The St. Louis Rams earned a much needed win today, beating the Carolina Panthers 20-10 largely on the strength of their defense and rookie QB Sam Bradford.
You have to start with the Rams' defense. They made things happen today. Last week, it was the story of interception missed; today, the Rams had 3 picks and 3 sacks that limited the Panthers to just 201 yards. It was an amazing effort, sullied only by Carolina's late touchdown. And how about limited Carolina to just 25 yards rushing? The Panthers' offense is one of the league's worst, but that's an impressive number for any opponent. I thought the secondary was great too.
Sam Bradford easily had his best game of the season, though not so much in terms of counting stats. Despite a group of receivers decimated by injury in recent weeks, he completed 25 of 32 passes, 78 percent, and threw for 2 TDs and another week of 0 INTs. If you think about it, this Rams offense is very much the same as last year's, save for Bradford and a healthier offensive line. Yet, this bunch can find a way to move the football, even on a day where Steven Jackson was limited by both a tough defense and a busted up finger.
It's hard to knit-pick this game. The ugliest part was the an offense that started slow and couldn't muster more than 2 scores. However, that's more a function of talent at receiver than it is coaching or anything else.
What concerns us going forward
Wins won't come easy with this group of wide receivers, though I do have to applaud their effort. People who don't like the dink and dunk passing game won't be thrilled by the rest of the Rams season. Nevertheless, I have to give credit to Pat Shurmur for calling a good game today within the limitations imposed by the roster.
Player notes after the jump
Chris Long - Wow. Another game, another sack...and sacks created.
Oshiomogho Atogwe - The last-minute INT was just the icing on the cake. Atogwe dominated in this game, getting a sack, a tackle for a loss, two QB hits and providing great coverage for a Rams secondary that was banged up but very effective.
James Laurinaitis - Another leap forward for Laurinaitis, who had a sack, 3 tackles for a loss and a QB hit. He was a force, truly an elite player.
Steven Jackson - Playing hurt and limited in the run game, Jackson still made a difference when the Rams needed him to. If there's anyone on this team that embodies the spirit of Isaac Bruce, it's Jackson.
Sam Bradford - Again, best game of the season for the rookie QB. He had a 112.4 rating. Not only that, he made great decisions on the field and was as accurate as he's ever been. Not a small accomplishment given the receivers he has to work with and a tough matchup in the Carolina defense. How can he not be the Rookie of the Year?
Rams receivers - Don't let them know they're not the most talented bunch because they really stepped it up today. Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola both had 6 catches on 7 targets. Laurent Robinson had 5 catches on 6 targets. Hoomanawanui plays tough, and a the running backs were each 1 for 1, probably should have had more thrown their way.
Pat Shurmur - Whoever was complaining about the Rams game plan this week wasn't paying attention. Despite their considerable limitations in the passing game, Shurmur still mixed it up, finding a way to go deep when he needed to. They probably should have had another touch down, but Shurmur had his unit fired up and playing well today.
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Next week the Rams get a much needed bye, giving a banged up team the chance to heal. They'll need to be prepared coming out of the bye, looking for their first road win of the season in San Francisco and four of their next five games on the road.