Maybe the fact that I remember details of the Rams horrid past prevent me from railing about the Rams going in to San Francisco and playing to a 24-24 tie with the most physical team in the NFL.
Sure, I would have liked to have seen Jeff Fisher call time out before the Rams were assessed a delay of game penalty late in overtime that would have given the Rams a win on a Greg Zuerlein field goal. Maybe Fisher SHOULD have let his young team run a play on their own rather than call a time out with just over a minute left in regulation. I tended to agree with his thought that he wanted to settle things down and be organized in that situation, but lots of people, understandably, wanted him to bleed some more clock. But I did see lots of good things out of the Rams, too.
Last year, Steve Spagnuolo took his last club into Candlestick Park, and the offense moved into 49er territory three times, with their deepest penetration going to the San Francisco 38 yard line in a 26-0 loss. This time, the Rams scored three touchdowns on offense, and moved into the San Francisco side of the field two other times. Of course, last year A.J. Feeley played quarterback, and this year Sam Bradford did.
Last year’s Rams defense allowed 389 yards to the 49ers on 63 plays for 6.2 yards per play, this year’s defense, in one more quarter, allowed 64 plays and 341 yards, allowing about a full yard less per play.
The killer on Sunday was a total lack of discipline by Jeff Fisher’s team. Before the game even started, rookie starters Chris Givens and Janoris Jenkins were de-activated for violations of team rules. Then when the game DID start, the Rams committed a staggering 13 penalties for 85 visible yards, and many more invisible yards.
Their fifth penalty, early in the third quarter, was an illegal block in the back by Justin Cole during Danny Amendola’s 62 yard punt return that would have set the Rams up first and goal at the two. Instead, they drove to a Zuerlein field goal.
The tenth penalty was an illegal formation penalty against fourth year wide receiver Brandon Gibson, who didn’t line up on the line of scrimmage on the first play of overtime. That wiped out an Amendola reception from Sam Bradford that would have gone for 80 yards and another potential first and goal at the 49er two yard line. If you’re counting, that’s 142 yards in hidden yardage against Amendola HIMSELF!
The twelfth penalty was the delay against Hekker, and the field goal, which was good, would have obviously given the Rams the win.
We could argue very easily that those three penalties against Cole, Gibson and the delay of game against Hekker, cost the Rams the game. How often does that happen?
The Rams defense also went a fourth straight game without a takeaway, which is amazing. They did force four fumbles, but weren’t able to recover any of them. Two of those chances came on a San Francisco touchdown drive to start the fourth quarter.
On the positive side offensively, the Rams got a brilliant performance from Amendola, who caught eleven passes for 102 yards, and from Steven Jackson, who ran 29 times for 101 yards. Jackson caught two passes for 26 yards, including a fourteen yard catch and run on a 3rd and 14 in the third quarter. The eight yards after catch on that play were classic, powerful Jackson, and he knocked Patrick Willis backward to pick up the necessary yardage.
And, Bradford passed for 275 yards, going 26-39 with two scores and no interceptions. On the go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, Bradford was 7-of-8 for 52 yards and the touchdown.
If the Rams had played a clean, reasonably penalty-free game they could have won. And there’s no reason to believe they can’t compete with the rest of the teams on their schedule. They’re on the runway to success, and it won’t be long before Pilot Fisher has them taking off.