TAMPA, Fla. –
– On multiple occasions this season, the Rams have found themselves with a choice to make coming off a disappointing loss. Would they let it linger or would they answer the call and bounce back?
– Sunday’s litmus test against Tampa Bay provided even more context into the character of the 2012 Rams because not only were they being asked to come back from a disappointing loss and performance last week against Minnesota but they were being asked to do it without any type of realistic playoff hopes at stake.
– And, as has been the case time and again this season, especially in the year’s final stages, the Rams answered the bell and came through with a performance good enough to wipe away any chance of a lingering issue. This time, it was a convincing 28-13 win against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium.
– The win featured a defense that came up with four interceptions and five sacks and twice turned the Bucs away inside their own 10-yard line with four-down stands near the goal line. It also featured a plethora of big plays on both sides of the ball that spurred the Rams to a victory.
– With the win, the Rams move to 7-7-1 on the year and the opportunity to go to Seattle next week to play for a winning record for the first time since 2003 and go undefeated in the division. They were officially eliminated from the playoffs when Minnesota knocked off Houston but they seemed wholly unconcerned with anything besides getting a win against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
– At first blush, it seems the Rams came out of the game without any serious injury issues. We’ll know more on Monday but nobody missed any serious time Sunday.
– Game ball after the game went to LB James Laurinaitis and one for TE Lance Kendricks.
– Let’s start with the man who jumpstarted the Rams again Sunday, much as he did last month against Arizona: rookie CB Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins has an absurd knack for finding the end zone after he come up with a takeaway. I don’t think it’s something that can be taught. He just innately has it and he displayed it again. DT Kendall Langford described it as “automatic.”
– Laurinaitis made a nice interception and again showed why he’s one of the best inside linebackers in the league at dropping in coverage. Unofficial pressbox stats had him down for 12 tackles and two passes defended as well.
– Five sacks with a number of different guys coming up with them but how about the pair for DE William Hayes, who now has 5.5 for the season. What a find he’s been.
– Speaking of backup DEs making big contribution, Eugene Sims chipped in his first career interception and continues to be a disruptive force for the Rams lining up all over the D line.
– While Jenkins’ pick went for a touchdown, hats off to CB Trumaine Johnson for perhaps the most textbook interception of the day. He’s quietly really improved here at the end of the season and is showing that he’s going to be a player in the near future.
– Kendricks’ big day is a great sign not only for his future but the Rams as well. Limited in the pass game for most of the season because his blocking services were needed, Kendricks is getting more chances in the pass game and making the most of them. He’s had a few drops this year but he’s improved drastically in that area and he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. Congrats to him on his first 100-yard day as he posted four grabs for 119 yards and his 80-yard touchdown. That catch, by the way, was the longest by a Rams tight end in franchise history.
– RB Steven Jackson came up 10 yards short of the 91 needed for 1,000 on the season. He’ll almost certainly get those yards next week in Seattle. In the meantime, he should be commended for running hard and making the most of what he could get against a top notch run defense in Tampa Bay.
– Oh, I’d be remiss not to mention the hustle and effort of WR Danny Amendola on Kendricks’ touchdown. Amendola hustled down the field and took out two Bucs to spring Kendricks for the score. You think this team is going to pack it in without the playoffs possible? Look at that play for overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
– Good on the offensive line for keeping QB Sam Bradford from being sacked. It’s the first time in 31 games that Bradford hasn’t been sacked. Pretty good considering the Rams were working with two guys at right guard that hadn’t played there all year in Shelley Smith and Chris Williams.
– Austin Pettis seems to have a pretty solid ability to get open and score touchdowns in the red zone.
– A strong performance from P Johnny Hekker, who didn’t have any that got away from him this week as he punted seven times with an average of 47.9 yards with a net of 46.9 and two pinned inside the 20.
– The Rams will enjoy a victory Monday tomorrow and then have Christmas with their families on Tuesday before practice resumes Wednesday in preparation for Seattle.
– We’ll be back to wrap this one up with Coach Jeff Fisher’s news conference tomorrow.
– Talk to you then. Thanks for reading.
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