Wow, what a game. It may not have been the prettiest St. Louis Rams win ever, but it certainly was the grittiest. Notwithstanding all of the things that did not go well for the Rams, they still found a way to pull out a victory over the hated San Francisco 49ers. I realize that many Bradford bashers are all over him for failing to score a touchdown, but I plan to write an article this week suggesting it may have been one of his best game in the pros. Before calling me insane, please wait and read the article before you form a conclusion.
I want to note all of the factors that the Rams overcame to win this game. 1) We did not get past the 50 yard line until the last drive in the 2nd quarter which began with 1 minute and 43 seconds left in the half. 2) We averaged 3.1 yards rushing with Bradford averaging 10 yards a carry. 3) The wide receivers dropped five passes, three on third down. 4) We survived one of the worst rushing the passer calls against the Rams ever. 5) A ridiculous false start on a two point conversion. 6) A shank punt in overtime. 7) Our best wide receiver was missing. 8) Our other “starter” Gibbons could not get open enough to even get a single target. 9) Other than Givens, our other receivers could not beat press coverage. Nevertheless, we won the game.
Let’s take a look at the preview to see if any of the factors I highlighted meant anything.
PREVIEW 1. 35+ RUNS
(A bunch of mumbo jumbo about how good the San Fran defense is) …
I want the Rams to use Steven Jackson as a battering Ram. Send him up the middle, send him left and send him right. If he can gain positive yards on most of those carries, he will inflict punishment on the D-lineman and linebackers. More importantly, Patrick Willis will be occupied. We can bring in Richardson and Pead from time to time to continue the attack and occasionally try to gain the edge and break one. In the past, this battering Ram strategy has allowed Jackson to have success in the 2nd half. Patience is the key.
This does not mean that Sam Bradford is minimized in the game. In fact, he becomes even more important because sustained drives will only occur if Bradford can complete 3rd down passes for 1st downs.
REVIEW – I did not get my requested 35 runs, but we were close. I got 27 runs in a situation where the Rams had great difficulty putting together any serious drives. They did not cross the 50 until very late in the 2nd quarter. In a game were Steven Jackson averaged barely over two yards a carry, he averaged almost 3.5 a carry in overtime. The last drive was mostly Steven, with a huge third down completion from Sam Bradford to keep the chains moving.
PREVIEW 2. SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS
Given the rather boring game offensive game plan above, (which is focused more on inflicting punishment than gaining yards), I think the Rams need something special from their special teams to win this game. I also think we need a 2 to 1 advantage in turnovers. Addendum, I would also advise the Rams to not fumble a kickoff return.
REVIEW – This was dead on. The Rams special teams were special. Hekker had some great punts (and one really bad one), and Legatron is the first person in the history of the NFL to kick a 50 plus yard field goal to tie the game and then hit a 50 plus yard field goal to win the game. If that isn’t special, I do not know what is.
Additionally, our points came on a safety (can be considered a turnover) and a fumble recovered for a touchdown. Finally, pursuant to my request, we did not fumble a kickoff return.
PREVIEW 3. CONTAINMENT OVER PRESSURE
I would love 5 sacks in this game, but honestly containment is far more important. If the Rams keep Kaepernick in the pocket, they will force him to throw. If they force him to throw, they will force him to read. Reads could lead to turnovers. The problem with the Rams pass rush this year is that it has been dependent on the ends or the blitz. Pressure from the ends tends to leave lanes for running quarterbacks to escape. Pressure from blitzes generally rules out having a spy for a running quarterback. In this game, I would far prefer to have a spy than a blitz.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that Kaepernick is only a running quarterback. He has shown an ability to use his arm also. I am simply trying to limit his tools. I am also gravely concerned with the Rams general philosophy on defense against a QB that can run. The linebacker retreat, which we do on almost every long down, leaves a tremendous amount of room for a running quarterback. Take a look at the last drive in the prior 49er game to see what I am talking about.
REVIEW – We got three sacks, and contained Kaepernick for all but one play. Yes, the one play was important and resulted in a 50 yard one. However, that one play also proved the significance of containment in the first place.
PREVIEW 4. Deep Threats
Sam Bradford’s job in this game is going to be take advantage of his few opportunities. When the run fails, he is going to need to complete passes to move the chains, so we can try to run some more. More importantly, once the 49ers are all about stopping the run, Sam has to take some shots deep on play action. Assuming Givens can avoid a suspension, I would suspect we will see multiple deep throws to him.
REVIEW - There were no deep completions, but Sam tried on several occasions to get deep. There is at least some benefit to throwing it deep, even if it is incomplete. However, this factor was not clearly relevant in the Rams win