St. Louis Rams Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 7?
Where did things go wrong for Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams? On defense, his team only allowed an astonishing 156 yards of total offense on 49 plays. And on offense, it piled up a season-high 462 yards, the highest mark since Scott Linehan was head coach in 2006.
A 17-14 loss has to sting that much more after completely dominating the opposition on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, the poor third-down efficiency on offense and the three missed field goals did them in. Coming into Week 6, Greg "the leg" Zuerlein was a perfect 13-of-13. However, the outdoor conditions of Sun Life Stadium didn't allow him to stay perfect.
He went 2-for-5 on the day and missed the game-tying field goal. I'm not sure how many people expected him to make the 66-yard attempts, but he definitely had the distance. The only thing bad about the kick was the fact it went wide left, just like his two other misses on the day.
Can Zuerlein and the Rams overcome a disappointing loss and get things headed back in the right direction in Week 7? Let's take a look as we check out the Rams' progress report.
This one is quite obvious. Any time an offense puts up 462 yards, it's hard to be displeased. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's game plan for the Miami game was one of the most balanced and well-thought out attacks I've seen in some time.
It was good to see rookie running back Daryl Richardson back in the mix. He had one less carry than Steven Jackson, yet his yards per carry were 2.6 yards higher than Jackson's 4.3. His 11 carries were the second-highest total of his career. In Week 2, he registered 15 attempts when he replaced SJ39.
The 162-yard output on the ground was the backfield's biggest day since Week 8 of the 2011 season. Going forward, I would expect to see more split carries between the two running backs. I think St. Louis has used Richardson more in the early quarters, so Jackson's legs are fresh for the end of the game.
Quarterback Sam Bradford has benefited most from the improved run game. His touchdown to interception ratio isn't anything to write home about, but if you dig a little bit deeper, it's easy to see he is having the best season of his career.
When given time, Bradford has delivered time after time this season. With a clean pocket, Bradford has thrown for 1,008 yards and four touchdowns. He's also been very efficient against the blitz. When blitzed, he's 35-of-64 for two touchdowns and 368 yards. Not to mention only one of his five interceptions have come when blitzed.
Against Green Bay, they need to keep using play-action to keep the Packers stiff pass rush at bay. At home this year, No. 8 has 672 yards passing and five touchdowns. For the Rams' sake, they are hoping his play from Week 6 can carry over into Week 7.
With the good always comes the bad, and by games' end of Week 6, the bad was penalties, penalties and more penalties. Twelve penalties that spanned almost the entire football field (94 yards) will definitely set a young football team like the Rams back.
Being the youngest team in the league is one hurdle in itself. Then add in self-inflicting wounds like penalties, and it becomes a nonstop uphill battle to get back in the game. The biggest culprits from Sunday were Quinn Ojinnaka and Kellen Heard.
Surprisingly, Ojinnaka's two penalties were the first two of the season for him. Both flags came for illegal use of hands. It was a call Gene Steratore's crew was calling heavily throughout the whole game. Maybe his crew was using this game as an example for the rest of the league, or maybe it was just bad technique all the way around.
On the defensive side of the ball, Heard had a hard time with Tannehill's snap count. His offsides penalties helped Miami sustain one of its scoring drives. Two penalties on 13 snaps is unacceptable. Like Ojinnaka, those two penalties were his first two of the season.
The 12 flags ended up being a season high for St. Louis. Right now, it is averaging seven penalties a game—10th-worst in the NFL. A return home to the Edward Jones Dome this weekend will help, as it is averaging fewer flags at the dome.
Rising: Chris Givens
In last week's progress report, I predicted Chris Givens would be the one to break out and take over for Danny Amendola. I'm glad he didn't let me down. He caught three of his six targets for 85 yards, and for the third week in a row, he registered a catch of 50-yards plus.
Falling: Wayne Hunter
After playing about average for most of the season, Wayne Hunter's stock hit an all-time low after the Dolphins game. He allowed three sacks and two quarterback hits. His stock could bottom out even farther after Week 7, when he will be taking on Clay Matthews Sunday afternoon.
Rising: Jermelle Cudjo
After having a below-average start to the season, Jermelle Cudjo has made the most of his limited opportunities the last three weeks. He only recorded 20 snaps in last Sunday's game, yet he managed to single-handedly shutdown the run. John Jerry had no answer when squaring off against Cudjo one on one.
Falling: Janoris Jenkins
Janoris Jenkins had his worst game of the season against Miami's wideouts. He allowed eight catches on eight targets for 84 yards and a touchdown. Jenkins' mishap on the busted coverage cost the Rams defense a key chance for a stop. He thought he had safety help behind him, yet there was no other defender even close to him. He was on an island with wide receiver Marlon Moore.
The Outlook Heading Into Week 7
As I mentioned above, the Rams return home this week. They are currently 3-0 at home and will need to make it 4-0 to keep pace in the ever-competitive NFC West. Against the Packers all-time, Coach Fisher is 3-1 and St. Louis leads the series 46-44-2.
Fisher's club will need to watch the Packers vs. Texans tape and do exactly the opposite of Houston's defense. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense have appeared to hit their midseason stride two weeks early.
It won't be easy to shut down the Pack, but never count out St. Louis at home.
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