– From a pure aesthetics standpoint, nobody is going to crown the Rams champions of any sort of NFL beauty pageant but you know what? That’s exactly how they want it. It was another NFC West Division street fight at the Edward Jones Dome on Thursday night, the second in a span of five days. And the Rams won again by knockout, 17-3 with a relentless pass rush, stout run defense, solid special teams and just enough offensively to send the Cardinals home with their first loss.
– Let’s cover the injuries first. If there has to be a downer for the evening, it’s the amount of attrition the Rams suffered. None bigger than receiver Danny Amendola, who suffered a collarbone injury that took him out of the game in the first half. Further tests have to be done before an official determination is made but it doesn’t look good for No. 16. It would be a devastating loss for a player who is absolutely integral to the offense.
– Safety Quintin Mikell (head) and linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh) also left the game and did not return. Mikell tweeted that he’s OK after ward. We’ll know more on both tomorrow. The good news is the Rams now have plenty of extra time to recover, time they’re going to need.
– Back to the game, let’s start with the defense, a group that was on fire all night and constantly feeding off one another. Just an outstanding performance. They racked up nine sacks, the first time they’ve reached that number since Sept. 20, 1998 at Buffalo. They also held Arizona to 282 yards of total offense and forced their first fumble. Likewise, the run defense was stout as Arizona had 17 rushes for 45 yards, an average of 2.6 per carry. That’s called getting it done.
– First in the pecking order is DE Robert Quinn. He was a holy terror off the edge all night as the Cardinals attempted to help rookie RT Bobby Massie on the other side against DE Chris Long. With those two guys, you have to pick your poison and Quinn made Arizona pay. He finished with three sacks and forced the first fumble of the season for the Rams. He now has a half-dozen on the season. Also, want to throw in that Quinn made a strong play against the run, dumping Arizona RB Ryan Williams for a loss. That’s a really important sign of progress as well.
– Long was excellent as well, even against consistent double teams. He finished with a sack, a tackle for loss and two more quarterback hits. He was in Kevin Kolb’s face most of the night as well.
– Rookie CB Janoris Jenkins is a baller. There’s just no better way to describe it. He would have had a pick and a touchdown had Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald not made a veteran move and grabbed his facemask to prevent it. He finished with four tackles with three passes defended and did a nice job filling in for Amendola on punt returns as well.
– LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar is just such a perfect fit for this team. He’s hard nosed and he hits like a ton of bricks. He finished with 8 tackles in unofficial pressbox statistics, had a sack and a quarterback hit and two passes defended. Oh, and he made Fitzgerald regret catching passes over the middle. A lot.
– CB Cortland Finnegan was also his usual, outstanding self. He had 10 tackles, a sack, and a quarterback hit.
– LB James Laurinaitis had one of his best nights of the season, finishing with 10 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hit as well.
– All the way around, just a dominant defensive performance for one of the league’s emerging units.
– On the other side of the ball, it was a strong start and a great finish but a lot of struggles in between. Clearly, the offense missed Amendola but after a hot start for QB Sam Bradford, things went cold, really cold for a long stretch. Arizona has an excellent defense but Bradford finished just 7-of-21 for 141 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He deserves credit for standing tall in the pocket and delivering under duress, especially on the opening drive but certainly not the performance he or the offense wanted to have.
– Props to rookie WR Chris Givens, who had some struggles early on but he bounced back with another huge hookup for a 51-yard TD from Bradford. It was his first career TD and probably the first of many. His speed and ability to take the top off the defense is absolutely imperative. His role will only increase if Amendola’s injury is as bad as feared.
– Congrats to TE Lance Kendricks on his first career touchdown. Nice job by Bradford keeping that play alive and finding him for a score.
– All told, a nice job by the offensive line, especially the tackles. Arizona is excellent bringing pressure up the middle and that gave the Rams fits at times but not much was happening out on the edge. T Wayne Hunter, in particular has done a nice job since stepping in and was solid again tonight.
– The running game revved up when it was needed in the third quarter to help swing time of possession back to the Rams. RB Steven Jackson finished with 76 yards on 18 carries, an average of 4.2 per attempt. Rookie Daryl Richardson chipped in 35 yards on nine carries.
– On the special teams, another ho-hum long field goal for rookie K Greg Zuerlein, who knocked one in from 53 yards on his only attempt of the night.
– Perhaps more important, rookie P Johnny Hekker did an outstanding job against Arizona’s dynamic returner, Patrick Peterson. Peterson had some nice returns late in the game but wasn’t able to bust a long one for a touchdown. Hekker’s final line: seven punts for 398 yards, an average of 56.9. The coverage unit did a strong job as well, as his net finished at 46 yards per attempt. For the most part, a really strong effort by him.
– I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the work of FB Brit Miller on special teams. He fought through a late injury and finished the game after suffering a painful hand injury. He’s the type of tough son of a gun that winning teams have to have.
– A tip of the cap to the fans for their noise and enthusiasm tonight. Great to see, hope to see more of it when we return here in a couple weeks.
– So, with all of that said, are we having fun yet, St. Louis? Being 2-0 in the NFC West is huge, getting a winning record for the first time since 2006 is a great step forward. But here’s how this team views it: it’s only the beginning.
– As RB Steven Jackson said after the game, “Something special is happening here and I want to be a part of it.” I hope you all do, too. Thanks for reading.
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