SAN FRANCISCO –
– It’s not often after a football game that it’s hard to figure out where to begin. But that’s where we start with today’s recap of the 24-24 tie the Rams and 49ers just played to after 75 of the hardest-fought minutes you’ll see on a football field anywhere. And though that would usually make this a difficult undertaking, it’s harder still to imagine what the Rams must feel like after that game.
– Under normal circumstances, the emotions following a game are pretty clear cut. A win means positive feelings all around despite any hiccups. A loss means disappointment and a general wonder of what went wrong. So what do you feel like after a tie? Well, it’s a question there’s really no answer to. There’s no real emotion unless you consider “empty” an emotion. The Rams wanted to keep playing, they wanted to keep going to finish the job that they should have finished multiple times in the first hour and 15 minutes of game time.
– Alas, that will have to wait for the rematch with the 49ers in a few weeks. In the meantime, let’s go back through what happened on Sunday, the good, the bad, the unbelievable and everything in between.
– It’s hard to accept without the reward but the entire team deserves a round of applause for battling and fighting through adversity time and time again. The mettle of this team is unquestioned and really starting to coalesce.
– First, on the injury front, it appears the Rams came through OK. WR Danny Amendola and LT Rodger Saffold made it through OK in their first games back from a shoulder and knee injury, respectively. Amendola had some leg cramps late in the first half and returned.
– DT Kendall Langford suffered a shoulder injury but was also able to gut it out and finish.
– There’s so much to discuss but I think it’s a good idea to start with Amendola. What a performance by the guy I still believe might be one of the pound for pound toughest players in the league. He misses a few weeks with injury and comes back better than ever. Forget all the discussions about his being the best receiver on the Rams and how that reflects on the group as a whole, whether people want to admit it or not, he’s one of the best there is on any team. Anywhere. And just think, he had a monster punt return and a huge 80-yard catch called back on some questionable flags.
– That segues into this, the two huge calls that went against the Rams today, none bigger than the illegal formation call on the Rams to negate the 80-yard grab. The call was that WR Brandon Gibson didn’t get up on the line of scrimmage to “cover” LT Rodger Saffold. It’s a basic play and you normally see receivers point to the linesman to ensure they are where they’re supposed to be. Before the play, OC Brian Schottenheimer tried his best to get Gibson’s attention to get him moved up but he didn’t. Now, the flag came out late, well after the play but the officials huddled to ensure they got it right. A number of Rams believe the call was the right one but were frustrated with its timing. QB Sam Bradford put the blame on himself for not getting Gibson lined up properly. Regardless, it’s disappointing that it wasn’t executed perfectly byone of the most experienced wideouts on the team. Just a huge play that could have helped the Rams put it away.
– As for the “block in the back” on Amendola’s punt return, let’s just agree to disagree. Looked like a pretty clean side block from the San Francisco pressbox and again on the replays though it seemed close.
– Of course, the Rams did find ways to shoot themselves in the foot legitimately as well. Namely, the delay of game penalties. None were bigger than the one before K Greg Zuerlein’s 53-yard field goal attempt to win it in overtime. Zuerlein boomed it right down the middle for what would have been a game winner but the whistles blew and flags were dropped for a delay of game. Fisher said P Johnny Hekker, who is the holder, “lost track of time” as he double checked the protection and Zuerlein’s timing. Either way, Fisher said it’s not OK and there’s really no excuse for it to happen. It left Zuerlein with a much more difficult 58-yarder that he pushed wide right. Tough pill to swallow.
– It was an up and down day for Hekker, who also shanked a 13-yard punt but got bailed out by a stout defense in the first half. But he also made some huge plays, including two fourth down conversions on perfectly executed fakes. He completed two passes for 40 yards and is now three for three with a touchdown on the season.
– Speaking of those fake punts, you had to like the aggressive approach by the Rams today. They wanted to leave nothing in the bag of tricks and went for broke to win, which you have to do against a good team like San Francisco on the road.
– I think I’ve probably exhausted the adjectives to describe what RB Steven Jackson means to this team so I’ll just point out a couple of small samples of how important he is for this team. He was a force on the ground, surpassing 100 yards against one of the stoutest run defenses in the league. He was outstanding in pass protection with a huge blitz pickup on the late 2-yard TD toss to Austin Pettis. And he was inspiring with one of the toughest catch and runs you’ll ever see on third and 14. He lost his helmet but he didn’t care. His passion and effort might be matched by a player or two around the league but it’s certainly not surpassed. Also, seems the bye week did him well. He looks fresh and ready for a strong second half.
– Can anyone explain what happened on the late pass to RB Isaiah Pead? The ruling on the field or lack of ruling cost the Rams valuable time and then yards in the spot. Very strange. And that doesn’t even account for the strange clock gaffe in the first half.
– Tough day for Pead, who coughed up an important fumble. Ball security has to improve as that’s something Fisher emphasizes with all of his returners.
– Nice job by the Rams defensively for the most part but as DE Chris Long was quick to point out, disappointing that they couldn’t hold the lead with just over a minute to go in regulation.
– The Rams finally got some balls on the ground with fumbles by the Niners today but couldn’t come up with any of them. Has to be wildly frustrating, none more so than the Kyle Williams fumble that saw four Rams surround him but he just happened to be tackled on top of the ball. Maddening.
– Strong performance by QB Sam Bradford. He threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns for a rating of 104.1. He also had a couple of big time drives late in the game, more signs of progress for Bradford and the offense as a whole. He threw some downright lasers to Amendola to keep some drives alive.
– Be remiss not to tip the cap to the offensive line. The Niners had just two sacks and the line opened holes in the running game most of the afternoon. The offense finished with 458 yards of offense against perhaps the best defense in the league. That’s big time production.
– Congrats to rookie WR Brian Quick for his first career touchdown. Keep up that physical play and the playing time will follow.
– That’s a lot and there’s actually more to cover but time to knock out a game story and notebook. Thanks for reading.
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