A weekend bereft of wins for St. Louis sports fans provided few positives. The Cardinals didn’t get the expected performance from Jaime Garcia and their defense in a Saturday loss to the Cubs, Drew Lock was proven to be an eighteen year old human in Mizzou’s loss to Florida, and the Blues couldn’t get the equalizer against the Wild.
Even though the Rams lost to the Packers, it wasn’t all bad. Here are ten takeaways…
1) This was not a bad loss. The Packers have now won their last twelve home games, and in their last ten regular season home games before Sunday had averaged 38.3 points per game. For the Rams to go to Lambeau and have a chance in the fourth quarter is actually an accomplishment.
2) We wondered when the Rams acquired Nick Foles whether he was the 27 touchdown, two interception quarterback of 2013, or the thirteen TD, ten interception thrower of last season. So far, it appears to be the latter.
With his TD pass and four interceptions (two inside the Packer ten yard line), Foles has six TD’s and five picks. Granted, he was under duress, but you just can’t throw the ball to the other team. And when you get to the red zone, as a quarterback you have to give your team a chance to score points. The two red zone picks didn’t give the kicking game a chance.
3) Todd Gurley looks like a potential star, with 305 yards in his first two NFL starts. I do wonder if, coming off an ACL injury, he can carry the burden of thirty carries a game. He had thirty on Sunday, and had 21 touches against Arizona. It’ll be interesting to see how much of a workload the Rams give him after the bye.
4) The offensive line is the opening big enough holes for Gurley, but the Packers were all over Foles in the passing game. Of course, Green Bay came into the game leading the league in sacks per pass attempt. No pressure, but this group must get better in a hurry. It will help that the Rams next four opponents; Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago and Minnesota are in the bottom half of the league rankings in sacks.
5) Over the long haul, the Rams need a healthy Chris Long on their line. He makes everyone better, and is a spiritual leader of the entire defense. He suffered a second quarter knee injury and didn’t return. Hopefully this injury won’t be one that knocks him out for the Cleveland game. With Alec Ogletree already out, this defense can’t afford to lose any more starters.
6) Speaking of Ogletree, he was averaging about eleven tackles per game over the last three games before breaking his leg. The outside linebacker position didn’t pick up for him, with Akeem Ayers failing to register a tackle according to press box stats, and Mark Barron tallying five. But Lamarcus Joyner had seven tackles and T.J. McDonald had six, so the safeties coming up and making plays made up somewhat for the loss of the Rams leading tackler.
7) Both interceptions of Aaron Rodgers…his first at home since December 2, 2012, a span of 492 passes…were great plays. James Laurinaitis was exceptionally alert and caught Barron’s tip for the first pick, and then Trumaine Johnson made a great play for the second. Johnson has developed outstanding anticipation to go with technique and athletic ability. He’s turned the corner and looks like a premier corner in the league.
8) Greg Zuerlein missed three field goals, a 50 yarder that was blocked, the other two from 53 and 63 yards. It’s hard to blame the kicker when that happens. Granted, we’d like to have those nine points, but with a wind blowing on the field at Lambeau, it’s hard to expect Zuerlein to hit from that distance.
9) Once again, the defense was good enough. The group allowed Green Bay to score seventeen points. If the defense allows just two touchdowns and a field goal in Green Bay, you have to feel good about it. I would guess Jeff Fisher and his staff thought they’d need at least 25 to win this game, and as previously mentioned they couldn’t convert.
If Foles doesn’t throw the pick-six and is able to complete one touchdown pass inside the ten, it’s a tie game. The Packers had 322 yards, were 4-of-13 on third down (31%) and had one trip into the red zone, which was unsuccessful. That’s great Rams defense.
10) After a bye week that gives the offensive line more of a chance to mesh, the schedule opens up a bit. Keep in mind that the Rams flip-flopped guards Jamon Brown and Rodger Saffold just before the last pre-season game, so those two don’t have a ton of time at their spots and with their partners at tackle. The next five games, against Cleveland, San Francisco, at Minnesota, Chicago and at Baltimore are all very winnable games. Especially with the ascent of Gurley and the effectiveness of the Rams defense, if they don’t turn the ball over, they can beat a lot of teams. They’ve nearly reached the point that if Gurley is what we think he is, the Rams can only beat themselves.