Well, it's a win, not the prettiest you'll ever see, but a win nonetheless. An ugly win reveals a great deal about the team coming into this game. If the Rams had been 8-1 heading into this game and come out of it with the same results (suspend your disbelief for just a moment) the internets would be filled with pundits pointing out that winning teams find ways to win, no matter how ugly the going gets at times. Of course, the Rams weren't 8-1 prior to this game, they were 1-8. So, besides the game being largely overlooked on the national level, the few comments about this game point immediately to the ugly nature of each team's play and their cellar-dweller records.
So forget the record completely and let's get to the heart of why this was a good win (as if there were really any other kind): the Rams found a ways to win in a game where, overall, they just weren't firing on all cylinders. Let's get to a few key points:
- San Francisco's offense, first of all, is awful. For as bad as the Rams have looked this season, I don't know that they've ever looked that bad. Well, ok, they have, but... Don't discount the Ram defense though. They made key plays to hold the Niners on third down situations. On San Francisco's first four drives of the game, the Rams put them in third and long, and stopped them, twice. Late in the game, the defense conspired to keep SF off the board, such as Tinoisamoa's break up of the pass to Davis, and the linebackers as a unit had a great game. Witherspoon racked up another sack.
- Adam Carriker was a force in this game, and reminded us why he was indeed a worthy first round pick who will be an anchor on this team for seasons to come. Thanks to Carriker and the others up front, Frank Gore continued his season of futility, putting up just 32 yards (sorry fantasy owners). Also, did you notice he played DE some?
- Look at the turnover ratio, SF had two (INTs from Dilfer) and the Rams didn't turn it over at all. Call the game ugly all you want, when a team can control the ball that well and win the turnover battle they can win the game, even with 6 sacks for a total loss of 50 yards.
Speaking of those six sacks, don't let the win streak fool you, this is still a porous offensive line. Bulger added to the sack total by taking too long to search for open arms when his main targets were covered. He should have compensated for his line and thrown the ball away, when he could get away with it. It's good that the line finally has been able to establish some continuity, but it's just not good enough to let the Rams sneak a win more wins into their remaining schedule against anyone but the bottom quarter of league defenses. On the bright side, just think of how good they'll look with Jake Long in there...
The score says ugly game, but when you scratch beneath the surface, Linehan's fingerprint are all over it. The Rams came out with a 10-3 lead in the second half. The Niners needed only a TD to tie it up and put the Rams to the test, but their offense had been unable to do anything all day. Nevertheless, Linehan ran a conservative game plan after the half, controlling the ball well with Steven Jackson and passing the ball to keep the drives going. Was it too conservative? Was it a safe gamble considering that the SF offense wasn't able to do much and the Rams defense had been successful in stopping them all day? Was he confident that if the Niners did score to tie the game, the Rams offense could score another TD and ride out the clock with the same game plan (the offensive line's weak play would probably have ruled that out)?
Linehan ax watch: He's certainly a man coaching for his job, and another win increases the likelihood that he'll be back for another season. Strangely, I think I might be okay with that, pending a few other key changes before his third season begins.
Those are my few random first take thoughts on the game. The schedule gets tougher next week, with Seattle coming to town.