St. Louis Rams Week 8 Report Card: Grading Each Unit in the Rams' Upset Win

David Heeb@@DavidHeebCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2011

St. Louis Rams Week 8 Report Card: Grading Each Unit in the Rams' Upset Win

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    The St. Louis Rams pulled off the upset of the 2011 NFL season on Sunday by knocking off the New Orleans Saints 31-21.  The Rams never trailed in the game, and the final score is not a true indication of how thoroughly the Rams dominated this game.

    On their first offensive possession, the Rams missed on a golden opportunity to take the lead.  Rams QB A.J. Feeley, who was starting in the place of the injured Sam Bradford, missed a wide open Brandon Lloyd on back-to-back plays.

    The Rams were forced to punt, and it felt like "here we go again" for Rams fans.

    Not so fast, as Steven Jackson and the Rams' defense would rally the team to an improbably victory.

    Jackson had a monster game, and the Rams' defense held the Saints to only seven meaningful points (the Saints scored seven points on a defensive touchdown and they tacked on a late touchdown in garbage time). 

    This was a great win for the Rams, and this week's grades reflect that performance.

Quarterback

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    Stats: 20/37, 175 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 1 fumble (New Orleans scored)

    Summary: Feeley managed the game nicely.  He was not very accurate, and he held the ball too long, but he came through with several nice throws when the Rams needed him the most.

    Grade: B

Running Back

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    Stats: 25 carries, 159 yards (6.4 YPC), 4 receptions, 32 yards, 2 TD.

    Summary: Jackson played his best game in three seasons.  He had 191 total yards, with several of those coming on big plays when the Rams had to convert a 3rd down (and once on a 4th down).  Jackson showed great leadership, becoming very animated in the huddle when the Rams' O Line picked up a couple of penalties late in the game.

    Jackson carried the Rams—literally and figuratively—to this victory.

    Grade: A+

Receivers and Tight Ends

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    Stats (receivers plus tight ends): 16 catches, 143 yards, 1 touchdown.

    Summary: The addition of Brandon Lloyd finally gives the Rams a receiver that can make a tough catch, and he also has the ability to pick up yards after the catch.  Greg Salas continues to impress as a slot receiver, as he has now had three really good games in a row.  Still, there were too many drops in this game, and rookie Lance Kendricks continues to be invisible in this offense.

    With the backup quarterback in the game, this wasn't a terrible game, but there still is a lot of room for improvement.

    Grade: C+

Offensive Line

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    Stats: 4 sacks, about 60 penalty yards.

    Summary: The big guys played better.  A couple of the sacks on Feeley occurred because he held the ball for too long.  This was a step in the right direction, and it should be noted that Jason Smith did not play because of last week's neck injury.  I hope Smith gets well soon, but the Rams looked better in pass protection without him. 

    If Smith gets healthy, the Rams might start thinking about moving him to guard, because right tackle Adam Goldberg looked pretty good working against those edge pass rushers.

    Grade: B-

Defensive Line

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    Stats: 5 sacks, 9 QB hits, several hurries. 

    Summary: Chris Long had by far his best day as a pro, picking up three sacks.  Rookie defensive end Robert Quinn also had a sack, a blocked punt, and was so dominant that the Saints were double teaming him most of the day.  Fred Robbins even got in the act, picking up a sack late in the game.

    The Rams have to be excited about Quinn and Long coming off the edges for the next 6-8 years.  Those two were dominant today.

    Grade: A+

Linebackers

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    Stats (James Laurinaitis): 10 solo tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, 2 QB hits, 2 pass deflections. Laurinaitis dominated this game.

    Summary: The Rams gave up almost 300 rushing yards last week to the Cowboys.  Their tackling was embarrassing.  I get the feeling that those guys got an earful at practice this week, and the Rams' linebackers responded.

    Laurinaitis had a tremendous game.  Bryan Kehl and Chris Chamberlain also played very well, picking up a combined eight tackles, with three of those being for a loss.  Kehl and Chamberlain looked better today than Ben Leber or Brady Poppinga have all year. 

    Spags, let Kehl and Chamberlain play even after Poppinga and Leber get healthy.  They played great today!

    Grade: A

Corners and Safeties

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    Stats: 6 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, and lots of great coverage!

    Summary: The Saints scored 62 points against the Colts last week.  The Rams are missing their top four corner backs.  So how did we hold the Saints to basically one offensive touchdown?  Basically, the Rams dropped seven guys into coverage most of the day, and the Rams' front four generated a tremendous pass rush. 

    Let's give the Rams' secondary a ton of credit.  They shut down one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL.  Street free agent Josh Gordy had seven tackles (one for a loss), a pass deflection, and a critical interception of Brees right before the end of the first half.  Free safety Darian Stewart continues to impress, as he had seven tackles, two pass deflections, and a pick-six interception of Brees that was the final nail in the Saints' coffin.

    All of these corners are getting a chance to play because of injuries, and they know they are auditioning for their NFL future.  Sunday against the Saints, a couple of these guys made quite an impression. 

    Grade: A

Coaching

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    Summary: I was really happy for Spags to get this win.  In a week where there were talks in the St. Louis Post and other outlets about the Rams cleaning house, it was a great time for Spags to get a win. 

    Spags would have taken any win, but this is the type of upset that can create momentum for a football team.

    This was the Rams' best defensive game of the season, by far.  With so many injuries in the secondary, for Spags to get that kind of pass rush from his front four was a big development in this game.  That is something that was obviously part of the game plan, as there were a couple of "coverage sacks" in the second half of this game.

    The offense, considering the Rams were playing with a backup QB, looked pretty good.  I loved to see Jackson get a chance to run for an entire game, as opposed to the Rams trailing big in the second half and negating Jackson's physical running style. 

    I really liked the play calling by Josh McDaniels, as the Rams seemed to find a nice balance between the run and the pass.

    The only criticism I have of the coaches is, "Why take Jackson out late in the third quarter when the Rams were backed up near their own goal line?" 

    At that point in the game, the Rams were ahead, 24-0.  Worst-case scenario, you play conservatively there and punt the ball.  Instead, with Jackson on the sidelines, the Rams tried to pass the ball on a third-and-long from their own 3-yard line.

    Feeley held the ball too long, the Saints knocked it loose and scored a touchdown.

    Thankfully, the Rams defense continued to play well, and that play didn't give the Saints any momentum.  I just thought that was a terrible time to rest Jackson. 

    At that point, I would have loved to see the Rams try to put the Saints away, or like I said, just pound it with Jackson a few times to get out of the shadow of your own goalpost.

    Other than that, this was a great game by the Rams' coaches.  The Rams just pulled off the upset of the season, and Spags deserves a lot of credit for that.

    Grade: A-