For the first time since Sam Bradford’s last start for the Rams, the team is at 3-3, with a chance to move up in the standings AND a chance to go 3-0 in the division next weekend. A 24-6 win over Cleveland showed the stingy nature of the defense again, but the offensive identity continued to come into focus. With that, 10 takeaways from Sunday…
1) The first four Ram drives netted a total of sixteen net yards. At one point, the Browns had outgained the Rams 98-21. The offense looked bad. But in their final two quarters the Rams gained 200 yards and scored two touchdowns. They kept probing and found the holes in the Browns defense.
2) Rookie Todd Gurley ran nine times for 45 yards in the first half, 10-83 in the second. He’s the classic example of a back that just needs the ball. Some backs need to get involved and have a big run early. Gurley is one of those that you simply need to keep feeding the ball to. In his first three carries, he had minus-2 yards, then had a fourteen yard jaunt.
Then he had another minus-three yarder before ripping off runs of six, three, fifteen and twelve yards to end the first half. Then Gurley took off in the second half, scoring his first two NFL touchdowns. He’s a big play back who happens to be a pounder, too.
3) The defense forced four fumbles. That’s ten takeaways in the last three games for the Rams, and a plus-5 ratio. Teams that finish plus-3 in the turnover battle have a .933 winning percentage over the last seven seasons, and teams in plus territory win almost 79% of the time. Gregg Williams’ unit is doing their part, and with San Francisco up next at the Dome, we should see more takeaways.
4) The Rams solidly closed this one. In one of our returns in the Rams pregame show, we hear Jeff Fisher yell to his team “finish, finish, finish.” On Sunday, the Rams finished. In the last 17:20 the Rams outscored Cleveland 14-0 and the defense held the Browns to a punt, two fumbles, and a turnover on downs in their last four possessions. On both sides of the ball, the Rams finished.
5) Mark Barron is versatile. We wondered here how the Rams would use Mark Barron in trying to fill the shoes of the injured Alec Ogletree. Barron has stepped up like a seventh pick in the draft should. He finished with sixteen tackles, according to press box stats. He was all over the place. Once again, we see how Williams’ creativity benefits the overall defense, this time in moving a safety to full-time linebacker. This is perhaps the most versatile group of defensive players on one team in the NFL, and Barron is as versatile as any Ram defender.
6) The defense didn’t let Chris Long’s absence get them down. Long is the heart and soul of the defense, but he’s out with a knee injury. William Hayes, filling in for Long, had two sacks. And, to their credit, the defense played with grit and determination. Only allowing two field goals to the Browns, the way they’ve been moving the ball, is a major achievement. There were plenty of chances to let down emotionally, but they didn’t.
7) Kenny Britt had one catch for 41 yards, 25% of the passing yards Nick Foles had. And it was a big one late in the third quarter that set up Gurley’s first NFL touchdown.
The Rams threw the ball only 23 times, and wide receivers were targeted eleven times…with Tavon Austin getting seven of those targets. Britt was thrown to twice, Stedman Bailey and Brian Quick once each.
Obviously, Fisher’s offense is based on throwing the ball to tight ends and running backs. If you have a Rams wide receiver other than Austin in a fantasy league, you need not have him on your roster.
8) Jared Cook already had the dropsies, and his second quarter fumble blew a chance for a score. If Cook isn’t going to block and is going to drop as many balls as he does, it’s imperative that his ball security be pristine. He has not delivered on his massive contract so far. When Isaiah Pead fumbled, Fisher said if he put him in the game and he fumbled again, it would be on the coach. The same should apply to Cook. If his play continues this way, the Rams need to look for someone else to do the job.
9) The attendance was announced at 51,523. There were probably 35,000 in the house. If the league DOES care about attendance, then Sunday was not a good showing for St. Louis. Like the Rams, the Raiders attendance has been announced at around 55,000 for their three home games, while San Diego has had crowds of 66,000, 63,000 and two of 67,000-plus.
10) The last time the Rams got to 4-3 was 2006, Scott Linehan’s first year as head coach. They have a chance to get there next Sunday when the struggling San Francisco 49ers visit. It’s important for the Rams to put back-to-back wins together if they’re ever going to ascend to the league’s elite. There’s no reason for the Rams to lose to the 49ers. I’m a Missouri guy. Next week is an opportunity for them to show me.