To put it mildly, the Rams performance in the first game of the 2011 season was horrible. It seemed that every part of the team was consistently schooled by the “dream team” Eagles, leaving more questions than answers if St. Louis is actually ready to become a playoff contender. Here are the team grades for the game:
Sam Bradford was shaky all day and completed only 17 of 30 passes for 188 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was victimized several times by an Eagles pass rush, including giving up a fumble for a touchdown, and can only do so much when the receivers drop pass after pass. The scariest part is how he continues to look only a few yards down field on most plays. The Eagles have a great secondary but the Rams will be dead in the water if they can’t stretch the field.
AJ Feeley came in when Bradford left with a finger injury and completed only two passes for 21 yards when the game was mostly out of reach. Bradford is expected to be fine for next week but will need to step up considerably against a tough Giants pass rush.
Offensive Line: Run blocking: B-, Pass blocking: F
The offensive line started out great, breaking downfield to pave the way for a 47 yard touchdown run by Steven Jackson. They also exhibited more of a mean streak with Harvey Dahl, helping Cadillac Williams rush for 91 yards.
However, the pass protection was putrid. Bradford had little to no time to look downfield for 85 percent of the game and the Eagles pass rushers were relentless. Jason Smith whiffed on a huge hit to Bradford by Jason Babin and no one stood out whatsoever.
Running backs: B+
The running backs were the lone bright spot during the game. Steven Jackson had a huge touchdown on the first play from scrimmage but later left with a quad injury.
Cadillac Williams picked up the slack admirably, racking up 91 yards on 19 carries. It looks like the Rams have finally solved their running back depth problem.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: F
As I voiced in the offseason, the Rams have not done enough to improve the pass catching core. Mike Sims-Walker, the supposed number one option, had one catch for five yards. Brandon Gibson dropped big passes when the team needed him to step up, a reminder of week 17 last year, and Lance Kendricks showed some rookie jitters by dropping a few himself.
Danny Amendola went down with a gruesome injury that looks to be a dislocated elbow. There is no timetable for his return but if he misses any significant amount of time, the Rams will suffer.
The Rams should have tried harder for Sidney Rice and it showed as no receiver gained more than 50 yards today and none had a touchdown.
Defensive Line: D
The Rams dialed up some exotic blitzes, rattling Michael Vick a few times but were ultimately beaten by the scrambling quarterback.
As the game wore on, they seemed gassed and were caught out of position consistently as Vick and Lesean McCoy ripped off huge gains including a 49-yard touchdown from McCoy in the fourth quarter.
The line will probably have better luck against the Giants next week without a mobile quarterback to worry about but I expected more from them against a very average Eagles offensive line.
The linebackers played alright but need to wrap up more consistently. Vick was almost in their hands a few times and managed to scramble away like he always does.
James Laurinaitis had six tackles and recovered a fumble, showing why he is the leader of this defense. Ben Leber was underwhelming with only two tackles but Brady Poppinga managed to record three quarterback hits.
Cornerbacks and Safeties: Pass coverage: C, Run support/blitzing: B
The Rams are thin at corner but held the Eagles wide receivers to manageable numbers. Desean Jackson had 102 yards but only managed one touchdown on a great throw by Vick in the third quarter. No other Philadelphia receiver had a touchdown and Vick was held to 187 yards passing.
I noticed the Rams using the corner blitz heavily throughout the game to match up with Vick’s speed. It worked consistently as Justin King had seven tackles and a sack along with Bradley Fletcher’s four tackles. Quintin Mikell also sacked Michael Vick and exacted revenge on his old team by stripping the ball for Laurinaitis to recover.
Bartell went down with what looks like a neck stinger but should be alright for Monday Night Football against the Giants.
Special Teams: C
Jerious Norwood did well as a kick returner, averaging 26.3 yards on four returns and Josh Brown had two field goals.
However, Brown also missed a 47-yard field goal in the third quarter that would have brought the game within four points for the Rams.
The Rams were battered, beaten and bruised for the entire game. The Eagles are an elite NFC team and if St. Louis wants to be considered a contender, they have to show up more in these games. It is only the first game but there needs to be significant improvements for the team to survive this rough early schedule.