Ram Rod may be above the fray, but not me. I've got some overreactin to do, and I plans ta do it. This week, the overreactions will go along with each unit, so everyone gets to play. Even special teams, because they're just so special.
It's hard to grade this game in context for Sam Bradford. Do I judge his performance on the standard of a 7-year QB with a legitimate WR corps, or should the grade reflect the reality that this was Sam's first NFL game (and start), doing so without Donnie Avery and with a wideout in Mark Clayton whose experience with the team and said rookie quarterback was all of a couple practices before gameday? The answer is both.
We all saw Sam "make" plays. He's going to be a good quarterback. He threads throws into tight windows that other quarterbacks can't. Juxtaposed against Derek Anderson yesterday, the difference was obvious. The issues for Sam is going to be the same issues for every quarterback, whether they're blessed with his arm and touch or not: decision-making and timing. He's going to get better, and he's going to win games. Yesterday was a performance that I think will prove to be a middle of the road game in retrospect. He didn't take the game over entirely, and there is plenty to improve on. In context, it was a hell of a first game for Sam. If there was still an A.J. Feeley contingent, it died yesterday. Thankfully.
Overreaction: Sam is unstoppable. Best three interceptions I've ever seen. A winning season? I smell playoffs. Or maybe that's bacon. Either way, I smell what Bradford's cooking and it smells great.
Rest of the grades, overreactions and aromas after the jump.
Some people might look at the box score and think this is generous, but Steven Jackson wasn't afforded much generosity in terms of room to work with yesterday. Credit the Cardinals - they filled up running space all day with a qualified array of blitzes and linebacker coverage schemes. Still, Jackson didn't break out as often as one would've hoped, and he certainly didn't carry the game offensively as just about everyone expected. The silver lining on his performance yesterday was that he wasn't overworked, and for a Pro Bowl talent coming off of a back injury, there's something to be said about protecting him. For all the talk of a backup RB, it's obvious that Steven needed breathing room. We just didn't expect it to come in the form of a 50+ pass attempt day from Bradford.
Overreaction: Where the hell did our running game go? Did we expect Bradford to rack up 300 yards a trio of TDs? This was an absolute failure in strategy. The Rams' future may rest on #8's shoulders, but the present Rams sit on the back of Steven Jackson. Boo.
When Mark Clayton has a career day after all of three practices with the Rams, it lets you know Bradford was making a game here instead of having one handed to him. If I were giving out individual grades, Clayton would be A-/B+ range for being the immediate go-to guy for Sam Bradford, but the costly drops will stand out more than anything. If nothing else, Clayton just created expectations for his first season in St. Louis when there weren't many going into the game yesterday. Danny Amendola had a very Danny Amendola performance. Six catches for 67 yards in just nine targeted plays, Amendola is quickly earning himself a playing part of the Rams' future. The problem was the dropoff after those two. Laurent Robinson was all but invisible aside from the imrpovised touchdown at the end of the first half. Mardy Gilyard didn't exist outside of special teams. And the trio of Billy Bajema, Daniel Fells and Mike Hoomanawanui accounted for eight receptions, 41 yards, a fumble and an injury to Hoomanawanui. Too often Bradford was waiting to make a play instead of this unit creating something for him. If people were already looking at taking a WR early in the 2011 draft before the season started, yesterday didn't do anything to motivate them otherwise.
Overreaction: Clayton is going to the Pro Bowl. Amendola:Welker::heir:king (SAT, people). Laurent Robinson is on borrowed time.
Overall, I thought the pass protection was pretty good, considering how well Arizona disguised their blitzes and the level of talent they have in their front three. It was the run blocking, or lack thereof, that disappointed me. Maybe it was playing against a 3-4, maybe it was the combination of Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, maybe it was just the product of a line that needs experience working together as a unit with two young tackles. Whatever it was, it wasn't pretty in the running game and at times in pass protection. Those excuses are going to wear incredibly thin after this week.
Overreaction: Jason Smith is a bust. Rodger Saffold is going to be a bust. Our line isn't strong enough to help Steven Jackson. Bradford's going to get injured next week.
Save for Arizona's drive midway through the 2nd quarter, I thought the defensive line did a hell of a job yesterday. Fred Robbins looked like himself but from three years ago. He and C.J. Ah You each had a sack, and Chris Long deserved at least one for as much time as he spent with Derek Anderson. And George Selvie had a solid first game, albeit unspectacular. For such a yeoman line, this was a solid first effort.
Overreaction: Fred Robbins is the best free agent signing in recent memory. C.J. Ah You is a stud. This line can't be stopped!
With a strong day from the D-line, the linebackers weren't called upon as often as they were in 2009, but this was a down game for the unit. Too often, the running lanes expanded because of overpursuit, made obvious on the aforementioned TD drive from Arizona in the first half. There's a lot to like in the trio of James Laurinaits, Larry Grant and Na'il Diggs, but yesterday was as pedestrian of a game as these guys will likely have. One could hope.
Overreaction: Sophomore jinx for Laurinaitis. Why oh why didn't we take Aaron Curry!
Considering how talented Arizona's WR corps is, this is as good as the Rams could have done. Larry Fitzgerald finished with just three catches for 43 yards. Think about that. I know the touchdown left a bitter taste, but in the weeks ahead as Fitz returns to form and carves up opposing secondaries, yesterday's performance should look better and better. And yes, Steve Breaston had a hell of a game, and Dockery had some lapses. Still, overall it was a damn good game for this crew.
Overreaction: Derek Anderson passed for nearly 300 yards - garbage. Steve Breaston?! We can't stop anyone. Kurt Warner would have thrown for 700 yards yesterday. Leinart might have gone for 400. Ok, maybe that's an overreaction of an overreaction. Let's be fair in our overreacting...
Punt coverage was shaky at times, which especially hurt when watching Arizona's Max Komar fumble as often as he did. And the blocked field goal was absolutely crucial. Donnie Jones did his thing; noone should be surprised at that anymore.
Overreaction: Let's recap. To start the 2009 season, the Rams fumbled the opening kickoff. This year, it's a blocked field goal on the opening series. I hereby vote to eliminate special teams from playing in the 2011 season opener. It hurts too much.
Overall, there was plenty to be proud of. I think the optimism that was there before the game is still there today. But the game was there for the taking, and yesterday we didn't take. I'm gonna watch the game again and see if anything else jumps out at me, but save for maybe a round up of notable quotes, I think that's it for me today. Holler.