I know it’s simplistic to blame the quarterback when a team loses a game. But I wish people would look a little deeper when their team doesn’t come out on top. Let’s take a look at some of the things that happened on Sunday…
What did YOU expect? I said at the end of the pregame show that I thought they’d lose 31-13. I thought until the last 7:19 that the defense was pretty good, and played well enough to win. Unfortunately, the game lasts sixty minutes, not 52:41.
The defense snuffed out Detroit’s opening thirteen play, 72 yard drive with Janoris Jenkins’ interception. Then they allowed a fourteen play, 80 yard touchdown drive, just the first of three 80 yard drives the Rams defense allowed on the afternoon. After Detroit’s second drive, they had held the ball for 15:45 to the Rams’ 5:49 time of possession.
The Rams needed to get a stop in one of the last two drives, but allowed two more 80 yard touchdown drives, one that took 2:26 and five plays, one that took 1:45 and nine plays.
In those two drives, the Lions never faced a third down. The first one had pass plays of 20, 18 and 24 yards to Brandon Pettigrew, and runs of 13 yards and five yards, for a touchdown, by Kevin Smith.
Then after Sam Bradford went 4-6 for 45 yards to set up the lead field goal, the defense allowed pass plays of 20 yards, 20 yards, 5 yards, 3 yards, 9 yards and 18 yards before the winning 5 yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Kevin Smith. In the last half of the fourth quarter, the defense had a chance to make a play 14 times, and didn’t make one.
On offense; the Rams off-season plan was to have Rodger Saffold at left tackle, competition at left guard, then Scott Wells, Harvey Dahl and Jason Smith. At the beginning of yesterday, they had Saffold, Robert Turner, Wells, Dahl and Barry Richardson. At the end of the game, it was Wayne Hunter, Rokevious Watkins, Turner, Dahl and Richardson.
Richardson, I’m sure, is a nice guy and obviously has some talent to play in the NFL. However, on Sunday he never blocked anybody. On the first quarter play in which Bradford was rushed, hit hard by Cliff Avril and overthrew Steve Smith, Richardson completely whiffed on him. In fact, Richardson didn’t make a significant block up until that point, either. On that very play, Brandon Gibson took a horrible unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that placed the Rams in a 3rd and 24. Bradford hit Danny Amendola to set up the first field goal.
On the Rams next possession, Chris Givens got open deep on 3rd and 12, but Bradford couldn’t lead him and Drayton Florence made a nice play. We can certainly blame Bradford for that play, but he threw it as far as he could, and it wasn’t far enough.
After Jo-Lonn Dunbar’s interception, the Rams drove to a 3rd and 5 at the Detroit 6. Dahl didn’t block Nick Fairley, and 2.8 seconds after the ball was snapped, Bradford was in the grasp of Fairley for a sack, and the Rams had to settle for a field goal.
On the first drive of the third quarter, after Saffold’s false start set up a 3rd and 8, Bradford was sacked by Ndamukong Suh. On that play, Suh absolutely overpowered Richardson, and Bradford conceded rather than get killed.
On Bradford’s 3rd and final sack…one which apparently prompted some twitter followers to say he didn’t have pocket awareness…there never was a pocket. Bradford was hit by Corey Williams 2.8 seconds after the snap, after Williams overwhelmed the rookie Watkins. The Rams recovered Bradford’s fumble, but wound up punting anyway.
The quarterback finished 17-25 for 198 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions. That was good enough for a passer rating of 105.1. In watching his sacks multiple times, I believe he had no chance to avoid any of them. Perhaps Ben Roethlisberger would have been able to deal with such pressure (I doubt it), but most NFL quarterbacks would suffer the same fate.
Bradford wasn’t perfect, but he’s working in a far from perfect environment, too. With Wells and Saffold, the Rams’ two best offensive linemen out, the protection just isn’t that good.
His weapons are good, but not great. Danny Amendola is a strong possession receiver, and Steve Smith has some ability. Gibson had a terrific touchdown catch. Remarkably, Brian Quick, the 33rd pick in the draft…the Appalachian State workout wonder…was one of two DNP’s for the Rams, along with backup quarterback Austin Davis.
I’m on board with developing young players, and I like the way the Rams are building. But with last year’s receiving corps what it was, when you take a player with the 33rd pick, he at least has to play. Perhaps he won’t make an impact, but he has to get on the field.
The Rams had only one sack. The Lions have a good, veteran offensive line. But the strength of the Rams is supposed to be their defensive line. With Stafford dropping back to throw 49 times, they should have gotten to him more than once.
The Rams special teams were fine. Johnny Hekker, even with an early fumble, did a good job. And Greg Zuerlein was terrific as the kicker. The return game was adequate, certainly good enough to win with. Of the Rams seven penalties, several were costly. Jeff Fisher and his staff will have to clean that up.
Ultimately, you know what the case is here? The Lions are better than the Rams are. I know some people expect perfection, and think the Rams are going to win every game. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that Detroit went to the playoffs last year, and the Rams have 31 players on their roster that weren’t on it last year, and of those 31, seventeen are rookies. The Rams still need a lot of help. What they did on Sunday was BETTER than we should have anticipated. The Rams becoming good is going to be a process, not a singular event. As a fan base, we need to understand that most teams in the league are going to be better for a while. I’m going to try and enjoy the ascent, rather than be negative about something…beating playoff teams on the road…that this team isn’t prepared for.