They say winning covers a many number of mistakes, and that certainly was the case Sunday. The Rams defense was able to create a lot of turnovers and high-impact plays that the St. Louis offense was able to capitalize on. NFL history would tell us that this is the formula for a strong win, and it was certainly the case for the Rams this week.
The Rams secondary deserves special recognition for their tremendous pass defense. The mistakes compounded for Josh Freeman, and it is because the coaching staff varied coverages and defensive looks throughout the game. The Rams players took full advantage of any confusion forcing 4 interceptions on the day, and a fair share of quarterback sacks. And for those that watched the game, I think we can all concede that Tampa Bay is very lucky that it was only 4interceptions. Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson deserve special recognition for spectacular contributions. Trumaine Johnson could have tripled his season interceptions today with a little added luck - but inevitably had to settle with only one - and Jenkins continues to make a strong case for Defensive Rookie of The Year with his 4th touchdown on the year.
James Laurinaitus finally appears to be finding his stride in this system. The opposing offenses can still catch him out of position at times, but his ability to analyze the play and account for the run and the pass effectively makes him an extremely valuable player for this team. Today he was able to display how well those talents are truly developing. He made some crucial stops against Martin that held him to a very modest offensive performance, and also was able to provide strong coverage support to the secondary. This dual-role capability allows this defense a lot of flexibility.
Lance Kendricks had the game of his life. When the Rams selected Kendricks in the second round of the 2011 draft, fans started dreaming of days like this for the Wisconsin product. Unfortunately, Kendricks has struggled against mediocrity in the receiving department for the better part of two years. He has established himself as one of the strongest and most versatile blocking tight ends in the league, but the added receiving element has been desperately missing in this offense. Lance Kendricks was a play-maker today. He was able to create yards after the catch, and had zero drops on the day. This type of production is much needed now and in the future.
Other players that contributed with strong game-changing performances included Chris Long, Robert Quinn, William Hayes, Micheal Brockers, and Chris Givens, but one unit that stood above the rest was the Rams offensive line! Oh, how fans have come to loathe the Rams dismal offensive line play over the last 3 years. In fact, Sam Bradford was informed that leading up to the Tampa Bay game he was on a streak of 30 straight games in which he had a sack recorded against him. Well, the streak ended Sunday. In fairness, Tampa Bay is not a good pass-rushing defense, but coach Paul Boudreau deserves for such great work with this unit all year. The offensive line helped Steven Jackson average over 4 yards a carry against the leagues best rush defense, and didn't allow a single sack against Sam Bradford. On some plays it felt like Bradford had days to throw, and I'm sure it was a welcome change for him. This group deserves the game ball for their performance on the day.
Overall the entire Rams team played very well. You could pick out almost any player (Craig Dahl excluded) and identify why they were a difference maker on Sunday, but ultimately the players highlighted above stood above the rest. Many may notice that the Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is no where to be found in this article. Bradford started the game off with a horribly cold performance but got red-hot towards the middle of the game. After Bradfords performance began to improve, the coaches stopped asking him to make big plays, and relied on a vanilla offensive strategy to trudge through the rest of the game. Everyone will ultimately have their own interpretations of his performance today based on their own view of Bradford. For me, he gets an incomplete grade (just like he does for the entire season). But on a day like Sunday, it was a strong enough performance to allow the rest of the Rams difference makers to take over the game and bring the team to .500 once again.
Who do you think the Rams top difference maker was?