The Rams have now defeated both of last year's Super Bowl participants as well as the loser of the NFC Championship game. Let that sink in for a moment...the Rams have beat 3 of the last 4 teams standing last year.
Every unit had major contributions the to game. You could argue that as many as 10 players could be considered here, along with a few coaches as well. With so many great performances yesterday, let's take a look at the options.
To put what the Rams defense did yesterday into perspective, looking at what the Broncos offense has done recently leaves you somewhat in awe. Before yesterday, the Broncos were averaging 31.8 points per game. They had scored more than 20 in every game and more than 30 in 5 of their past 6 games. Since Peyton Manning joined the team in 2012, the lowest they had scored is 17. As we all witnessed, the Rams were one gaffe in the secondary from shutting out arguably the greatest QB of all time.
Yes, they had some help from the injury gods. Manning was without Julius Thomas for the majority of the game and Emmanuel Sanders was concussed in the 3rd quarter (completely BULLSHIT call by the way...that hit was 100% legal), and Montee Ball was obviously not at full strength. But the point is, while they gave up a ton of yards, holding any offense QB'd by Manning in check is no small feat.
Right off the bat, you could see that Ryan Clady - one the best LTs in the NFL - was going to have his hands full with Quinn. When you look at the box score, you can find Quinn at the bottom of the defensive stat sheet. Don't take that as a token that he was neutralized. Quinn affected everything that the Broncos were doing offensively. Whether by batting down passes, getting in Manning's face, or taking up double teams so other players could be freed up to make plays...Quinn was his usual beastly self.
Donald had a key sack on 4th down in the 2nd half. He had a hand in collapsing pockets and stuffing the run game all day.
TJ Mac channeling his father yesterday. He had key stops on 3rd downs, a couple HUGE hits, and - most importantly - no key breakdowns in coverage. That distinction belongs to the other safety.
Primary reason he lands here is because of the insane athleticism he showed yesterday. He had a key pick, and was generally outstanding all day.
Blitzing - not normally his strong suit - was something JL55 did early, often, and to great effect. The QB of the D led the best defensive effort of the season for the Rams.
This is why Williams was brought to St. Louis. He has an amazing defensive mind that - yesterday at least - kept the best QB of our era tamed. He was able to bring out the best of his players and orchestrated an amazing performance.
The Offense did their part as well. Shaun Hill shook off some early rust and turned in a fairly good game. Hell, he DOUBLED the QBR that Manning put up! I think that says more about our Defensive performance than Hill's, but I digress. Kenny Britt went off against Aqib Talib in the first half, and Tre Mason went for 100+ against the best run defense in the league.
Hill did everything that was asked asked of him yesterday. Nothing more. Nothing less. He didn't win the game for the Rams. But he didn't lose it for them either. He was exactly what the team needed - a game manager. After shaking off some early rust (that likely cost the Rams a TD) he was very efficient.
Britt made some big plays that jump started the offense, with a 63 yard TD where he torched Aqib Talib putting an exclamation point on his performance. In the early going, he was who Hill looked towards...generally with positive results.
Anyone who thinks Mason isn't firmly entrenched as the starter at this point needs a psych eval. And as much as it sucks for Zac Stacy, seeing Mason go for 113 yards against the top run D in the NFL shows that he deserves his starting spot. His effectiveness enabled the Rams to burn the clock and keep Manning on the sideline.
Speaking of the run game, Robinson has to get some love here. He had several devastating blocks...my favorite was when a DB took a dive to avoid getting smashed...and cleared the way for Mason all day. Aside from not knowing the snap count on one occasion - and nearly getting Hill decapitated - Robinson was solid against DeMarcus Ware in pass pro as well.
5-5 speaks for itself. Oh, and TWO 50+ yard bombs too. Legatron still lives!
Field Position was key yesterday. Hekker consistently pinned the Broncos deep in their own territory. Plus he is just plain awesome.
When I first started writing this series, I envisioned that it would be a way to highlight what the team excelled at on gameday. Instead, this column had turned into an exercise in me searching for the silver lining in a series of deflating defeats. However, when the Rams play to their potential there are truly too many to single out... so I'm taking two different paths here.
Personally, I gotta go with Coach Fisher here. He is the head honcho and I have to give him props. He had his team ready to play against one of the best teams in the NFL. He has his hand in every pot in all three phases of the game, and everything his Rams did at the Ed yesterday was wildly successful. For me, yesterday reaffirmed my faith that 'Fish is the right man for the job in St Louis. Yes, it was a perfect storm. But he engineered it.
The other path? You decide.