St. Louis Rams Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 11?

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St. Louis Rams Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 11?
Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

It's that time of the week again, when we evaluate the St. Louis Rams' play after an awkward-ending 24-24 tie. Going into Week 10, most thought St. Louis would either get blown out of the water, as the 49ers were 13-point favorites, or they thought the Rams would prove to be the upset special of the week. 

Unfortunately, neither proved to be true, as the game ended in the worst possible way. I'm not going to cover this in great detail again, given I already did yesterday. But I will say this: There is no reason any NFL game should ever end in a tie. It's absurd, and tying is like giving everyone a blue participation ribbon. 

For the sake of everyone involved, let's move on and focus on the Rams as a whole. Plenty of players shone, and others disappointed by failing to stay out of trouble on Saturday night.

At 3-5-1 St. Louis only has seven weeks left to prove they belong in the hunt.

 

The Good

After running through the game film for a third time, it was hard not to like quarterback Sam Bradford, wide receiver Danny Amendola and left tackle Rodger Saffold. Saffold was really the surprise player considering his status leading up to Sunday's game. 

Even though he had been on the shelf since leaving St. Louis' Week 2 contest against the Redskins with a knee injury, he played better better than anyone could have imagined. Logging all 88 snaps was downright impressive, but stonewalling right outside linebacker Aldon Smith was definitely his most impressive moment. 

Smith did end up sacking Bradford twice, but both of those went against left guard Shelley Smith.

Having Saffold back has to be a sigh of relief for No. 8—through 145 snaps, Saffold has only surrendered one quarterback pressure. His run blocking still needs some work, but he has always shown promise as a pass-blocking left tackle.

The biggest question mark has to be his health. Can he stay healthy for the rest of the season? It seems as if he is down on the turf every other game.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Another impressive return performance was that of Bradford's security blanket. Amendola has been severely missed ever since he departed the Rams' Week 5 contest against the Arizona Cardinals with a broken clavicle. The collarbone looked to be a non-issue on Sunday afternoon, and for the second time this season, he hauled in double-digit receptions. 

Bradford targeted him 12 times—with Amendola responding by catching 11 of the 12 targets. His 11 receptions put him over the century mark for the second time this season, something no other Rams wideout has done in 2012. In fact, no other Rams wide receiver has logged a 100-yard game besides No. 16.

A combination of Saffold and Amendola helped Bradford throw for 275 yards and two touchdowns against one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL. 

 

The Bad

Undoubtedly, the bad comes down to St. Louis' pair of starting cornerbacks. Both Cortland Finnegan and Trumaine Johnson had games they would like to erase from their memory banks. There's no question Johnson isn't ready to start, but he was put in a bad position when fellow rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins was ruled inactive for violating Jeff Fisher's team rules. 

San Francisco threw at him seven different times and had success on five throws. He may have only allowed 59 yards on those five receptions, yet the 49ers quarterback rating between Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick were an outstanding 96.7.

Quarterback rating is not the know-all, tell-all obviously, but it does warrant some attention. 

The combination of Kaepernick moving around in the pocket coupled with Mario Manningham finding the open spots on the field definitely worked against Johnson. It's hard to bag on him too much, though—we have all seen worse performances from cornerbacks making their first career NFL start.

Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
Moreover, I have no problem bagging on Finnegan. He is a seasoned veteran who is making $6 million to shut down top-flight wide receivers. His coverage in the slot on Michael Crabtree's touchdown was absolutely pathetic—easily one of his worst plays of the season. 

He is not usually one who bites on fakes as hard as he did on that play. San Francisco's quarterbacks exposed him just as they did Johnson. Finnegan allowed five catches on six targets and surrendered 32 yards after the catch on those five receptions. 

In eight games prior, he had allowed that many yards after the catch only one other time. His lackluster performance now marks two bad games in a row after starting the season off red hot. Pro Football Focus still has him at a plus-3.9 in coverage, yet the Rams need him to tighten things back up on the back end of their defense.

 

Stock Watch

Rising: Brian Quick

Brian Quick may have only been in on seven snaps, but his 36-yard touchdown catch may have been his way of saying, "I deserve more playing time." St. Louis drafted him to be a physical, big-bodied guy on the outside. And for the first time all season, we saw him get off the jam with ease and waltz into the end zone like he belongs.

 

Falling: Chris Givens

With fellow wide receiver Quick rising, Chris Givens took a major step back. The Rams could have used his speed on Sunday afternoon, yet he thought breaking curfew with Jenkins would be a better idea. At least Coach Fisher put him to work by making him run stairs at the stadium for his mishap—let's just hope he learned his lesson so he can contribute come Week 11. 

 

Rising: Chris Long

A familiar pass-rushing presence decided to end his slump at exactly the right time. In Weeks 7 and 8, Chris Long registered a total of one quarterback pressure, something that hadn't happened since 2010. Long came out of the bye week firing as Vernon Davis didn't know what hit him—by game's end, he registered one sack, one hit and eight hurries. A 10-pressure day overall—not bad. 

 

Falling: Janoris Jenkins

I have a feeling Mr. Jenkins may have been the bad influence and instigator on Givens. He's no stranger to trouble, and St. Louis could have used his services against the 49ers. His questionable actions are still lingering, but for the sake of the learning process, let's hope his poor judgement taught him a lesson. 


The Outlook Heading Into Week 11

As the Rams head back home to the Edward Jones Dome, they will need to lean on their running game once again this week. The Seahawks steamrolled the Jets on the ground, carrying the ball 43 times for 174 yards.

With Steven Jackson eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the first time in 2012 last week, he could easily make it back-to-back games for the first time since 2011.

Coach Fisher has an all-time record of 5-5 against the Jets in his storied career. Rex Ryan has never coached against the Rams, but he does know quite a bit about offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Expect a very tight game based on familiarity. However, there's no question Schottenheimer will have a couple tricks up his sleeve. 

I'm sure he is still bitter about being Mark Sanchez's sacrificial lamb in New York.

 

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