long, who has been getting doubled and triple a lot in the past three games. With the chance to get after it, he showed what he can do.
– Same to DE Robert Quinn. Heck of a game, rook. His punt block was, in my estimation, the play that changed the game. It set off a flurry that resulted in a 17-0 halftime lead that essentially buried the Saints.
– MLB James Laurinaitis was all over the place. He had a sack, 10 tackles, two quarterback hurries and two pass deflections that were nearly interceptions.
– WLB Chris Chamberlain won’t get a lot of credit but he managed a pair of tackles for loss coming up in run support and was instrumental in helping to limit talented TE Jimmy Graham to 39 yards on four catches.
– In the secondary, hats off to everyone but particularly S Darian Stewart and CB Josh Gordy. Gordy came up with a pick and had seven tackles. He was sticky in coverage all day. Stewart added six tackles and his interception return for a score was the nail in the coffin. Great job by those two youngsters and even better to see Stewart put one in the end zone, been waiting to see that from the defense or special teams for awhile.
– On the offense, Jackson was vintage Jackson rushing for 159 yards on 25 carries with 32 yards on four catches and a pair of touchdowns. Tough, physical running inside and quick, decisive cutbacks on the edge.
– Hats off to an offensive line that played outstanding in all facets. While A.J. Feeley took four sacks and was under pressure, that is expected against a blitz-happy Saints defense. All told, that group protected Feeley and opened nice holes for Jackson.
– Speaking of Feeley, he would like to have a couple early deep throws back but he did a great job of managing the game, getting the ball out quick and converting on third down. great sight adjustment with WR Brandon Lloyd for his 8-yard touchdown.
– Welcome to the Rams, Mr. Lloyd. Nice touchdown grab and read on the defense to set it up.
– WR Greg Salas is quickly becoming a key cog in this offense. Terrific to see how far he’s come in a few weeks under the tutelage of Nolan Cromwell. He had five catches for 47 yards and added a run for 8 more.
– Let us not forget the work done by the special teams against a dangerous Darren Sproles.
– P Donnie Jones was his usual, phenomenal self. He punted seven times for 298 yards, an average of 42.6 yards with a net of 39.9. He dropped three inside the 20 and Sproles had two fair catches. In fact, Sproles only got three return opportunities and had a long of 15 on a day when he had 19 total.
– K Josh Brown was excellent on kickoffs again and helped limit Sproles there too by kicking directionally.
– Said it before and will say it again, special teams coordinator Tom McMahon is one of the best in the business and a bit of a rising star in his job. His groups have been consistently excellent in coverage all season.
– That’s going to do it for this one for tonight. Back tomorrow to wrap it all up. Enjoy this one, St. Louis. Thanks for reading.
Posted in From the Sidelines | No Comments »