The St. Louis Rams won their second game in row, beating the Seattle Seahawks for the first time since 2004. The win puts the Rams in contention for the NFC West title with one quarter of the season out of the way.
It was a brilliant effort. Last week, the recap started out with effusive praise for rookie QB Sam Bradford, as many future recaps will, but this week, the Rams victory belongs to the defensive line. Who's strong play all day long kept the Seahawks offense grasping for answers.
It was also a big day for Steven Jackson. Despite a groin injury that made his status questionable leading up to game, he was again a force against a formidable Seattle run defense. And of course, Sam Bradford again deserves a heaping helping of praise for his work today, picking apart a Seattle defense and allowing the Rams to control the football.
Lots more after the jump...
First, the defensive line. Lots of pundits guffawed at the Rams acquisition of DT Fred Robbins during the offseason, but it might have been the most important move the team made, save for drafting Bradford. Robbins got pressure on Seattle's offensive line all day, recovered a fumbled and helped the Rams front four hold Seattle to just 2.7 yards per play on 24 rushing attempts. The whole unit was impressive, registering 4 sacks, 2 from James Hall who can get pressure on the outside and in the middle. Chris Long notched his first half sack of the season, splitting it with rookie George Selvie. David Vobora got the other sack.
Speaking of the linebackers, they held John Carlson to one catch for 15 yards. James Laurinaitis was a beast, again, and the unit put together a nice game...though the defense did struggle with Seattle's slot receiver, Bradon Stokely.
Not to worry, because the secondary played very well. Bradley Fletcher had his second INT of the season and some excellent pass defense. Atogwe did not play much, but the Rams had a capable duo in Craig Dahl and James Butler that didn't give up the big plays.
Opponents are now averaging just 13 points per game against a Rams defense that looks impressive. Especially impressive is their third down work. Seattle managed to convert just 4 of 15 first downs.
The Rams had 7 tackles for a loss, 6 QB hits and 7 passes defended. It was easily their best defensive effort yet.
Let's start on the other side of the ball with Steven Jackson. It's fitting that he became the team's second all-time leading rusher today, as the Rams won their first division contest in 17 games. You could tell Jackson's groin was hurt because a couple of his breakout runs would have easily been touchdowns had he been 100 percent.
Seattle has a tough run defense, and they were looking the part today. Despite that, the Rams gained a net total of 88 yards on the ground, averaging 3.1 yards per attempt on 28 attempts, even with 5 Seattle tackles for a loss. Jackson finished the game with 70 yards rushing and another 54 receiving yards on 3 catches.
Give credit to the offensive line. This was the toughest front they've faced this season, and they found a way to make it work. Seattle sacked Bradford 4 times, two of which happened because of a tight end missing a blitzer.
And Sam Bradford. What else can you say? He finished with 2 TDs and 1 INT while throwing for 289 yards. His accuracy continues to amaze even those that it shouldn't. If St. Louis didn't have the drop happiest bunch of wide receivers, he would have had an even bigger day. The INT was his fault. He tried to make something happen and ended up throwing the ball to none other than Earl Thomas, a guy who has intercepted Bradford more than once in his career.
The Rams did their best work on the screens, burning Seattle for 70 yards on two screens for a TD. It's hard to quibble with the playcalling in this one, but they probably should have sent more receivers to the middle of the field more than they did. Bradford has success throwing there and the Rams left it alone after getting a favorable score. It was clear that the offense wasn't going to run up the score board, though I wish they would have.
As far as the receivers go, there were too many dropped balls for my taste, but they played well overall. Seattle defenders were making it tough as well. Mark Clayton was targeted 14 times, Amendola 8. Both players made beautiful catches as well.
We've talked about how the third quarter used to bedevil the Rams. No more. The Rams came right out and scored using those two screens mentioned above. They controlled the ball well in the second half, playing a more conservative style than many teams would have, but it didn't matter.
The Rams won their second in a row.
Now, the secret's out, and teams will not take the Rams lightly, especially a defense that has quietly become one of the more effective units in the league. The Rams play Detroit next week on the road. Like the Rams, it's not a game they can afford to take lightly, though I doubt they will. Steve Spagnuolo had his players ready to play today, not allowing them to soak in last week's win excessively. The intensity and focus of the Rams has been impressive, but it reached another level, again, when they had the lead.
This is not last year's Rams team (or the years before that). This group can play football, and finally has enough talent to win games. It's going to be a much better year than we've gotten used to.