– Well, that was easy, right? Obviously, that’s a joke. Nearly two full games and almost 150 minutes of playing to a veritable draw or – as Rams players like to call it 10 rounds later – we finally have a winner.
– The victory punch was finally thrown by rookie K Greg Zuerlein with 26 seconds left in overtime to KO the Niners and give the Rams a scintilating 16-13 win at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday. The kick was cathartic, providing the Rams the sweet release that goes with a win and ending nearly 10 full quarters of some of the most physical, hard hitting football you’ll ever witness.
– The win means much for the Rams. It means they are now squarely in the conversation for a potential wild card spot, the likely sixth and final spot with four games to play. At 5-6-1, they don’t control their own destiny or anything but they are pretty darn close considering three of the next four opponents are teams also right in the thick of the race.
– The Rams also move to 4-0-1 in the division and it would be hard to argue they are anything but an overwhelming success within the confines of the NFC West Division. Teams are built with the division in mind. As an example, the Rams drafted DT Michael Brockers for a reason. That reason was the presence of so many powerful rushing attacks within the West. His impact may not jump off the screen when you watch the game live but when you see San Francisco RB Frank Gore limited 2.5 yards per carry on 23 attempts, best believe his presence is felt.
– Coach Jeff Fisher has a long history of succeeding within whatever division he coaches and that means we can’t leave out the job he and his staff do in preparing this team for games against NFC West foes. They are well studied on their opponents and ready to play when the game kicks off. It’s a big change of pace it bodes extremely well for the future.
– Nothing serious to report on the injury front coming out of this one. The Rams had a couple players deal with in-game cramping but they were able to return and finish the game.
– WR Danny Amendola did not play as his foot continues to heal. Fisher said they didn’t even go through the paces this morning as they hope to get Amendola fully healed sooner than later. After the game, Fisher said Amendola’s status will be re-evaluated throughout this week.
– As for the game, it’s only right that we start with the defense, the physical, opportunistic, big play at the right time defense.
– In the first meeting, San Fran QB Colin Kaepernick was able to catch the Rams off guard with his ability to run. He made some big plays that way to keep the Niners in the game. He did have one 50-yard run and it was a big one late to give the Niners a chance to take the lead on a field goal (that play was a bad luck, right call at the right time type of thing) but that was really it for him on the big play front.
– And finally, yes finally, for a defense that has been waiting forever to get a big bounce that goes their way, the defense got one. They kept hammering away, hoping it would eventually happen and it did when Kaepernick ran a read option, kept the ball and with CB Janoris Jenkins spying the pitch man (Ted Ginn), the ball went sailing and who else but Jenkins scooped it up and scored. Three touchdowns in two weeks is good for an offensive player. It’s stunning for a defensive player, especially a rookie.
– The defense also provided some much needed points with a safety courtesy of LB James Laurinaitis forcing Kaepernick to throw from his end zone. Kaepernick couldn’t get the ball past the line of scrimmage and it didn’t reach the line of scrimmage. Two points, Rams.
– Mentioned him above for a reason but Brockers was a man child in the middle of the defense. Everything the Niners wanted to do in the run game was disrupted by Brockers and his tag team partner, Kendall Langford. Rosey Grier, in attendance for the Rams 75th anniversary had to be proud.
– He doesn’t get much credit but DE William Hayes is a heck of a player, very underrated. He’s been very good against the run all year but his pass rush skills have been on display lately. He had a sack and a half and chipped in three total tackles including two for loss.
– Big time game from OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar as well. He led the team in tackles in unofficial pressbox statistics with 11. Many of those were of the “bring the wood” variety. Laurinaitis was all over the place as well, with 10 tckles.
– Quietly, DT Jermelle Cudjo was stout in his opportunities as well.
– So happy for Zuerlein. He’d had some rough moments in recent weeks but to hit from 53 to tie and 54 to win in pressure situations, that’s just fearless. I’ll have a great anecdote on Zuerlein in my game story.
– I also want to throw some credit to P Johnny Hekker. I know he had a bad shank late in the game for 14 yards but he was excellent otherwise, including a perfectly placed 54-yarder that went out of bounds at San Francisco’s 1. He averaged 43.1 yards on his nine punts with a strong net of 42.4.
– On the other side of the ball, it was tough sledding for the Rams offense, no question about it. Without Amendola against a defense like the Niners, it figured to be tough. And it was. But the Rams offense did the job when it had to time and again.
– QB Sam Bradford didn’t have any eye-popping numbers. But here are a couple of things he did that were absolutely huge. 1. He didn’t turn the ball over. 2. He made some huge plays on the run with two scrambles for 25 yards in the fourth quarter and again showed his toughness in taking a hit for a personal foul penalty to get the Rams in field goal position to tie it. His final tally was 26-of-39 for 221 yards with no scores and no picks for a rating of 81.2. He also made a strong throw to TE Lance Kendricks for a 2-point conversion.
– Without Amendola, someone has to step up at receiver. The man is rookie WR Chris Givens. We know he can get deep but he has been so much more in the past two weeks, particularly on Sunday. Assuming a less flashy role underneath, Givens killed his yards per catch average and was just fine with it as he posted 92 yards on 11 catches, an average of 8.4 yards. His catch on third-and-3 in overtime was absolutely huge. It was behind him on a slant and he hauled it in to move the chains and give the Rams a chance to win the game. The kid is really coming into his own.
– RB Steven Jackson just finds a way, doesn’t he? The Niners locked down the run game and Jackson didn’t bat an eye. He simply burned the Niners in other ways. He finished with five catches for 69 yards to go with his 48 rushing yards for a total of 117 yards from scrimmage. Against a great defense like the Niners, any back putting up more than 100 yards deserves a tip of the cap. What a player.
– Helmet to helmet on DE Robert Quinn? Seriously?
– So the Rams move to 5-6-1 on the season and are firmly in the mix. They sit a game and a half behind Seattle for the final wild card spot with a lot of football left to play. Who knows if they’ll be there at the end but we’re here in December and there’s meaningful football to be played.
– Thanks for reading.
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