Rams vs. Lions: 10 Things We Learned from St. Louis' 27-23 Loss

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerContributor IIISeptember 9, 2012

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 09:  Lawrence Jackson #94 and Nick Fairley #98 pressurer quarterback Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams during the fourth quarter of the game at Ford Field on September 9, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions defeated the Rams 27-23.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The St. Louis Rams opened their NFL season on the road in Detroit as nine-point underdogs, so there weren't a lot of inflated hopes or lofty expectations going in. 

The Lions have one of the best offensive units in the NFL and a defensive line that scares any offensive coordinator. 

But regardless, the Rams were able to play a tough game and stay in it until the end. They had a chance to pull off the win, but mistakes at the end cost them the game. 

Most fans aren't into moral victories, because they count for nothing in the NFL, but the Rams were still able to exceed expectations and give fans a reason for optimism, regardless of how disappointing the outcome was. 

So what can we expect moving forward? 

Here are 10 things we learned about the Rams based on their performance against the Lions:


1. WR Brandon Gibson Can Play

Brandon Gibson was only expected to make the team as the No. 4 or No. 5 receiver, if at all. 

Gibson was painfully average and uninspiring throughout his first three seasons with the Rams, so it was assumed that he had little to offer the Rams this season. 

But not only did he make the team—he's a starting wide receiver. 

Gibson made two big catches that kept the Rams in the game, including a remarkable 23-yard touchdown reception. 

At the very least, Gibson will occasionally give the offense a clutch reception when it matters. 


2. Offensive Line Will Haunt the Team in 2012

Quarterback Sam Bradford needs to take a good share of the blame for some of the sacks recorded by the Lions, but the offensive line didn't help whatsoever. 

The pass rush was constantly getting penetration on every snap, and they struggled to open up holes in the run game. 

Maybe the line will improve when they face lesser defensive lines later in the season, but don't count on it. 

Most likely, the line will be hurting the offense all season long. 


3. Sam Bradford Is Still a Question Mark

Sam Bradford made some solid throws against Detroit and was able to avoid throwing any interceptions, which is something he excels at. 

However, he had his share of awful throws, and his pocket awareness was laughable at times. 

No matter what your opinion of Bradford is, one thing we can agree on is that he still has a lot to prove. 

We still need to see more before we can accurately peg Bradford, but he needs to be more than an average game manager. He needs to start playing like a No. 1 overall draft pick. 

Bradford needs to start being the X-factor instead of looking for Steven Jackson or one of his receivers to provide that factor. 


4. Defense Could Be Top 10 

The St. Louis defense played the Detroit offense about as well as any team can reasonably expect. 

If the defense can give the Lions fits like they did today, then they can do that to any offense in the NFL. 

It should be interesting to see what this defense can do against a team that doesn't have a Calvin Johnson to bail them out.

Overall, this defense has a lot of potential and will do some very positive things in 2012. Top 10 is certainly not out of the question.


5. Offense Still Severely Lacks Firepower

We were able to see guys like Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola come up with the occasional big play, but the offense still doesn't scare anyone. 

After the season, acquiring real weapons has to be the top priority. They won't be able to seriously compete until that happens. 

And frankly, it's laughable that rookie second-round pick Brian Quick is on the bench. If he's a multi-year developmental project not even capable of playing for an offense as poor at St. Louis', then maybe it was a mistake grabbing him at No. 33. 


6. Greg Zuerlein May Be the Best Kicker in the NFL

If you picked Greg Zuerlein as your fantasy football kicker, then you're definitely loving that pick. 

In his NFL debut, Zuerlein nailed all three field goals and both extra points. And if you watched him in the preseason, then you know his 48-yarder against Detroit is merely a chip shot with his 60- to 65-yard range.

It's usually off base to proclaim a player as great one game into his career. But in Zuerlein's case, he may already be the best kicker in the NFL. 


7. Cortland Finnegan Was Worth Every Penny

In the first half, Calvin Johnson took a hard hit from safety Craig Dahl that ejected Johnson's helmet and sent pieces of the padding all over the field. 

Then, Cortland Finnegan walked over to pick up a piece of the padding. 

Did Finnegan pick up the padding to give Johnson a hand and help him out? Not likely. 

Finnegan threw the padding to the Rams' sidelines in order to temporarily remove Johnson from the game while he fixed his helmet. 

This is one of the reasons why the Rams signed Finnegan to a major contract. He's constantly pissing off the opposing team, and that's the attitude they're looking for. 

And not to mention, he had a pick six and displayed great coverage and tackling skills. 

Finnegan was a great addition.


8. Rams Need to Trade for a Tackle

The Rams were paper thin at offensive tackle entering the season, and we all knew there was no one on the roster capable of replacing Rodger Saffold on the left side in the event of an injury. 

Unfortunately for the Rams, their worst fear came to fruition during the very first game of the season—Saffold was seriously injured and had to be carted off the field. 

Wayne Hunter and Barry Richardson are now the starting tackles, and they're the worst tackle duo in the NFL by a mile. 

And based on what we saw against Detroit, it's not out of the question for the Rams to compete this season. So why let the injury spoil the entire season? 

The Rams need to forget the waiver wire and see if a reliable tackle can be had for a high draft pick. They certainly have the ammunition with four first-round picks and two second-round picks over the next two years 


9. The Team Is Still Young

After watching today's game, it's clear that the Rams need to gain some experience before they can really do some damage. 

Some of the younger players are showing talent, but they need to gel and get past the mental errors. 

Until they start playing like veterans, the team will struggle to put away games in the fourth quarter. But this should improve later in the season, as well as in future seasons. 


10. They're Not the Same Old Rams

It's been a while since watching Rams football has been fun, but if this game is any indication, then the 2012 season should be a blast regardless of the ultimate outcome. 

The demeanor on the field, the overall swagger and confidence, is on a completely different level compared to last season. 

The competitive fire we saw on the field is a direct result of the improved coaching staff, and things will only get better from here on out. 


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