St. Louis Rams Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 16?
The St. Louis Rams' glimmering playoff hopes came to a screeching halt on Sunday afternoon when they ran into MVP candidate Adrian Peterson. Single-handedly, Peterson put an end to any Rams playoff talk by piling up a whopping 212 yards on the ground. Of those 212 yards on the ground, 111 of them came after contact.
Additionally, he forced four missed tackles en route to his second 200-yard game of the season. Right now, there isn't any one player who can match the productivity of No. 28, so the Rams shouldn't feel bad. They were just another attempted roadblock on his way to 2,000 yards rushing.
Nevertheless, their poor performance against AP wasn't all that poor to start with. They limited him to eight yards on his first carries, yet that was about as good as it got considering he racked up 204 yards on his final 16 carries. Nothing more than two extremely long runs sunk St. Louis' run defense.
However, not all was bad in Week 15. Let's take a look at the good, the bad and everything in between from the Rams' seventh loss of the season.
On a day where Sam Bradford was harassed to the tune of four quarterback sacks, three quarterback hits and 12 quarterback hurries, running back Steven Jackson was licking his chops in anticipation of a heavier workload. The only unfortunate part was, Jackson never got the call after amassing 34 yards on the ground throughout the first quarter.
Apparently, his four-carry, 34-yard effort wasn't enough to keep him in the game because at the beginning of the second quarter, rookie running back Daryl Richardson started splitting time with Jackson.
I'm all for splitting reps to keep a back fresh, but I find it hard to believe SJ39 was so worn out that Richardson deserved to help carry the load for the rest of the game. The Rams should have kept feeding the beast for as long as they could have.
Over the course of the next three quarters, Jackson only carried the ball nine other times. And a second-quarter implosion ruined any chance of getting the ball to the nine-year pro, as the Rams allowed a whopping 23 points. But even when the game was within arms reach, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer started to get pass-happy, something that ultimately led to his demise in New York with the Jets.
In total, the Rams' run-to-pass ratio was an astonishing 55-to-18. The Rams only ran the ball seven times in the second half. When digging yourself out of a hole, it is hard to become one-dimensional, as it allows the defense to tee off on the quarterback.
By game's end, the Rams backfield finished with 87 yards on 18 carries, which was good enough for 4.8 yards per carry. It's also worth mentioning that Jackson surpassed the 10,000-yard rushing mark, making him only the 27th player in NFL history to do so. Impressive considering he has never been on a team that has finished above .500.
With two games left to play, St. Louis has a shot at its first winning season since 2003. It has been a long time coming, and it only seems fitting that it happens under first-year head coach Jeff Fisher.
On a day where No. 28 ran wild, the Rams secondary did its part by limiting to Christian Ponder to 131 yards passing on 17 completions. Cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson all had fine performances in the defensive backfield.
This should come as no surprise, as Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has been underwhelming all season long.
Regardless, Jenkins turned in his first really strong performance since Week 12, and for Johnson, it marked his third straight impressive game in pass coverage.
The pair of rookie defensive backs were thrown at seven times total, and together, they only surrendered four receptions for 29 yards. Of the four receptions allowed, the Vikings pass-catchers mustered up a measly nine yards after the catch.
A big improvement in comparison to last week when Jenkins missed five tackles and allowed 19 yards after the catch on four completions. Johnson's ability to limit wide receivers after the catch speaks to volumes to his sure tackling.
There's no question; for years to come, the Rams secondary is in good hands with Jenkins, Johnson and Finnegan. Jenkins' play needs to even out, as he is a boom-or-bust player right now, but that is a common trait for most rookies as they try and adapt to the style and speed of the pro game.
Moreover, cornerback is one of the hardest, if not the hardest position to play in the NFL—especially as a rookie. At corner, the odds are stacked against you with today's rules, so it's rare to see rookie cornerbacks play at such a high level.
Yet despite the rookie roller-coaster ride, Johnson is still in the top 50 of all NFL cornerbacks, according to the analysts at Pro Football Focus.
Stock Watch (Week-By-Week Evaluation)
Rising: Harvey Dahl
It's a shame right guard Harvey Dahl went down with a season-ending injury on Sunday. He had his best game of the season as a run blocker. Jackson averaged five yards per carry when rushing off his backside.
Falling: Rodger Saffold
Despite not giving up a sack for two weeks in a row, left tackle Rodger Saffold struggled in other areas of pass protection. He allowed two quarterback hits and four quarterback hurries. It signaled the only game this season where he surrendered more than three quarterback pressures.
Rising: Quintin Mikell
Imagine that, another member of the Rams secondary who had a great game. Safety Quintin Mikell registered one quarterback sack, one quarterback hurry and only gave up 18 yards receiving in coverage. Mikell is quietly re-establishing himself as one of the top safeties in the NFL.
Falling: Craig Dahl
The same can't be said about fellow safety Craig Dahl. Dahl has been exposed time after time in the run game this season. Against the Vikings, he took plenty of poor angles against No. 28 and missed three tackles in an effort to slow Peterson down.
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