Outside of the back-to-back passes to Kenny Britt, Rams QB Nick Foles' entire performance was forgettable. Those two plays - a 26-yard pass interference jump and a 41-yard connection right at the goalline - set up Todd Gurley's first touchdown run and made it a two-possession game late in the 3rd quarter. Between supporting Gurley and avoiding an interception, this gets Foles out of the D range.
It's time to start looking to upgrade this group next offseason. Credit Off. Coordinator Frank Cignetti for forcing Tavon Austin into the mix, but the other options just aren't available. Kenny Britt had his one reception down to the 1-yard line. Stedman Bailey had another. Brian Quick didn't.
TE/FB - /
Jared Cook, fan favorite. He just can't get out of his own way. Don't worry. Jeff Fisher isn't going to bail on him, because that would be Jeff Fisher bailing on Jeff Fisher and that doesn't happen midseason. He'll play every game, he'll still get targeted and he's due for a 6-reception 100-yard day soon. I will yellaugh when it happens.
Cory Harkey, though, is proving himself absolutely vital to Jeff Fisher's scheme even if he lacks athleticism. Justice Cunningham pitched in in a meaningful way too in the run game. The real issue here is the divide between the ground game and the air game. It's affecting every position in both facets save for Todd Gurley.
Easily the hardest group to come up with expectations for. Foles took just three hits yesterday, two of which were sacks. He often had plenty of time to operate, even if there weren't windows for him downfield or if he just wasn't seeing them/willing to attack them. And while Gurley had to make much of his work on his own, they didn't completely stifle his day. Is that enough?
Am I being too hard on this unit after racking up four sacks and three other hits on the QB? Maybe. But they can play up to it.
If I'm putting Mark Barron in this group, it's easily an A+. They killed the running game and owned the middle of the field. Best game of the season for James Laurinaitis.
Janoris Jenkins. Rodney McLeod. Mark Barron. Trumaine Johnson. It was also the best game of the season for this unit.
Special Teams -
This one would be in the A range save for Greg Zuerlein's two missed field goals including a 35-yarder that begins to raise fair questions about his readiness. Look, I'm as big a GZ fan as you'll find, but those just aren't acceptable. Luckily, it came in a game that could take it on without hurting the team...but Greg's going to need to be perfect for a couple weeks to maintain his job security. It's a fickle position to handle in this business, but thems the breaks.
The first half nearly made this a battle it didn't need to be. The offense just wasn't prepared to execute early. And the Rams' nine penalties and fumble would look a hell of a lot worse if not papered over by the Browns' 11 penalties and four fumbles of their own. It's the kind of performance that will get exposed by better competition if it surfaces again. Luckily, the Rams' defense was primed to take advantage of a lesser opponent and ensure the door never opened for Cleveland.
That's enough to get a solid report card to bring home.