What did we learn about the Rams as they beat Carolina 20-10, and improved to 4-4 on the season?
The most important thing is that the Rams are in the playoff race. Former Cardinals coach Gene Stallings always used to say that you used the first half of the season to jockey for position, kind of like a horse race, and the second half to make your stretch run.
Well, at 4-4, the Rams are a half game behind Seattle for the lead in the NFC West. The Seahawks, after getting drubbed by Oakland, are 4-3. And the defending division champion Cardinals fell to 3-4, behind the Rams. Not only is the division in play, but the Rams are a half game behind a group that includes Philadelphia, New Orleans and Chicago for the second wildcard spot in the conference.
We can all look at a single play in the Arizona, Oakland and Tampa Bay games and say the Rams could be 7-1 at the midpoint, but that’s the nature of the NFL. More important to me is that their defense is playing playoff caliber football.
In their four-game home winning streak, the Rams have allowed two touchdowns while the game was still competitive. A second quarter score by Santana Moss of Washington and a third quarter TD by Mike Tolbert of San Diego were the only touchdowns outside of garbage time scored on the Rams in their last 16 home quarters.
The defense is of great caliber. Even with injuries to Ron Bartell, Justin King, and Darian Stewart, the secondary held Matt Moore, who had 300 yards passing against San Francisco last week, to 194 yards and three interceptions…for a passer rating of 51.
Offensively, I don’t care what league you’re playing in or how long your passes are, when you complete 25 of 32 throws like Sam Bradford did, you’re impressive. Keep in mind that Bradford isn’t exactly throwing to the cast that observed the day Isaac Bruce’s number 80 was retired…Bruce, Torry Holt, Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl. Brandon Gibson, Danny Amendola and Laurent Robinson accounted for seventeen of the catches, which tells you something about Bradford’s ability.
Along with Bradford’s ball-control passing, Steven Jackson played in extreme pain and carried the ball 23 times for 59 yards. And he did it six days after having surgery that would keep most players out for six WEEKS! Jackson helped the Rams control the ball for more than thirty-six minutes.
Like Jackson said after the game, if the Rams can learn to win on the road, they can be dangerous. During the bye week, Coach Steve Spagnuolo and his staff need to figure out how to win on the road. Because for this team and this improving rookie quarterback, a playoff spot is there for the taking.