Even though St. Louis didn't put up 400 yards of total offense or shut out the opposition, today's game at University of Phoenix Stadium was by far the most complete game they've played all season long.
Defensively, they managed to force four turnovers and score two defensive touchdowns. Both defensive touchdowns came from the slumping Janoris Jenkins. The last five weeks hadn't treated Jenkins very well. According to Pro Football Focus, he had two of his worst games of the season during that stretch.
Not to mention the defense as a whole hadn't forced a turnover in six games. If it hadn't forced one in today's game, it would have set a new NFL record. Luckily, when it rains it pours—Jenkins, Craig Dahl and James Laurinaitis all benefited from the pick happy Arizona quarterback Ryan Lindley.
Yet, as good as St. Louis' defense was, there was none better than Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson and the Rams' offense. Bradford only completed eight passes against the Cardinals, but he made the most of every completion. He threw for 205 yards on those eight completions—which means he averaged 25.6 yards per completion. Easily, his highest average of the season.
Ray Horton's pass defense was strong for long stretches of the game, but Bradford found a way to gash his defense with a couple of big plays. The first big strike came on a 37-yard touchdown hookup with tight end Lance Kendricks.
The Cardinals defense totally sold out on the play-action fake as Jackson had been running the ball really well. With Arizona defenders peaking into the backfield, No. 8 hit the second-year tight end down the middle of the field. Kendricks piled on yards and a nifty stiff-arm to make sure he got in the end zone.
In the third quarter, Bradford connected on another 37-yard strike; however, this time it was the speedy Chris Givens streaking down the left sideline for the Rams' second offensive touchdown of the day. Even though Givens had to make a diving catch to secure the score, it was a beautifully thrown ball by Bradford.
Steven Jackson has out-touched Daryl Richardson 70-22 since the Rams' Week 9 bye.— Patrick Daugherty(@RotoPat) November 26, 2012
While SJ39 didn't manage to catch any of Bradford's beautifully thrown balls, he did manage to go over 100 yards for the second time in three weeks. Moreover, today's 139-yard game marked the third consecutive game he went for over a 100 yards in the desert.
It's also significant that Jackson has started to shoulder more of the load down the stretch. A 70-22 carry ratio compared to the rookie Daryl Richardson's is eye-opening. Remember when everyone said he had lost a step and Richardson should see more carries than him?
The only reason Richardson ever touched the ball more than SJ39 was because of Jackson's groin injury. For the first time since early on in the season his groin appears to be 100 percent. Which would explain his powerful and quick cuts that he put on display today.
Heading into Week 13, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is hoping this same type of offensive performance is on display as the Rams host the 8-2-1 San Francisco 49ers. Let's just hope next week's game doesn't end like Week 10's game.
There should never be a tie in professional football.
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