Jeff Fisher promised that the St. Louis Rams would be doing things differently this week. He wasn't kidding ... to a point. It was the first tie game in the NFL since 2008. It should have been a Rams upset.
Ties aren't losses, but they aren't wins either.
It looked like the Rams would be doing things really different when the news broke prior to the game that Janoris Jenkins and Chris Givens were sitting on the bench in street clothes, on the inactive list for breaking some team rules. Benching a starting corner and the team's second best receiver was not the kind of "different" you want to see. But the Rams were no worse for wear without the two rookies.
Some quick thoughts on the game:
Welcome back Danny Amendola!
Since 2010, the Rams have 10 wins with Amendola in the lineup and exactly two wins without him. So, yeah, he's kind of a big deal. The offense desperately needs a sure-handed receiver in the lineup, and that's why.
Bye weeks can be a mixed bag. Teams either lose their mojo on the break or they get it back after a skid. For the Rams, it was the later; for the 49ers, it looked a lot like the former. Fisher made it clear to the media that he expected to see his team playing better, to fix the things that they worked on in practice after the debacle in London.
Sitting Givens and Jenkins was a ballsy move too. You could make the case that the Rams were going to shoot themselves in the foot with that, but Fisher made it clear that nobody is bigger than the team. Nobody.
Did you doubt Jeff Fisher?
Big Time Bradford
I've been downright doubtful about Sam Bradford, but he just simply got it done in this game. That last drive of the fourth quarter, what should have been the game-winner, he was nails. He was a perfect 5-for-5 from the fake punt to the Austin Pettis touchdown. It's exactly the kind of play I've been wanting to see from him for a long time, and he answered huge this week.
Johnny Hekker finished the game with a better quarterback rating than Mark Sanchez. But I'm not here to make fun of Sanchez. Those two fake punts were decisive plays for the Rams. Obviously, the last one in the fourth quarter saved the game, keeping the drive alive for the Bradford-to-Pettis touchdown. The first one at the end of the half was more important than a lot of people were giving them credit for, helping win the field position.
Run the Ball
Fisher's comments and the statements from others made it clear that the Rams would be running the ball more this time. 35 rushing attempts versus 32 passes, as of the second missed field goal in overtime. That's smart, and it wore the Niners down, opened more field for the passes. Why the Rams weren't running more before this game, I don't know.
One thing didn't change for the Rams: the penalties. The Rams had 32 penalties in the three games before this. They had two penalties in overtime. It was disgraceful. If Austin Pettis lines up on the line, Amendola's 80-yard catch stands and the Rams might have won the game. I could go on, but the point is pretty clear.
This kind of play just can't continue.
What a bizarre outcome for the Rams.
Go ahead and join Mario Haggan in his premature celebration dance.