Vikings vs Rams: St. Louis' Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 15
This was a game both teams needed to win in order to preserve their playoff hopes. The Vikings appeared hungry, as if their season was on the line, while the Rams initially looked deflated and put forth a shockingly inconsistent performance.
Sam Bradford had a discouraging game after losing a fumble and coughing up an interception in the first half, but the poor protection from the offensive line didn't do him any favors. On defense, the Rams allowed Adrian Peterson to break free for an 82-yard touchdown, while they also forced far too many field goals instead of punts.
Bradford had two touchdown passes in the second half and the Rams made an admirable attempt at a comeback after trailing by 26 points entering the fourth quarter, but it wasn't meant to be.
One of the plays that secured the loss came on the Rams' final drive of the first half as they were down 27-7. A touchdown would have made it a two-score game heading into halftime, so when WR Chris Givens broke free downfield only to have Bradford slightly overthrow him, there was a collective sense of doom among St. Louis fans.
He almost made the play and the game could have potentially ended on a positive note, but "almost" doesn't count. In a way, that particular play perfectly summarizes the 2012 Rams—almost there, but not quite.
The Rams still have a chance to go up to Seattle and destroy those playoff hopes in the season finale, so there's still something to play for, but their 2012 playoff hopes have vanished.
As far as today's action against Minnesota, here are the key winners and losers for St. Louis.
Loser: Sam Bradford
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Sam Bradford finished the game with a remarkable stat line—377 passing yards, three touchdowns, 63.6 percent completion percentage.
Bradford was certainly productive overall and led the offense in a second-half uprising, but his mistakes were crucial in the outcome of this game.
His fumble led to a 50-yard field goal for Minnesota, while his interception resulted in a touchdown for Minnesota's Everson Griffen.
Had those drives ended in points for St. Louis rather than turnovers, the outcome would have been drastically different.
Bradford also overthrew his receivers in key situations. He missed Chris Givens at the end of the second quarter in what would have been a touchdown, while he also missed two receivers in stride on the final drive of the game.
Every quarterback in the league has bad days where they make questionable mistakes that hurt their chances. There were a lot of positives for Bradford, but this was one of those days for him.
Winner: Steven Jackson
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Steven Jackson had 146 yards from scrimmage including 73 yards on the ground, which puts him over 10,000 career rushing yards.
Jackson was a key offensive weapon in today's game, and his recent production has kept the Rams competitive despite their offensive struggles this season.
Jackson has over 100 yards from scrimmage in four of his last five games, and with 909 rushing yards on the season, he is on track for his eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season.
Loser: Offensive Line
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The offensive line was nothing short of awful in this performance. The consistency and focus was non-existent and it clearly hurt the offense.
The group allowed four sacks and the Vikings defense was in Sam Bradford's face for a good portion of the game.
On top of that, two false start penalties on the final drive of the first half completely killed the offense's momentum, while another false start by Shelley Smith during the final drive of the game added to the frustration.
The Rams have enough trouble producing points, but when the offensive line is practically guaranteed to knock them back five yards at some point, it makes things difficult for Bradford and the receivers.
Winner: Brian Quick
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Brian Quick was drafted in the second round last April with the No. 33 overall pick in the draft, but his development has been slow and somewhat worrisome.
Quick entered Sunday's game with only 144 receiving yards in 12 games, but he was able to spark some hope after scoring his first NFL touchdown against the Vikings.
Sam Bradford threw an air ball and Quick was able to outjump the defensive back in the corner of the end zone, which is exactly what he was drafted to do with his 6'3" height.
Quick finished the game with only two catches and his production is still modest, but there might be some potential after all.
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The St. Louis defense was faced with the difficult objective of stopping Adrian Peterson, and while that's a daunting task, there's no excuse for allowing Peterson to produce 212 yards.
The initial fan reaction is pointing a lot of the blame at Sam Bradford, but what kind of chance does Bradford have when his defense can't limit a player to under 200 yards?
Additionally, the number of Minnesota field goals was absurd. Vikings kicker Blair Walsh torched the Rams with five field goals.
Those field goals were the difference in the score and the fact Minnesota was able to enter field goal range on numerous occasions says a lot about the defense's failures in this game.
Winner: Danny Amendola
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Danny Amendola was quiet early on in the game, but he showed up in the second half and was a big reason why the Rams were able to make noise in the end.
Amendola found separation in the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, while he also caught a two-point conversion pass on the very next drive.
Despite being banged up in recent weeks, Amendola finished with six catches for 58 yards and a score.
Loser: Special Teams
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Special teams was not a huge factor in this game, but the portions of special teams play we saw were not pretty.
For starters, the Rams are apparently incapable of returning a kickoff past the 20-yard line. They need to just give up and stop trying. Take a knee every single time.
And while we're discussing returns, the trickery in the fourth quarter where Danny Amendola passed the ball across the field to Janoris Jenkins, only to have him fumble the ball, was far too dangerous in that situation.
It's understandable that the Rams wanted to surprise the Vikings and possibly produce a kick return touchdown, but the execution was pathetic.
Meanwhile, Greg Zuerlein missed a 57-yard field goal by a mile, so we should probably put an end to all the "Legatron" talk.
Unfortunately, Minnesota had no problem with missed field goals. They nailed five field goals while receiving no pressure or penetration from the Rams' blocking team.
Winner: Draft Order
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It's true that Rams fans are sick and tired of rooting for a loss in exchange for a better draft pick, but if you're a long-term visionary, then you see the silver lining in the Rams falling short of the playoffs.
Based on what we've seen out of the team this season, there's no realistic chance that they would have made any noise in the playoffs, but a playoff appearance would have significantly lowered their draft pick.
At this point, the Rams need to focus on knocking Seattle out of the playoffs. After that, they need to go into the offseason and continue to build.
If the Rams are just as productive in the 2013 offseason as they were in 2012, there's a good chance they'll have that extra muscle and finally earn a playoff berth.