Rams vs. Cardinals: St. Louis' Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 12
The Rams had not won a game in 52 days, their last win coming against these same Cardinals in Week 5. They also had not forced any turnovers since that same game. Both of those things were remedied emphatically in Week 12.
Going into the game things looked encouraging as the Cardinals were starting a rookie at quarterback in Ryan Lindley and the Rams defensive front completely dominated the Cardinals O-line the last time around.
But we Rams fans have grown even more guarded in our optimism after the awful showing against the Jets in Week 11, the first game in years the Rams were actually favored to win.
Still basking in the warm glow of a Rams victory, let's take a look back at the game and decide who performed well and who should be chased out of town by a belligerent mob.
Winner: Steven Jackson
I don't know if I've ever enjoyed watching a running back more than I enjoy watching Steven Jackson. He plays the game with the intensity and tenacity that I love to see.
The kind of tenacity that gets you 139 yards on 24 carries, an average of 5.7 yards per carry. It was the 33rd time in his illustrious career that he had over 100 yards in a game.
He proved again that if given the opportunity, he is still the running back that the Rams need to have if they want to win games in the NFL.
Just keep giving him the ball.
Loser: Defensive Front
Playing an offensive line that they so thoroughly dominated six weeks ago, I expected more from Chris Long, Robert Quinn and company.
The Cardinals coaching staff must be given credit, though. They made things as easy as they could for their rookie quarterback with a bunch of three step drops—and some that were fewer than that—allowing him to get the ball out quickly before the Rams defensive lineman could mount much of an attack.
But, there were times when he held the ball and the Rams should have had someone in his face long before he ever threw it.
This was an offensive line that, coming into the game, had given up a league-worst 44 sacks and they were able to keep their quarterback's jersey clean except for on two occasions and neither one of those sacks came from starters on the Rams defense.
The Cardinals had a good game plan but the Rams D-linemen had opportunities and didn't take advantage.
Winner: Rams Coaching Staff . . .
. . . because they gave the ball to Steven Jackson.
Jeff Fisher had said all week that they understood they had been under-utilizing Steven Jackson and they had plans to change that.
They did, and won the football game.
The Rams receivers are coming around (as evidenced by Chris Givens' game, which we'll get to later) but they are not yet at a point that justifies throwing the ball more times than they run it.
In this game, Sam Bradford only attempted 18 passes while Steven Jackson had 24 carries. That is how the Rams' offensive play distribution should have looked all season and it is how it should continue to look as long as they have Jackson in the backfield.
Also of note, Jeff Fisher did a great job of making adjustments at halftime and coming with more blitzes in the second half to get pressure on Lindley. Without that pressure, and the interceptions and incomplete passes that it caused, I think the game turns out differently.
Loser: Greg Zuerlein
To call Greg Zuerlein a "loser" over one missed field goal might be a little harsh, but it was one he should have made and I was shocked to see it sail wide to the left.
It was 35 yards away. 35 yards. This is a guy who set an NCAA record with 21 consecutive field goals, nine of which came from beyond 50 yards. I expect him to make a 35-yarder.
At the same time, the Rams didn't end up needing those three points.
He has made 18 of his 22 field goal attempts this year including five from beyond 50 yards, and Pro Football Focus has him as their sixth highest ranked NFL kicker, so I'm not losing faith in the guy. But I was disappointed with his Week 12 performance.
Winner: Janoris Jenkins
Janoris Jenkins became the first Ram ever to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game.
That's St. Louis or Los Angeles—pretty impressive.
They say that turnovers come in bunches in the NFL and it would appear they are correct. After not having any in five weeks the Rams came up with four interceptions against the Cardinals in Week 12.
Of course, it helps when you are playing a rookie quarterback who has never started an NFL game.
Still, we all knew the Rams needed to start creating turnovers and Jenkins did more than his fair share on that end. Now let's just hope they can make it a trend.
Winner: Chris Givens
The Rams had three receivers with receptions of 37 yards or more. Chris Givens led them all.
A five-catch, 115-yard and one touchdown stat line would please any NFL receiver. For Givens, it was a career best.
While his streak of games with a catch of 50 or more yards came to an end last week against the Jets, the five catches against the Cardinals indicate that Sam Bradford is looking his way more often and his role in the offense may be increased in the coming weeks.
With his speed and consequent playmaking ability, the more time the ball spends in his hands the better off the Rams will be.
Winner: Danny Amendola
Listed as "doubtful" all week, Danny Amendola showed his toughness by refusing to sit on the sidelines in Week 12.
Despite a heel injury that caused him to noticeably limp while moving around on the field, Amendola not only suited up but gave up his body, again, to catch a 38-yard bomb from Sam Bradford that set the Rams up in great position to score a touchdown.
It was his only catch of the game, showing that he was used mainly as a decoy, but Amendola proved his mettle once again in impressive fashion.
Push: Sam Bradford
His quarterback rating for the game was 106.2, a very good score. But he completed less than 50% of his passes (8-of-17) and made some poor decisions. The interception in the end zone was a terrible play, one that I'm sure he wishes he had back.
Rams fans keep waiting for Bradford to show he has the ability to be "the guy," to put the team on his back and will a win out of them. He still hasn't shown that. The tenacity, the refusal to loose is still missing.
At the same time, he made some beautiful throws down the sideline to both Givens and Amendola.
And that's the story of Sam Bradford at this point in his career: flashes of brilliance interspersed with maddeningly poor decisions and mediocre play.
I for one am in the camp that believes he will become an elite quarterback once he can stay in the same offensive system for a few years in a row and get surrounded by the kind of weapons one needs to have to perform well on a consistent basis in the NFL.
His overall performance in the Week 12 game against the Cardinals was neither great nor terrible, just another mediocre showing from the franchise QB.