The Rams’ 34-31 overtime victory over the Seahawks was the most fun game at the Edward Jones Dome in a long, long time.
For the 51,792 on hand, it was awesome to be completely emotionally invested in a game, to be physically and mentally spent when it was over. There haven’t been many times in the last decade when I’ve come home from a Rams game and crashed, but I did on Sunday.
The players put everything into it, and so did the fans. Once again, we saw an example of how a football team can galvanize a community. The community of Rams fans at the Dome on Sunday could not have enjoyed it more, or been happier after it was over. It was a great day.
With that, six takeaways from a Rams win in the opener:
1) Sunday was only the second time under Jeff Fisher that the Rams have lost the turnover battle but won the game.
Last year, the Rams were 0-7 when they turned the ball over more than they took it away, and in three years under Fisher, they were 1-18-1 before they knocked off the Seahawks despite being a minus-2. There are two factors at play here.
Number one is that the Rams offense was able to respond to adversity, which is huge. So many times in the past if the Rams had allowed a late turnover touchdown like they did with Cary Williams’ fumble return with 4:39 to go, it was game over. Last season against Dallas, Austin Davis threw an interception that Bruce Carter returned for a touchdown and a ten point lead, and the Rams could never come back. Against San Francisco, Davis threw a pick-six with a minute left that knocked the Rams out of contention in a 31-17 loss.
After the sack-fumble that Nick Foles lost for a TD, he deftly moved the Rams 84 yards in 12 plays, capped by a 37 yard TD pass to Lance Kendricks. That tied the game, and sent it to the overtime in which the Rams won.
Secondly, even without running backs Todd Gurley and Tre Mason and wide receiver Brian Quick, the Rams had enough talented players on offense to make plays to win the game. Tavon Austin, Lance Kendricks, and Stedman Bailey all made monstrous receptions to contribute to a win.
2) The second year under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams apparently will make a difference, if this game is any indication.
The Rams turned in some really creative packages, especially when they utilized Lamarcus Joyner and Mark Barron in blitzes, and made Russell Wilson’s afternoon miserable.
Aaron Donald (two sacks, team-high nine tackles) is a legitimate star. Last year, the Rams had one sack through five games. Getting six sacks against Wilson and the Seahawks says a lot about where the Rams are defensively. St. Louis allowed Seattle just one offensive touchdown, and success on just one-of-four trips into the red zone.
3) Fisher spent the off-season talking about how he wanted to get Tavon Austin more involved in the offense.
When he hired Frank Cignetti as offensive coordinator, he talked about it. At the outset of camp, he talked about it. And even on the first Jeff Fisher show of the season, he talked about getting the ball into the hands of Austin.
Austin had four carries, including one jet sweep for a touchdown, and was targeted in five pass plays, catching two. Throw in his 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, and Austin was a major factor.
It’ll be interesting to see if he continues to be such a factor. One would think that as Todd Gurley and Brian Quick return to health, Austin will become more specialized.
4) How about a round of applause for the scoreboard crew?
After Seattle tried an onside kick to start overtime that the Rams recovered, the officials convened and determined that the kick had touched the ground first, and Bradley Marquez’ fair catch recovery was illegal touching.
Almost immediately, the play was shown on the big screen, clearly showing that the ball did not touch the ground before Marquez touched it. Magically, the officials reconvened and determined that the ball had not touched the ground, and that rather than getting the ball deep in their own territory, the Rams would get it at Seattle’s 49. The Rams moved 30 yards to set up Greg Zuerlein’s eventual game winning field goal.
5) I still think the Seahawks should have run Marshawn Lynch at the goal line in the Super Bowl last February.
Even though on 4th and one he got stopped when his team needed it most at the end of this one. Credit to Michael Brockers and Donald, who stopped Wilson on 3rd and two and then Lynch on the final play of the game to seal the victory. Those two were fantastic all day, and deserve much credit for the win.
6) Foles made athletic plays that haven’t consistently been made by Rams quarterbacks since Marc Bulger’s heyday.
Foles’ two-handed push pass to Cunningham early in the fourth quarter set the Rams up in great shape, but Isiah Pead fumbled on the next play. Foles was able to scramble out of trouble and make his offensive line look better than it really was.
Not to disparage the young line, which played very well, but Foles helped it out.
His playmaking ability can be the difference in winning games. Having an established NFL starter rather than the backups the Rams have used the last year and a half will offer them better chances to win.
Next week, the Rams are at Washington, and we’ll spend the week thinking St. Louis should win. To be a playoff team, that’s a game the Rams have to win. We’ll learn a lot about how good they are, and how much they’ve grown up, in week two.