Sunday's home opener win - the first since 2006 - was an extremely exciting, yet odd game. The replacement referees, in large part, kept this game 'interesting' throughout. The Rams overcame adversity from the start, spotting the Redskins six with only eleven ticks off the clock in the first quarter. A win is indeed a win, and for the Rams it was well deserved. A great team effort deserves it's rewards.
There are probably about a 100 'game balls' that could've been handed out in the locker room after yesterday's victory. Sam Bradford had an extremely efficient game. Rookie Daryl Richardson carried the load, impressively, while Steven Jackson watched from the sideline. The collective defensive unit did a decent job of keeping RG3 from moving his offense with ease by applying constant pressure, and making big hits. There is, however, one unsung hero whose name isn't mentioned often, and should be…
Matthew Mulligan made several key plays in Sunday's game, but two that specifically can be attributed to the Rams win. I'll admit, Mulligan was one of the players that I didn't
want to think would make the final 53-man roster. A bi-product of the Brian Schottenheimer acquisition, Mulligan is known primarily for his blocking ability….something that is going to come in handy with the Rams offensive line's youth, and inability to stay healthy. Kudo's to the coaching staff for recognizing talent better than I. But I digress…two key plays!
3:25 remaining in the 3rd Quarter, and the Rams find themselves down 28-23. The Rams march down field due to a determined effort from Daryl Richardson, as he breaks through two would-be tacklers - displaying his acceleration and speed - while carrying the rock 53 yards, placing the Rams in great position to take the lead at the six yard line. "Give it Richardson, and I don't care which direction you send him," I thought. Nope…wrong! Pass… right into the hands of former Ram London Fletcher. Gut-wrenching!
Would the defense respond? The Rams gave up only three yards to running back Alfred Morris on first down, Quintin Mikell made a big tackle at the line of scrimmage on second, and Bradley Fletcher nearly picked off RG3 on 3rd…effectively ending the drive. And then it happened. Matthew Mulligan busts right up the gut, blocks Sav Rocca's punt, and puts the Rams back in field goal position with a little less than two minutes in the third quarter.
Another exciting [19 yard screen] play from Richardson, and the Rams find themselves at the goal line as the quarter expires. As we returned from the TV timeout, I thought "Give it to Richardson, and I don't care which direction you send him." Nope…wrong again! In a beautiful play action, where Sam keeps his composure in the pocket, he finds Mulligan wide open under the uprights in the end zone. Nobody covers him, because nobody expects him to catch. Congratulations on your first NFL touchdown, young man! Your TD gave the Rams the lead that ultimately won us the game.
It may very well be the best combined 1:58 of Matthew Mulligan's career, but it may have also been the most important in Sunday's win. Great efforts by an unsung hero, in my humble opinion. Even if you didn't get a real game ball yesterday, you've made a believer out of me. Proud to have you in blue and gold.