Ahhhhh it's that fantastic time of year once again. Football season has officially started. Week one has passed, and St. Louis started there 2013 campaign with a W! It was a roller coaster ride, but in the end the Rams squeaked out the win over division foe Arizona. Here are a few things I took away from St Louis' opener.
1. Cookin up some offense!
To be honest, I watched as Bradford delivered a beautiful pass down the seam to Cook with a giant smile..... Then that smile was abruptly turned upside down and all that went through my head was "Here we go again". Let's be honest, at that moment every fan of the Rams that has stuck it out these past 8 or so seasons had that same feeling. That feeling that this is going to be a rough season.... Again. But as we all know, the Rams turned it around and pulled off a W. Thanks in large part to the same guy that gave me that "Oh S**t" feeling early on. Cook was damn near perfect in his first outing in the blue and gold. And had he been more aware of the DB sprinting up behind him he would have been perfect. At times he looked unstoppable as the Cardinals just couldn't cover him. He ended the day with well over 100 yards receiving and a couple TDs as well. All I heard all off season was how he was a bust, and he never amounted to anything for the Titans. Very few people said that he wasn't utilized in the Titans offense. Haters take note, the Rams know how to use him, and he didn't waste time showing you what you missed out on. Cook looks like the real deal, with him and Kendricks, who didn't look to shabby for missing most of the preseason, the Rams could have the best TE duo in the NFL. It's VERY early, but you have to like what Cook showed against a very good Arizona D.
2. Sam shines
Sam Bradford has been through about as tough a start to a career as you can have. Different coaches, different coordinators, mediocre protection, and he's been working with no offensive weapons, other than SJ39 who left for Atlanta in the offseason. Snead and Fisher knew this and did as much as they possibly could to solve these issues. Same coaches and coordinators, check. Upgraded protection, check. Upgraded offensive talent, check. Could the line have been further improved, yes. Could they have maybe found another sure thing at WR instead of more rookie talent, definitely. But Snead and Fisher have taken a team that had next to nothing talent-wise on offense, and shaped this unit into a respectable threat. Bradford knew this, and he showed St Louis why they took him #1. Bradford had 2 poor plays. One, a tipped pass at the line which resulted in a pick six. And two, a poor run decision which resulted in a fumble. While the Rams recovered, he had plenty of time to throw it away or try and find a WR to throw to. Aside from those 2 plays, I can't recall a single pass that wasn't delivered quickly and with pin-point accuracy. Bradford found a weakness in Arizona not being able to defend Cook, and he exploited it. He finished a yard shy of 300 and threw 2 TDs. He also had a nifty little 2-point conversion run. The only thing that concerned me was during the 2nd qtr. The Rams offense was not producing, the Cards were moving the ball. They showed the sidline and the entire offfense was on the bench, silent, void of emotion. I know it's week one, but its a division opponent and it's your home turf. If Bradford is the leader of this offense he needs to be getting them fired up, not pouting on the bench.
3. The Rams have the best D-Line in the NFL. No debate.
Robert Quinn was a beast, yes. 3 sacks and 2 FF is definitely a hell of a game. He will end this season as a top 10 pass rusher if he plays like that week in and week out. As good as he was, his supporting cast made it possible. Long was taking double teams all day. Brockers and Hayes had there fair share as well. This line was in Palmers face all day, and pleasantly surprised us all by looking improved against the run as well. The rest of the NFL offenses have to be worried now. Who do you double team? 1 on 1 Long or Quinn can beat about any tackle in the league. Brockers has shown his ability to get after the QB. Hayes isn't even a starter and he is a QB nightmare. Langford, Simms, Cudjo are all stout defenders as well. This line is dominant, and I can't wait to see what they do with the rest of this season.
4. Richardson will be fine, but.....
Richardson took on the role of workhorse Sunday. And faired alright. He didn't put up insane numbers. But ran with a purpose and only got caught in the backfield 1 or 2 times. The O-line did a decent job protecting Bradford, but the run blocking was.... Well, theres only one way to put it, crap. Rarely did you see any running lanes, and when you did, they closed up very fast. Yes, the Cardinals have a very good D. But the run blocking HAS to improve. One other thing I noticed, Richardson was clearly bothered by an ankle injury throughout the second half. Stacy and Cunningham were available. Where was this RB by committee approach I heard so much about? Give the guy a break and get some fresh legs in there. Maybe Fisher was just testing Richardson, pushing him to see how much he could take, but week 1 isn't a time to push your starting back into an injury.
5. Weakness exposed.....
There were times last season when the coverage wasn't great, but most of it came due to rookie mistakes. What the Rams offered up Sunday was a HUGE red flag. When your 50 million dollar CB get's his ass kicked up and down the field most of the day.... There's a big problem. Fitzgerald made our DBs look silly out there, and not taking anything away from him, he's a great WR, but Finnegan is a great CB. Nobody seems to give him credit after only recording 3 picks last season. But nobody seems to remember him locking down his assignments every week, to the point that he gave up 0 TDs all season. In this game, at least 2 TDs that I remember. He was turned around on multiple passes. In his defense, the D was inexcusably giving the WRs a huge cushion, which was fixed in the second half. But he also made some bonehead personal fouls which cost the Rams. The Safties played a very good game given there experience. McDonald showed he can bring the pain on a couple crushing hits. Mcleod also layed a big hit. Neither gave up anything over the top. Stewart might have a tough time getting back in the starting lineup.
Overall the Rams had a decent debut. They showed that the offense is much improved and will only get better as the rookies and 2nd year players develop. Tavon didn't light up the dome like most were hoping for, but remember, he's a rookie WR. The defense looked good and bad. The line dominated. The LBs looked good, Witherspoon looked like a decent replacement for the departed Dunbar, Laurainitis was all over the field as usual but did get beat a couple times in coverage. And Ogletree looked lost a couple times, but led the team in tackles and showed his speed as he really did play sideline to sideline football. The DBs....... Well, lets just hope the coverage corrects itself or the Rams won't be winning any games against top tier passing offenses. The team showed heart, determination, and the guts to play until it was over. It had it's ups and downs, but they pulled out the W and thats all you can really want in the end. Let's hope they correct there mistakes and give SJ39 a parting gift loss next Sunday.