Starting the season with a win would have been ideal for the St. Louis Rams, who lost a heartbreaker that went down to the wire. The cup half full version of the story should probably include something about how fired up Steve Spagnuolo's Rams were, how solid Sam Bradford looked in his NFL debut and how much pressure the defense put on the Arizona quarterback.
Sam Bradford was the story of the night, throwing a ridiculous 55 passes for 253 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs. His stat line doesn't tell the full story, and the interceptions are a little deceiving, especially the last one coming on a Hail Mary. What already has people talking was the Rams' decision to throw that much, only a year after fans pulled out their hair watching a vanilla offense. The Rams fed the ball to Steven Jackson just once on their first three series of the game, the entire first quarter. Very atypical, especially when you have Steven Jackson in uniform, but I liked the decision to go that route. The Rams put it on Bradford to start the game, coming right out and challenging the best secondary in the division and maybe the NFC. It was ballsy, and it established the passing game even though it only produced three points.
More on Bradford and why the Rams didn't run more after the jump.
The Rams offense showed flashes of brilliance this afternoon, and there was no better example than the TD drive that ended the first half of the game. They converted some key 3rd downs in the second half too, the kind that would have been drive killers the year before. So much for it taking time to get Mark Clayton up to speed in the offense. He was a force out there, but a couple drops, one of which would have been a TD, take away from his 10 catch, 100+ yard night. The Cardinals had the Rams receivers smothered, particularly Laurent Robinson. Danny Amendola was well covered too, but still found a way to get 6 balls for 67 yards. I still think he's the Rams best receiver and they need to get more balls thrown to him...like that beautiful crossing route he ran.
And why not run more? 3k sent me an email after the game and made a very good point that: the Rams offensive line did a piss poor job of run blocking. The Rams couldn't run more, because they couldn't get the yards. Runs on the outside and in the middle were slogs that rarely got many yards. The Cardinals defensive front is a tough, tough unit, but there should have been more holes for Jackson to find. I also think they could have been a little more creative with the runs. They ran out of the shotgun twice, for a total of 10 yards. A reverse would have been a good call to keep the pressure honest. And why not use Darby more? The line did a solid job keeping Bradford upright, but they have to get better opening running lanes...Bradford can't throw 50+ times every week.
On the other side of the ball, I don't mean to take anything away from a great effort by the Rams defense, but if this had been a team with a legit QB, Arizona would have more than 17 points on the day. Still, the Rams consistently brought pressure. Anderson got hit and rushed many times. Chris Long was a beast and at one point the Cardinals had three men on him. Fred Robbins was absolutely indispensable as well, though I thought the group did a good job as a whole.
Save for one series, that resulted in an AZ touchdown, the run defense was very good. They held the Cardinals to just 112 yards rushing, and 70 of those yards came on one series.
Clifton Ryan obviously hasn't done much work on ball control.
I though the secondary turned in a solid effort. Breaston ate them up for 132 yards, and most teams that pass for 297 yards will score more than 17 points. Breaston was open too much, and I'll be anxious to go back and look at the tape on some of his plays. Ron Bartell stood out for his night, and Bradley Fletcher was solid too. The star of the show for the secondary, however, was Craig Dahl who made plays all over the place for the Rams.
The Rams secondary wasn't as good as the Cardinals secondary. Though the defense got turnovers, there were still a few others that they should have had, like that line drive coming right to Bartell.
Spagnuolo gets a demerit for not taking his timeouts as the clock wound down in the second half. I don't know if it would have mattered, but ideally it would have given the Rams one more play to work with.
The most notable accomplishment was how the Rams played, with passion, the kind we haven't seen in a long time, except from a few key individuals. Sam Bradford scrambling for that fumble and recovering it comes to mind; that was a sure fire turnover with previous Rams QBs. The defense too showed a real fire in their bellies too.
It's a tough loss to come away from, but the Rams look like they can win some game this year. This looks like a team that will practice hard this week and take the field next Sunday, in Oakland, unwilling to lose. We'll find out soon enough.