– It was a somber Rams locker room after a disheartening 27-23 loss to the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday. This one was there for the taking and the Rams just couldn’t quite take it.
– In the locker room after, there was nobody ready to throw a party for a moral victory, no celebration that they kept it close when few thought they could. Instead, there was a familiar refrain coming over and over and over again. “If we could have just made one more play…”
– Sometimes that line was followed by wistful ruminations on what that play could have been, sometimes the speaker just trailed off, letting the words dangle for everyone to fill in the blank as they see fit. But in the end, it was a disappointing loss in which one more play absolutely could have made the difference.
– Before we dive further into the game, let’s cover a couple of injuries:
First, prayers out to LT Rodger Saffold who suffered a neck injury in the fourth quarter and did not return. He’s staying at a Detroit hospital overnight for further observation. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery and return to health. Saffold was playing quite well before the injury, it seemed.
C Scott Wells suffered a foot injury and did not return to the game. His status moving forward is unknown but it’s not a good sign that he was unable to make it back into the game. We’ll find out more information as it becomes available.
– It seems when the injuries hit the Rams, they seem to come at the same positions. First it was defensive tackle, now it’s the offensive line.
– On the game, there was a lot of good that came out of this one despite the disappointing result. But let’s talk about those possible “one more play”s first.
– If the Rams had gotten a first down on their final scoring drive, they could have run the clock all the way down and kicked a game winning field goal. Instead, QB Sam Bradford and WR Danny Amendola couldn’t connect for one of only a couple times the duo missed on the day.
– Obviously, if the Rams could have gotten a turnover or stop on either of the Lions’ final two drives, they also would have had the win.
– A couple of missed interceptions left on the field as CB Bradley Fletcher missed one in the end zone and S Craig Dahl just missed one on a deflection in the second half.
– CB Cortland Finnegan said it best after the game though in saying the Rams have to find a way to make that play. He didn’t want to use the youth excuse or say that his team has to “learn how to win” or any other cliche. Plain and simple, he believed, like all of his teammates and coaches that the Rams should be 1-0 tonight.
– Speaking of Finnegan, what a performance he had. He led the Rams in tackles and his pick-6 was a game changer. His presence is already being felt and he’s only one game into his Rams tenure. He gets plenty of credit for being tough and physical but maybe his skill set and talent doesn’t garner enough attention.
– One player who isn’t lacking credit in the talent category is fellow CB Janoris Jenkins. He made a great read on a pick early in the game and if he hadn’t been on the field for eight minutes before, likely would have had a 99-yard touchdown on the return. He just didn’t quite have the juice he usually does on the return. Still, a very nice debut for Jenkins.
– We’ll stay in the secondary and tip the cap to Fletcher as well. He spent most of the day on WR Calvin Johnson as the Rams elected not to shadow Johnson with Finnegan or Jenkins. Instead, the Lions regularly tried to match Johnson on Fletcher. But when Fletcher was on Johnson, the results were generally pretty good. Yes, Megatron finished with 111 receiving yards but his big play -the 51 yarder at the end of the first half – didn’t come against Fletcher.
– Like the rest of his teammates, Johnson had his most success working the middle of the field. The Rams safeties struggled in coverage and you saw TE Brandon Pettigrew really do some damage in the fourth quarter by working the middle of the field.
– For most of the first half, the Lions were content to nickel and dime their way down the field as QB Matthew Stafford got the ball out quick. That limited any chances for the Rams to generate pressure. But when Detroit went more vertical in the second half, the Rams were unable to generate much pass rush with their front four. That has to improve moving forward and DE Chris Long acknowledged as much in the post game.
– One other player who deserves mention is LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar. He did get sucked in on the Lions final touchdown pass but for the most part, he was all over the place. He had an interception of his own and regularly shot gaps to help in run support and drop ball carriers for a loss twice. He also made plays sideline to sideline. a strong Rams debut for Dunbar.
– On the other side of the ball, the Rams struggled to get on track early, in no small part because they weren’t on the field much. That made it hard to get a rhythm but at the same time, they had some key missed chances to turn those takeaways of their defense into touchdowns. What could have been a healthy halftime lead was only three points.
– Bradford had one of the best fourth quarters of his young career. He led two excellent drives and threw a beautiful ball to WR Brandon Gibson for the go ahead touchdown. He’d like the miss to Amendola back as well as a couple of deep balls – including one that would have been a TD to rookie Chris Givens – but he had a solid performance, finishing 17-of-25 for 198 yards with a score and no interceptions for a rating of 105.1.
– Amendola has an amazing knack for getting open and making plays but what was most encouraging about his effort today was he was making plays down the field. He had five catches for 70 yards, an average of 14 per catch. That’s a healthy notch above his usual yards per grab.
– Nice job by Gibson bouncing back after a bad penalty early in the game. He had four grabs for 51 yards with the score and had two key first downs on the Rams’ go ahead field goal drive.
– Tough sledding in the run game as Jackson found little room to operate and the Rams averaged 2.9 yards per carry on 27 attempts. Jackson found ways to help in the passing game with four catches for 31 yards.
– Overall, not a bad performance by an ever changing OL in terms of protection but as C Robert Turner said, that group has to do a better job in the run game. That’s what this offense is about.
– Would be remiss to leave out the special teams.
– Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein…any questions?
– P Johnny Hekker had some near mishaps but he also had some big moments. Here’s a play that would have been huge had the Rams pulled out the victory: The Rams start a drive at their 8, they get a first down then have to punt. Hekker booms a 57-yard punt that Detroit PR Stefan Logan tries to return but is tackled for a 6-yard loss by CB Quinton Pointer. They tack on a holding penalty on Detroit and suddenly the Lions are pinned at their 8. That’s a huge swing in field position and after a three and out for the Lions, the Rams scored on Gibson’s catch.
– There is plenty more to cover from this one but we’ll leave it at that. A disappointing outcome certainly but also a valiant effort from the Rams in a difficult environment. Thanks for reading.
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