Rams vs. 49ers: St. Louis' Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 13

Dan GruchalaContributor IIDecember 2, 2012

Rams vs. 49ers: St. Louis' Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 13

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    For the second time in three weeks the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers played another tough, gritty, ground-and-pound style football game that went into overtime.

    This time, however, the Rams emerged victorious.

    Great teams find ways to win tough games, and that's exactly what the Rams did.

    I'm not arguing that they are a great team right now. But I will say they have the mental toughness that is required. They still need a little help in the talent department, though.

    It was a well-coached, well-played game on both sides of the ball for both teams. Let's take a look at the heroes and those who disappointed. At least one player qualifies as both.

Winner: Greg Zuerlein

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    Legatron came up big in this one. His 53-yard field goal tied the game as time expired in regulation.

    Then, on his first opportunity to win the game in overtime, he nailed a 54-yarder that had me, and I'm sure many others leaning in our chairs, willing it to stay inside the right upright.

    They were Zuerlein's sixth and seventh field goals of 50 or more yards this season, which puts him only one shy of the NFL record of eight set by Morten Anderson in 1995.

    Last week Zuerlein was in my "Losers" column because of a missed 35-yarder. The periodic loss of accuracy this season, I think, can be most likely attributed to his rookie status. Or maybe an occasional case of the wobbly knees or just a lack of focus that often comes with being young and inexperienced.

    He had his head on straight against the 49ers in week 13 and played a major role in getting the Rams a victory over not only a division opponent but arguably the best team in the NFL.

Loser: Johnny Hekker

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    To say that the Rams won the game in spite of Johnny Hekker may not be entirely fair because he did have an absolutely brilliant punt that went out of bounds at San Francisco's own 1-yard line.

    But he also had three punts of less than 20 yards.

    Much like Zuerlein's struggles this season, I think Hekker's terrible kicks in week 13 have to be attributed to a lack of focus likely stemming from inexperience.

    Things like this are expected from rookies but are also a little disconcerting when they happen in overtime. That was the case when Hekker shanked a 14-yard punt that gave the 49ers—with their own big-leg kicker in David Akers—the ball at the 50-yard line.

    Fortunately for Hekker, Akers ended up missing a 51-yarder on that drive, thus sparing him a week of grief from himself and the local media.

    All we can do is hope Hekker's performance in week 13 is not the start of a trend.

Winner: Janoris Jenkins

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    Janoris Jenkins scored his third defensive touchdown in two weeks. That's Janoris Jenkins-21, St. Louis Rams offense-25.

    Without Jenkins' ball-hawking proclivities the Rams don't win either of the last two games. He is the playmaker the Rams desperately need on defense.

    But the role of aggressive defensive playmaker carries with it a lot of risk and he has been exposed on numerous occasions this year too.

    Be that as it may, for the last two weeks he has been a savior for the Rams.

Loser: Janoris Jenkins

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    Dude got roasted in coverage way too many times.

    It is true that the Rams don't win without him because not many cornerbacks would be aggressive enough to come up from 15 yards away and scoop that ball off the turf and get it into the endzone.

    It is also true that he very nearly cost his team the game by giving receivers 10-to-12 yard cushions on nearly every play, even a 3rd-and-3.

    Some of those big cushions may have been by design but I can't imagine the Rams coaching staff telling him to stay 12 yards away from the receiver on a 3rd-and-3. All the receiver has to do is turn toward the quarterback and take a couple of steps forward and he has a first down.

    Like Hekker and Zuerlein, Jenkins is a rookie. These are things that can and will be cleaned up. Until then they will remain a huge liability.

Winner: Steven Jackson

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    The 49ers did an outstanding job of negating Steven Jackson's impact in the running game, allowing him only 48 yards on 21 carries, good for a dismal average of 2.1 yards per carry.

    It took them a little while but eventually the Rams coaching staff started getting him the ball through the air. He ended the game with five catches for 69 yards, giving him a total of 117 yards from scrimmage.

    I'll stand by the statement that there is not a tailback in the league who has better hands than Steven Jackson. Even if you load the box to stop him in the running game, he can still pop outside and beat you in the passing game. He is a perpetual threat no matter how a defense may try to stop him. And he is a lot of fun to watch.

Loser: Brian Quick

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    With Danny Amendola out of the game this was Brian Quick's moment to step up and shine.

    Instead, the coaching staff and Sam Bradford proved they still don't have a lot of confidence in him by only targeting him two times in the game. The only pass he caught was a third down play which he ran well short of the first down marker; a huge, intolerable mistake.

    Quick looks really good in the uniform and he has all the physical tools. He has been given enough time to reasonably expect more from him. He has to start doing better, soon. I am not as optimistic about his future prospects as I once was.

Winner: William Hayes

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    Hayes' 1.5 sacks led the Rams' defensive effort against the 49ers, but the whole defensive line played exceptionally well for the most part.

    What they did best was close off all of the running lanes for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, forcing him to make plays from the pocket. This strategy resulted in six punts, three of them coming in succession in the first half.

    The Rams coaching staff crafted an excellent game plan and the players executed it. Football sure does seem simple when it works the way it is supposed to.

Loser: Lance Kendricks

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    I have been accused of being a Kendricks-hater before, but I am doing my best to remain objective.

    The two point conversion was great. He caught the ball, turned upfield and got in the endzone.

    He was the Rams' third leading receiver, having caught three out of the five passes sent his way for 32 yards.

    My problem is the drops. He should have had both of the other two passes. One was late in the fourth quarter.

    That he caught three out of five is encouraging; it is as good as he has looked all season. The drops, however, are disconcerting. He is not going to be the tight end the Rams need him to be until he can bring in all the balls that hit him in the hands when he is open.

Winner: Chris Givens

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    It looks like I was wrong about Chris Givens when I labeled him as "just a burner."

    His 11 receptions against the 49ers in week 13 were more than twice as many as he has had in any other game in this, his rookie season.

    But it is not only the number of receptions, it is the kinds of routes they were and what he did after the catch.

    Until this game, Givens was used mainly as a field-stretcher, someone the Rams would bring in to try and get behind the defense so they could take a shot down the field.

    In their second go-around against the 49ers, the Rams used him as they would have used Danny Amendola had he been healthy. Givens more than held his own in that role.

    During the Rams' third possession of the game, Givens caught a pass then turned and lowered his shoulder into the defensive back and fought for extra yards. I think my mouth literally fell open. I didn't think this kid had that kind of play in him. I'm ecstatic to see that he does.

    Add to that play the ball on the hard slant route that Bradford fired as hard as he could to Givens' back shoulder, and all of a sudden I'm thinking this guy might be a legitimate top-tier receiver.

    Let's just hope he can keep up the impressive performances.