The defense came out blazing. The offense took a while, but got it going in the second half to close it out. It was more than enough to see the St. Louis Rams put up a 24-6 win over the flailing Cleveland Browns.
Riding the tails of another big performance from rookie RB Just Todd Gurley, the Rams are now back to .500 and looking hopeful going into a promising four-game stretch, at least on paper. Let's take a look at where the Rams stand after yesterday.
The injury report going into Sunday was fuel for concern enough. Fortunately, the Rams got through yesterday without any major on-field injuries. That should allow for a better initial injury report on Wednesday, assuming Tuesday's practice isn't a catastrophe. That should allow RB Tre Mason and TE Lance Kendricks to, hopefully, upgrade from their "Questionable" status this weekend to "Probable" or better heading into Week 8's game against the San Francisco 49ers.
All in all, not bad.
Well, this is tough.
On one hand, you have some very, very good showings. Todd Gurley, Janoris Jenkins and Mark Barron were spectacular. The defense overall was wonderful. As the NFL.com staff summarized yesterday:
This is Jeff Fisher's dream team. They are all defense and running.
Of course the issue there is twofold: (a) the lack of a passing game in a passing era and (b) the vulnerability if either of those two aspects struggles, especially to close out drives.
Two games ago, Todd Gurley ran for 159 yards. The Rams lost 24-10. Gurley alone doesn't produce wins (you would think more Rams fans would have learned this from eight years of 1,000-yards Steven Jackson seasons, but alas). It's going to be very difficult to win games when the passing game is as inept as it was yesterday. Had Rodney McLeod not run in an early fumble forced by Janoris Jenkins, it could well have been a 3-3 game at halftime. And please believe the defense isn't oblivious to that:
Fisher said there was a little bit of frustration in the locker room at halftime that Rams didn't have bigger lead (10-3).— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) October 25, 2015
So yes, praise where it's due, but the other components on the offense have to do more than Kenny Britt's back-to-back PI and deep reception over the course of an entire game.
We're nearing the halfway mark, so things are shaping up for the second half push quite concretely. Seattle has an interesting couple of games coming up, especially given how hard it is to peg this team right now including a Nov. 15 matchup against the Cardinals which will be pivotal for both.
Uncomfortably enough if the season ended today, the Rams would be the first team to miss the cut for the playoffs. At 6-1, Atlanta looks primed for a wild card spot unless they can unseat the NFC South division-leading Carolina Panthers at 6-0. Either way, it looks like both are headed to the postseason. The NFC East remains a wash after yesterday. And while Green Bay is out in front of the NFC North at 6-0, it's the 4-2 Minnesota Vikings who get the second wild card spot over the 3-3 Rams, the only 3-3 team in the conference. This is where I point out the Rams head to Minneapolis in two weeks.
Speaking of, we're now one game down in the five-game window of opportunity for the Rams:
|7||Cleveland Browns||Home||Oct. 25||1pm||CBS||W, 24-6|
|8||San Francisco 49ers||Home||Nov. 1||1pm||Fox|
|9||Minnesota Vikings||Away||Nov. 8||1pm||Fox|
|10||Chicago Bears||Home||Nov. 15||1pm||Fox|
|11||Baltimore Ravens||Away||Nov. 22||1pm||Fox|
One down, four to go. And while the win should grease the wheels of opportunism, the caveats are obvious. And again, for the umpteenth billionth time, to be optimistic about this stretch is to ignore the entirety of the Rams' struggles under Jeff Fisher.
Is it doable to get out of this stretch with a 3-2 record at a minimum? Sure. But that puts the Rams at 5-5, a tough spot to be in for a playoff push. They likely need to go 4-1 or better, and that's just not something we've seen from Jeff Fisher's Rams for an extended stretch.
There's a first time for everything, though.