– No, the Rams did not do what many national NFL pundits and wannabe pundits said they couldn’t do and knock off the red hot Seahawks in the most hostile atmosphere in the league on Sunday afternoon. Let’s get it out of the way right now, the scoreboard at the end of the day read Seattle 20, St. Louis 13.
– But while there are no moral victories in the NFL, the Rams sent a message to the rest of the NFL and, especially, the rest of the NFC West Division that a storm is coming and, as Jeff Fisher told his team right after Sunday’s game: The Rams are back.
– With the 2012 season coming to a close, nobody is happy with a 7-8-1 record but let’s take stock of how far the Rams have come in less than a year’s time after a regime change in the front office and with the coaching staff and with a drastically remade roster.
– Last year, the Rams finished 2-14. They won one game on the road and zero games in the division. They finished the season on a seven game losing streak and were 1-7 in the second half of the season.
– This year, the Rams finished 7-8-1. They won three road games and tied another and went 3-1-1 in their final five road contests. They went 4-1-1 in the NFC West Division, the best record for any team in a division that entering Sunday had the league’s best combined winning percentage. They finished the season winning four of their final six and went 4-3-1 in the final eight games. No matter how you slice it, that’s pure, unadulterated progress.
– Making the Rams’ effort Sunday in Seattle more impressive was the fact that a playoff chance was a distant memory. The Rams were told they had nothing to play for and the playoff-bound Seahawks would come in and dispose of them much in the same way they’d disposed of San Francisco, Buffalo and Arizona in the past three weeks.
– Instead, as Rams WR Austin Pettis said, the Rams gave the Seahawks “more fight than they probably wanted.”
– Let’s start this with praise for RB Steven Jackson, who passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the 8th consecutive season, joining Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, LaDainian Tomlinson and Thurman Thomas as the only backs to achieve that milestone. In nine years covering Jackson and watching every carry of his career, I’ve probably exhausted every superlative there is to describe him but there’s only one adjective he wants associated with his name: consistent. Well, No. 39, you have been a beacon of consistency through the dark times and continued to do it again this year. Congrats on another strong season.
– After the game, Jackson again re-iterated he plans to play in 2013 and that he’d like to do it with the Rams. QB Sam Bradford, LB James Laurinaitis and other team leaders also made it clear they want him back. Jackson has the choice to opt out of the final year of his contract. It’s going to be a wait and see process but I think it’s fair to put you faith in Jackson when he says he wants to return to St. Louis.
– Likewise, WR Danny Amendola, who is scheduled for unrestricted free agency also said again he’d like to be back with the Rams. Considering his value to the offense and weighing it against his injury issues will be a tricky job for the Rams but it’s clear both sides would like to continue their relationship as well.
– One player who has no contract issues showed why the Rams were so eager to sign him to a lucrative, long term contract Sunday. DE Chris Long posted three sacks and led the way for a defense that finishes the season tied with Denver for most sacks in the NFL with 52. Long was great again in 2013, finishing with a team-leading 11.5 sacks and constantly getting pressures and hits.
– Excellent job of blitzing and changing looks by the Rams defense on Sunday. Sacking an athletic QB like Russell Wilson six times is no small feat.
– Kudos to DE Robert Quinn, also. He got another sack Sunday and finished with 10.5 on the year, more than doubling his rookie season total. He’s just getting better and will be more of a force moving forward.
– Long and Quinn became the first Rams duo to each have double digit sacks since Grant Wistrom and Kevin Carter achieved it in 2000.
– Another week, another sack for William Hayes. He finished with 7.0 for the season. What a find. The Rams must re-sign him in the offseason as well.
– It was a shame the Rams couldn’t come up with Marshawn Lynch’s late fumble or get Wilson down on third down on Seattle’s winning drive. The fumble, in particular, was an elusive thing for the Rams all season and it came back to bite them Sunday.
– Rookie CB Trumaine Johnson had some growing pains Sunday like he did all year but he really seems to have a knack for finding the ball and being around it constantly. The Rams have two really bright young corners in Johnson and Janoris Jenkins.
– DT Michael Brockers suffered an ankle injury but returned and finished the game. It is NOT a high ankle sprain or even the same ankle, according to Brockers.
– LB Rocky McIntosh suffered a concussion and did not return to the game.
– On the other side of the ball, it was tough sledding for the Rams against a stout defense but many of the offensive problems stemmed from untimely and costly penalties. A couple false starts, a couple delays of game, etc, really hurt the Rams chances to get some momentum.
– QB Sam Bradford was not sacked for the second game in a row and put on a strong performance against one of the league’s best secondaries. He finished 25-of-42 for 252 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a rating of 74.7. That rating is much higher if he doesn’t throw the INT on a fourth and 10 play where he had no choice but to get rid of the ball somewhere.
– Bradford’s TD to Austin Pettis wasn’t the prettiest thing but it showed again that Pettis has a bit of a magnet on him in the red zone with his second touchdown catch inside the 20 in as many weeks. All four of Pettis’ touchdowns in 2012 were from red zone possessions.
– Jackson finished with 97 total yards, including 52 on the ground and 45 on seven receptions.
– An Isaiah Pead sighting! Pead got five carries and picked up 21 yards. Nothing earth shattering but some nice cuts and gains for the rookie. Has to help his confidence moving into 2013.
– Nice job the Rams offensive line opening holes and protecting Bradford. What a terrific job done by that group and OL Coach Paul Boudreau this season.
– Another strong effort from P Johnny Hekker. He punted five times for an average of 48.6 yards and a net of 40.2.
– That wraps up a 2012 season that went by way too fast but take heart, Rams fans, the future looks bright. The Rams played one of the five toughest schedules in the NFL this year and came out on the other side the better for it. Young players got valuable snaps across the board and that will only bode well for the future.
– As always, thank you so much for reading all season. We’ll have plenty of good stuff in the coming months so stay with us for free agency, the NFL Draft and so much more.
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