After back to back heartbreaking home losses to Seattle and Tennessee, the St. Louis Rams took to the road to Indianapolis to take on a Colts team that had impressive wins over San Francisco, Denver and Seattle. Naturally, the Rams would be a decisive underdog and naturally, everybody would expect the Colts to run wild, including me. Fortunately for myself, I'm not only an arm chair writer but also an arm chair predictor because the Rams did the unthinkable in Indy, blowing out the Colts in convincing fashion and showing once again that the motto, Any Given Sunday, is absolutely true.
Rams Front 4 - The Rams have one of the most under rated defensive lines in the NFL and early in the game, you knew they would have their way with the Colts offensive line. Robert Quinn continues to chase down the single season Rams record in sacks while Chris Long opened the rout with a fumble return for a touchdown. Kendall Lankford and Michael Brockers continue to close down running games between the tackles and force teams to be one dimensional, something the Rams weren't doing earlier in the season. When you are able to this much of an impact with only 4, it allows the coaches to use the linebackers to help in coverage, something the Rams secondary continues to struggle with.
Rams Linebackers - From James Laurinaitis to Wil Witherspoon, the Rams linebacking corp had a very stout day against the run and the pass. The Rams were able to pressure and rattle Andrew Luck early while also shutting down the Colts rushing attack. This is the 3rd straight game where the Rams have been flying to the ball and making plays, something we saw a lot last season but again, not so much this season.
Rams secondary - Outside the usual Janoris Jenkins burn, the Rams young secondary was very good. Again, anytime you can take the ball away against anybody, especially somebody like Andrew Luck, you are doing a great service for your team. The Rams forced fumbles, picked off passes and hit every Colt in sight. The aggressiveness caught the Colts off guard and by the time they were able to adjust, the hole was way too big to crawl out of.
Tavon Austin - The Rams 2013 first round pick finally had his coming out party with 2 long touchdown catches and a 98 yard punt return that made this writer go from "WTF is he doing" to "Hot Damn, that is one helluva play". Austin is a burner and the Rams need to do a better job of getting him into space and letting him use his speed to make plays. Even though Austin had over 300 all purpose yards, the Rams still only targeted him 4 times on offense. In fact, he only touched the ball 6 times all game.
Kellen Clemens - Kellen Clemens isn't what you would call a natural pocket passer but he has been more the serviceable so far replacing Sam Bradford. The Rams didn't need Clemens to be Peyton Manning in this game but Clemens still managed the game effectively and made the right reads to get the ball where it needed to be. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Get the ball out fast and let these receivers do the majority of the work.
Zac Stacy - The rookie from Vanderbilt wasn't as successful as he had been against the Hawks and Titans but the threat of a running game forced the Colts to play more guys in the box. That opened up quick passing plays to Austin, Jared Cook and Chris Givens and helped the Rams move the ball at will against a Colts defense that had been very good in recent weeks.
Special Teams - Special teams has been a miss for the most part of the season but in this game, things finally started to turn around. The Colts were the team starting deep in their territory. The Colts were the team making penalties. The Colts were the team missing tackles and allowing long runs. Finally, John Fassell's young special teams squad played smart and it showed with great field position for the offense.
Penalties - Yes, I know. It seems a little off for me to be complaining about something when me team won 38-8 but penalties continue to plague this team, especially on defense. The Rams are getting better but you can't continue to "help" teams by giving them free yards. Andrew Luck used the hard count to perfection and it drew at least 5 penalties. You can bet the rest of the league has picked up on such things and will use that to their advantage in the coming weeks.
As the Rams enter the bye week, Jeff Fisher's bunch is a respectable 4-6. Of course, the Rams are also 2 plays away from being 6-4 and a real playoff contender had they not dropped the ball against the Seahawks and the Titans. The 2nd half of the schedule ratchets things up with road games in San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle and home games with Chicago and the Saints. I still think the Rams are destined to be a 4-12, 5-11 team but at least you are starting to see some pieces for the future coming together. In 2 weeks, the Rams welcome the Bears to St. Louis. Chicago is beat up and with the way the Rams have been playing in recent weeks, this is now a very winnable game. Hopefully the extra week off allows St. Louis to get well without forgetting how to play so in 2 weeks, they come back ready to try and get win #5.