For me, the highlight from the St. Louis Rams 14-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last night had to be the defense forcing the Chiefs to settle for a field goal on a goal-to-go series. Kansas City got the ball on the Rams' 7-yard line after Derrick Johnson makes a great play to intercept Sam Bradford.
A touchdown would have split the score for the Chiefs, not that a score matters all that much in the preseason. However, the Rams defense came in fresh, having played barely more than five minutes up to that point, and determined. By this point, the coaches sprinkled some backups into the mix too.
Some of those backups played like superstars, most notably Eugene Sims, and two starters, Chris Long and Justin Bannan, drew penalties. It was a near masterpiece of a defensive stand, one that deserves a much closer look.
1-7-SL 7 (11:29) (Shotgun) M.Cassel pass incomplete short middle to D.McCluster.
Pressure killed this one, lots of it. The defensive line overwhelmed the Chiefs front five. Even if McCluster hadn't been smothered and made the catch, he would not have made it past the line of scrimmage. King, Bartell and Fletcher had their receivers covered tightly too, though I didn't get the impression that Cassel made more than a fleeting attempt to look down field. With those three in man, Mikell raced in on Cassel.
2-7-SL 7 (11:24) J.Charles up the middle for 7 yards, TOUCHDOWN NULLIFIED by Penalty. PENALTY on KC-R.Hudson, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at SL 7 - No Play.
Justin Bannan likely makes the stop on Charles if the Chiefs' rookie guard doesn't commit the most obvious holding penalty I've seen through the preseason. Na'il Diggs was in on the strong side on this play, and got up too far and trapped outside of the action. Had Charles gotten through Bannan honestly, Diggs' positioning would have been costly. Dahl might have stopped him at the one, had it been a play, but Charles broke his tackle.
2-17-SL 17 (11:19) (Shotgun) M.Cassel pass short left to S.Breaston to SL 8 for 9 yards (J.King).
The Rams drop their defensive backs into a deep zone to prevent the touchdown. As is often the case, it allows the offense to complete a pass. King races in to stop Breaston after he gains a couple yards after the catch.
3-8-SL 8 (10:42) (Shotgun) M.Cassel pass incomplete short left to T.Moeaki. Penalty on KC-B.Richardson, Offensive Holding, declined.
The Chiefs are lined up with an empty backfield, three receivers and Moeaki. Chis Long gets held on the right side; Eugene Sims, who had a great night, makes it through and slips on a deke by Cassel. Credit Long for drawing the hold. Had he made it through, Cassel probably would have been trapped between him and Sims. From inside, C.J. Ah You drops back into coverage, really. All night, I was impressed with the secondary's coverage. They were rarely fooled. Fletcher stays with his outside man for a few steps before letting him go, where Mikell and Laurinaitis have the guy covered. Fletcher sees Moeaki running across the field and has him locked up. Ah You makes it over there as well. The ball hit Moeaki who doesn't hang on to it. Even if he had, Fletcher had him stopped at the 4-yard line.
4-8-SL 8 (10:36) R.Succop 26 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-T.Gafford, Holder-D.Colquitt
I'll spare you the details of the field goal.
The Chiefs definitely had some preseason rust that contributed to the Rams success on this drive. Rodney Hudson's hold on Bannan looked like classic preseason football as well as a rookie struggling against a seasoned pro like Bannan. Save for Diggs being out of position on that same play, the Rams defense executed their assignments perfectly, something that was not so frequent last week.
Play like this should take some steam out of the argument that the Rams defense is due to regress to the mean in 2011.