Chiefs vs. Rams: Breaking Down Key Performances from St. Louis' 31-17 Win

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterAugust 22, 2012

Aug 18, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams tight end Lance Kendricks (88) is congratulated by Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) after scoring a 23 yard touchdown reception against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

After being downright embarrassed by the Colts in their preseason opener, the St. Louis Rams found a way to regroup and improve as they downed the Kansas City Chiefs

Rams fans were calling head coach Jeff Fisher a fraud and a phony after Andrew Luck carved them up like a Thanksgiving turkey the week prior, yet he knew it was only preseason. Fisher was more worried about situational work and keeping players healthy than he was about any meaningless exhibition game. 

St. Louis' offense came to light as the offensive line kept quarterback Sam Bradford upright long enough to throw two touchdown passes on their first two drives. In addition to the solid play on offense, the first-team defensive lived up to their end of the bargain as well by only giving up seven points through one-and-a-half quarters. 

Whether it's the preseason or the 13th week of the regular season, there are always individual winners and losers in both victory and defeat. Let's take a look at who helped the Rams the most in their victory over the Chiefs

The Running Game: SJ39

Even after a rough 2-14 season, Steven Jackson never quit on his team once. The poor guy has only savored victory 37 times in his eight-year career, yet that hasn't stopped him from becoming one of the most consistent running backs in that time period. At the start of this season he will be going for his eighth straight 1,000-yard season. 

You may ask, how has he done it behind such poor offensive lines? Simple: His vision out of the backfield is topnotch, just ask the Chiefs defense.

Jackson's nine-yard run wasn't his longest of the night, but nonetheless it was impressive. As Bradford hands him the ball out of the backfield he immediately has a choice to make; he either has to hit hole No. 1 or hole No. 2. 

If he hits hole No. 1 he will most likely get stopped by No. 56 Derrick Johnson as tight end Matthew Mulligan won't be able to seal him off. However, if he picks hole No. 2 his odds of popping off a big run increase as right tackle Barry Richardson is coming over to help double-team No. 77. So, which hole did Jackson choose? To no one's surprise he picked hole No. 2. 

An absolutely phenomenal display of vision on the cutback. 

Stock Up: Lance Kendricks

Last season was a nightmare for the second-round selection. Lance Kendricks' season consisted of inconsistent route running and drops as a pass catcher. The only real area he truly excelled in was the run game, as his skills as a blocker improved as the season went on.  

However, just like every year, players start with a clean slate. Past production does not dictate a player's future success; the NFL is a league that constantly asks the question, what are you doing for me right now? 

Well, right now Kendricks is coming off a strong showing with the Rams first-team offense.

Let's take a look at how he got so open on both of his receptions. On his first catch of the night, also known as his touchdown catch, the Rams are lined up in 11 personnel. Kendricks is on the right side of the line of scrimmage.

After the ball is snapped, Kendricks immediately gets into his route, which is an impressive nine route up the seam. As he bursts off the line he comes face to face with Jovan Belcher, so what does he do? He gives Belcher a fake like he is cutting his route off, but instead his fake takes him straight back up the field for the score. 

Even though the touchdown catch and run was eye-opening, I prefer his second reception of the game based on the formation and play call.

On this play, St. Louis is in 11 personnel again, but it's a variation that motions Kendricks off the line into the backfield. 

Kendricks runs a delayed route out of the backfield, which will cause confusion as the defense thinks he is staying in to pass protect for Sam Bradford. The delay ended up being for about a second-and-a-half long. After he gets into his route he makes himself available in the flat where he is wide open for a first down. 

Hopefully the high level of play can continue for the former Badger, as Bradford and the rest of the Rams offense will be counting on him. 

Picking Up the Pace: Rok Watkins

Training camp for offensive guard Rok Watkins has been up and down to say the least. Watkins was slow to catch on at the beginning of training camp since he showed up out of shape. But now that his weight is under control, he is ready to show why head coach Jeff Fisher believes in him.

During the team's first preseason game against the Colts, Watkins was playing along the right side of the line with the second-team offensive. Watkins had a strong game despite the losing effort. But really how effective was he, considering most of the guys he was blocking won't be in the NFL after August?

Nevertheless, Coach Fisher must have seen enough to get him reps earlier in the game this week. Not to mention, he was playing left guard, the spot Fisher would prefer him to start at on opening day. 

Watkins' strong play was acknowledged by the coaching staff in the postgame presser, which leads me to believe he will see more first-team reps this week in practice. But does his play deserve the uptick in reps? It sure does, and here's why.

No words could really do that block justice, so I felt the best way to understand was just for you to see it.

Strong, physical play up front has been missing in St. Louis for some time now, so blocks of that nature are encouraging to fans who have had to put up with poor blocking on the interior of the offensive line for countless years. 

The Rams showed vigor and life in their dominating win over the Chiefs. And it's rare that I don't point out at least a couple of poor performances from either the first- or second-team units, but up to this point I haven't seen anything to be overly concerned about after re-watching the game.

Be sure to enjoy the only game review all season long where I won't be critical of at least one player. 


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