GLENDALE, Ariz. –
– In the rough and tumble world of a game with so many random idiosyncrasies and quirks, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Rams’ 31-17 victory against the Cardinals on Sunday moved them to 3-0-1 in the NFC West Division. Under most circumstances, if you showed that record to someone and asked them who it belonged to, the natural guess would be division-leading San Francisco but in this wild and unpredictable 2012 season, it’s the Rams that have already wrapped up a winning record against division foes.
– Of course, the next step is to win against some opponents outside of the west but for now, let’s focus on what Sunday’s victory against the Cardinals does for the Rams, at least in the short term.
– With just two games remaining in the division, the Rams have clinched a winning record in the NFC West for the first time since 2004. Likewise, the season sweep of Arizona is the first sweep for the Rams in the division since winning three straight against Seattle that same season. Not sure what the magic potion is in the division but best believe it’s something the Rams wish they could bottle up and keep around.
– On the injury front, the Rams appeared to get out of the game OK. WR Danny Amendola played through a heel injury but was limited to just a handful of plays and coach Jeff Fisher said it’s unlikely he’ll jump right back into practice. Amendola continues to show his unmatched toughness but must be careful moving forward. By all accounts, he did not have a setback on Sunday.
– As for the game, well, Fisher summed it up quite succinctly, pointing to an opportunistic defense that came up with four turnovers and a physically imposing run game as the keys to the Rams’ victory.
– Let’s start with the defense. To a man, the Rams were thrilled to get the takeaway monkey off their back after going five weeks without one. The real story wasn’t just the takeaways but what the Rams did with them.
– CB Janoris Jenkins has certainly had his ups and downs in his rookie season as most rookies do and after some downs, he had his highest of ups this week. His two interception returns for touchdowns made him the first to reach that mark in franchise history. Jenkins is a play maker and, especially early in his career, it’s important to remember he’ll take some chances that will go his way and some that won’t. But there’s an undeniable, special talent just waiting to break out. Ride it out with him and chances are, you’ll be happy with the results while opposing quarterbacks are not.
– S Craig Dahl’s interception was thrown right to him but he made a nice return on the play. When the Rams didn’t take advantage of it, the defense responded with a three and out. Nice work all around.
– Nice to see MLB James Laurinaitis come up with a pick to help seal the win.
– After a difficult first half in which Arizona QB Ryan Lindley looked like a Pro Bowler, the Rams went to the locker room unhappy. The coaching staff made some major adjustments and forced Lindley into three interceptions as the Cardinals offense was silenced the rest of the way.
– Rams LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar said those adjustments came in terms of different pressures and coverages intended to fluster Lindley and goad him into some mistakes as well as tightening up on run defense to make the Cards one-dimensional. Mission accomplished.
– On the other side of the ball, there’s really only one place to start: RB Steven Jackson.
– Writing about him for almost nine full seasons, I’m sure I’ve used every superlative in the book to describe him but what a performance he put on Sunday against a very good Cardinals defense. Jackson said after the game he’s as fresh right now as he’s been in a long time at this point in the season and it showed. He had 139 yards on 24 carries Sunday and has gone over the 100-mark twice in three weeks against top-notch defenses and had 80-plus last week against the Jets.
– We’d be remiss not to throw some credit to the offensive line. With Scott Wells back in the mix at center and Rob Turner moving to left guard, the Rams had some moving parts again but this was the line they wanted at the beginning of the season and you could see why. When everything got rolling on the same page, that group opened holes for Jackson almost at will and kept QB Sam Bradford upright.
– Speaking of Wells, Jackson said it took a little time to adjust to his quickness and ability to get to the second level. When he did, the results of the second half speak for themselves. Nice return for Wells.
– Hey, TE Lance Kendricks, that’s a heck of a stiff arm.
– WR Chris Givens continues to evolve before our eyes. Yes, he scored his TD on a go-route, a play that he recognized he was being covered by converted S Justin Bethel and asked for the ball in advance but he also continues to find other ways to be involved. His line for the day included 5 catches for 115 yards, the first 100-yard game of his career.
– Bradford didn’t have to do a whole lot on Sunday, only throwing 17 times but he made the most of those chances. He completed eight for 205 yards and two touchdowns. His interception was not good and he was disappointed with it after the game but he still finished with a rating of 106.2. Pretty efficient with lots of big plays mixed in.
– Also, how tough is Bradford? He takes a vicious shot in the second quarter, missed a play and comes back to complete his next two passes for 55 yards, including his 37-yard strike to Kendricks for a touchdown.
– P Johnny Hekker deserves some credit again as he helped keep dynamic Arizona PR Patrick Peterson in check. He punted six times for 260 yards, an average of 43.3 yards and a net of 33.5. While Peterson had a 26-yard return that almost broke and Hekker had one low line drive that didn’t net much, he did a good job with hang time and angle for the most part.
– The Rams now get the rematch they wanted against the 49ers next week. Make no mistake, they have unfinished business and they want to finish it. A win there could make things interesting down the stretch.
– For now, the Rams will enjoy this win but they’ll be on to the next sooner than later I suspect considering the next opponent.
– Thanks for reading. Good night.
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