Penalties still grip the Rams. Why "Illegal Block in the Back" is so hard to coach out of the special teams players is kind of mind boggling. What I liked about this game most was the energy the Rams played with throughout the game. They are playing like it's the first few weeks of the season. I've heard over and over from Rams' head coach Jeff Fisher that the players are having fun, and it's showing. These guys don't want this season to end. They can sense how much this team is improving week after week, and it's great to see for their fans.
Let's have a look at a few of the key players for week #16 of the 2012 NFL season...
The two defensive tackles for the Rams - Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers - absolutely shutdown the running game inside the tackles. Brockers literally shoved the Tampa Bay interior line backward on a fourth and one in the third quarter. Langford bull rushed his way into the back field the entire game. Solid, solid, solid play by this group that had fans screaming in 2011.
The Rams offensive line did a great job stopping a Tampa Bay defense that blitzed the entire game. I counted 9 and 10 defenders in the box on some plays. The run game suffered from the lack of Harvey Dahl at right guard, but mid-season acquisition Chris Williams played well filling in. Once again, offensive line coach Paul Boudreau had to work his magic, and if there's a position coach of the year award he deserves it.
Some will titter about Sam Bradford making a few bad decisions with his passes in this game, but I saw something just a tad different. If you really watch where he was throwing the ball, it's readily apparent his choices were based on the game plan and the weakness of the Tampa Bay secondary. I have little doubt Bradford was told to challenge the Bucs secondary and force them to make plays. They did too, but if you've watched Bradford as closely as I have, you'd know many of these throws were outside his norm. Some successes and a few failure, but on the whole I liked what I saw in the third year quarterback.
The Rams defensive secondary is filled with rookies who have gunslinger in their blood. Led by Cortland Finnegan, this unit is quickly becoming one of the best in the NFL. Janoris Jenkins is #2 in touchdowns for the Rams this season. He has to be in the discussion for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Trumaine Johnson played well, and you have to like what you see in his run coverage too. With better safety coverage over the top, this crew could turn into an interception machine next season.
Jeff Fisher and Co. won the coaching battle today in all three phases of the game. While special teams penalties are still a concern, every other aspect of the Rams beat their Buccaneers counterparts. The defensive play calling was outstanding until late in the game. Their prevent defense needs some work, with the soft zone coverage having a tad too much cushion. Brian Schottenheimer came into this game with a solid vision of what to do against Tampa Bay. You get the up arrow this week, but with Seattle coming up don't let it go to your heads.