Rams vs Lions: St. Louis' Biggest Winners & Losers from NFL Week 1
The Rams did the unthinkable. Almost.
On a day when the New York Jets put up 48 points on the Buffalo Bills, the Falcons hung 40 on Kansas City at Arrowhead and the Redskins took down the Saints in New Orleans, the Rams were the story of the day in the NFL.
There are no "good losses" in professional football, and not for this Rams team, losing 27-23 against Detroit. That might have been true during previous regimes at Rams Park, but not for Jeff Fisher and his staff.
This one hurts. To be this close to a victory and have it snatched away in the final seconds must be frustrating for the players. One can only hope that it will motivate them even more next Sunday.
There was a lot to take away from this game against Detroit. And despite the final score, most of what we can take away is positive.
The Rams are obviously a better team, and should be able to compete with almost anyone on their schedule.
Here's a look at the Rams' winners and losers from the Week 1 matchup against the Lions.
Winner: Rams' Defensive Backfield
This really was a great team effort from the defense. The team came out prepared and ready to play.
The Lions had no trouble moving the ball down the field during the game, but the Rams never let it get out of hand. The Rams defense played clean, solid football.
Just look at the Lions' first offensive drive. The Rams got good containment on an end around, limiting the Lions to a five-yard gain.
There were solid open-field tackles by Rams defenders on both Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, keeping the Lions from the big play.
The Rams weren't getting pressure on Matthew Stafford, but they kept everything underneath and when the time came, they didn't miss.
Janoris Jenkins' step under the route and interception deep in Rams territory was a thing of beauty. As I said last week, Jenkins can make you scream in agony one minute and then again in ecstasy the next.
Cortland Finnegan played Stafford again in the second quarter, releasing off his man and stepping in front of a pass intended for Johnson, intercepting the ball and taking it back for a touchdown.
There wasn't much agony for Rams fans watching the Rams DBs pick Stafford off time and time again.
Loser: James Laurinaitis
I was not particularly impressed with Laurinaitis' performance Sunday against the Lions. I didn't hear his name called much, if at all, during the broadcast.
There was one route over the middle near the team's end zone that Laurinaitis covered well, but the pass was dropped by the Lions receiver.
Laurinaitis was credited with only five solo tackles, well short of his norm. It seemed that No. 55 just didn't have the presence we've come to expect.
He'll be back with a vengeance, I expect, next week.
Winner: Rams Starting Wide Receivers
To the Rams fans critical of how Fisher has structured the team's wideouts, there is a reason Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson are the team's top two pass catchers.
They both know how to get open and both displayed very good hands against the Lions.
It seemed Amendola was there to catch every important third-down pass. He helped get the Rams back into field goal position after Gibson's terrible unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the first quarter.
That was following a 15-yard completion by Amendola on 3rd-and-8 after Robert Turner was called for a holding penalty.
Gibson's touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was bested in beauty only by the great touch Bradford put on the ball as he lofted it up in the air over the Lions coverage.
Amendola and Gibson combined for nine receptions and 121 of Bradford's 198 passing yards.
They both played huge roles in the Rams go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
Gibson broke a tackle along the sideline to gain a first down and keep the drive alive. Amendola followed that up with a nice catch over the middle for first down yardage to put the team in field goal range.
Loser: Steven Jackson
I don't intend to list all of the Rams best players in the "losers" category, but like Laurinaitis, I was not overly impressed with Jackson's game this week either.
Don't get me wrong, the offensive line didn't give Jackson much to work with, and Jackson did turn a few busted plays into some nice high-stepping gains.
Jackson, however, rushed for only 53 yards on 21 carries (2.5 yard average), and it seemed he never got into a rhythm with the offense.
There was not a more perfect example of this then when Jackson was taken down by Ndamukong Suh's hand, while Suh's other was fending off Harvey Dahl.
I guess there's some silver lining in that the Rams were able to carry a lead into the final minute against the Lions without ever getting Jackson really going.
Winner: Robert Quinn and Chris Long
There was a play at the end of the second quarter that I hope becomes typical of how this Rams defense will operate.
Quinn and Long get pressure on the quarterback from the outside, force the QB to scramble and rush a throw downfield. The Rams DBs attack the football and knock the pass down.
It was an example of a total perfect team effort.
Quinn and Long were able to get pressure on Stafford several times during the game, even on three-man fronts, that resulted in one sack of Stafford (by Quinn) and several rushed throws.
Loser: Rokevious Watkins
It surprised me that Watkins did not get the call for the starting lineup in Week 1. Maybe Fisher wanted the rookie to know that he wasn't going to be handed anything in his professional career.
But for a foot injury to center Scott Wells, it seemed as if Watkins was going to be relegated to the bench for this game.
The future is high for Watkins, but for the moment, he played exactly like a rookie.
Bradford took an unnecessary huge blind side hit when Watkins whiffed on a block of Corey Williams. Bradford fumbled the ball, but fortunately the Rams recovered.
Everyone knows the Rams offensive line might be the team's biggest weakness, but Watkins needs to step up his game very soon.
Winner: Greg Zuerlein
What can you say? The kid is so very cool.
Zuerlein converted all three of his field goal attempts, including a pressure-packed 46-yarder to give the Rams the lead in the final two minutes.
Zuerlein's leg continues to impress me. It seemed as if the 48-yarder he made in the first quarter was still on the way up as it crossed through the uprights.
The very small part of me that was skeptical Zuerlein might have a hiccup in the real games is gone for good.
There were so many other things to take away from this game.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar made many strong plays on the ballcarrier, busting up the backfield for no gains or losses.
The Rams defense was torched over the middle by the Lions tight ends, but so would almost any other team's.
Bradford to Kendricks in the play action is an almost guaranteed success, and the Rams need to do it more than just the one time in the first quarter.
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