Denver Broncos vs. St. Louis Rams: Full Report Card Grades for St. Louis

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVNovember 16, 2014

Denver Broncos vs. St. Louis Rams: Full Report Card Grades for St. Louis

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    The St. Louis Rams (4-6) secured an unlikely victory over Peyton Manning and the dangerous Denver Broncos (7-3), and this article will grade the Rams' performance. 

    The Rams scored just one touchdown in the game, but numerous solid drives that ended in field goals slowly put the game out of reach for Denver. 

    It was the St. Louis defense, however, that truly dominated this game and sent Denver home devastated. 

    The Rams created constant pressure on Manning and secured two interceptions. Every time the Denver offense picked up momentum, the St. Louis defense stomped it out with a key third- or fourth-down stop or a key turnover. 

    The Broncos' seven points were their lowest point total of the season. Denver was completely overwhelmed and caught off guard, and the result was St. Louis' biggest win of the season. 

    This article will outline St. Louis' win by providing a letter grade to each unit. The grades will be based on production, consistency and game-changing plays. 

Quarterback: A

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    Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

    Shaun Hill had an admirable performance, and there's no question that Jeff Fisher's decision to bench Austin Davis has now been justified. 

    It's hard to not be happy for Hill. He was handed the starting job after Sam Bradford's preseason knee injury, but Hill suffered an injury in the first half of Week 1 and lost the job to Davis. It was completely out of his control. 

    Hill certainly made the most of his second chance. He completed over 68 percent of his passes for 220 yards and one touchdown, and he did not turn the ball over once. 

    Unlike Davis, Hill was comfortable in the pocket, even when Denver brought heavy pressure. The 34-year-old had the poise of a veteran, and that's something the Rams didn't get from Davis. 

    It was an excellent day for Hill, and he made a big statement. Without question, he'll be the starter moving forward. 

Running Back: A

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    Tre Mason has been able to move the ball against some very stout run defenses in recent weeks, but his 113-yard performance against the No. 1-ranked Denver run defense was by far his most impressive showing of the season. 

    Tavon Austin and Benny Cunningham added another 18 yards on four carries, but it was Mason who stood out and likely had the best game of any Rams offensive player. 

    If the St. Louis backs can continue to run well, it will keep the pressure off Hill and allow the offense to shine for the remainder of the season. 

Wide Receiver/Tight End: A

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Unlike Denver, the aerial attack does not fuel the Rams offense, but the St. Louis receivers produced an excellent game regardless. 

    Kenny Britt lit up the first half. He had a 33-yard catch in the first quarter that would have gone for a touchdown had Hill led him a little better, but it didn't matter—Britt caught a 63-yard touchdown later on in the quarter for St. Louis' only touchdown of the game.

    Britt finished the game with 128 yards and a touchdown—his best performance since Week 14 of 2012 (143 yards).

    Cunningham had several clutch first-down grabs out of the backfield and finished with 31 receiving yards, and Stedman Bailey also added some first downs, along with 26 yards.

    The St. Louis receivers came up big in critical moments. It was a very promising showing for this unit.  

Offensive Line: A

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    Rookie left tackle Greg Robinson completely missed a block on Denver pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware. The play resulted in a violent hit on Hill and a fumble that St. Louis was lucky to recover, but that was the only blatant error by the Rams offensive line. 

    Denver entered this game with the No. 1 run defense in the NFL, allowing just 67 yards per game on average, but the St. Louis offensive line made the Denver defensive front look mediocre.

    The Rams rushed for 131 yards. It was the second-highest rushing total Denver has allowed this season (behind only the Kansas City Chiefs' 133-yard performance), and it nearly doubled the Broncos' 67-yard average entering the game. 

    With such a promising performance on the ground against such a dominate opponent, the men up front deserve a considerable amount of credit. 

    Hill did take three sacks, but the pressure was not too overwhelming for the most part. Outside of those three plays, Hill was barely touched by the pass rush. 

Defensive Line: A

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    The Rams needed a big game from the defensive line in order to have any chance at upsetting Denver, and that's exactly what they got. 

    St. Louis only recorded two sacks, but the pass rush was constantly in Manning's face. We saw batted passes, horrible throws by Manning and panic by the Denver offense—it was all a result of the Rams pass rush. 

    The defensive line had 11 combined sacks in the two games before Denver, so this unit is really heating up after a slow start to the season. 

    It's almost frightening to think that this group has been winning games for the Rams, yet Chris Long is not even back in the lineup yet. The group will be even more impressive when Long returns. 

Linebacker: A

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Second-year pro Alec Ogletree was expected to be a breakout player this season but got off to a very sloppy start. 

    Despite his terrible play at the beginning of the year, Ogletree has been heating up and now has two straight games with a pick. His fourth-quarter interception against Manning set up a St. Louis field goal and helped the Rams put the game out of reach. 

    Ogletree also led the team in tackles with 13, including 10 solo tackles. 

    Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis also had an admirable performance with 11 total tackles and a sack. Laurinaitis was bothered by a foot injury this week, per ESPN, but he didn't let it hinder his play. 

    The St. Louis linebackers had a dominate overall performance and limited Denver to a mere 28 yards rushing. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is surely elated after watching his unit's monster showing.

Secondary: B+

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    The Rams had a great game, but surely there's at least one St. Louis unit that struggled against such a powerful Denver team, right? 

    Not really. The secondary likely had the worst performance, but the group still had a very good outing. 

    Manning carved up the defense for 389 passing yards, but those yards were fairly meaningless considering Denver abandoned the run and was held to seven points. 

    Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was burned for a 42-yard touchdown at the end of the first half, but that's about the only harmful play the secondary allowed. 

    The St. Louis safeties were pumped up and managed to deliver some vicious hits. Emmanuel Sanders was knocked out of the game with a concussion, according to the CBS broadcast, and Andre Caldwell also left the game after a hard collision. 

    Not only was the secondary playing with intensity, but the group also deflected seven passes. And cornerback Trumaine Johnson secured a game-sealing interception late in the fourth quarter. 

    Manning got his fantasy yards, but the players on the secondary did not allow Manning to beat them with his arm. 

Special Teams: A

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    The special teams unit did not make any flashy plays that will make the highlight reels, but Greg Zuerlein and his five field goals won the game for the Rams. 

    The Rams had plenty of promising drives that stopped short of the end zone, but Zuerlein bailed out the offense by drilling every attempt, including two kicks beyond 50 yards. 

    The field goals began to slowly add up as the game progressed, and the score was out of reach for Denver by the final quarter. 

    Johnny Hekker did not have a great day punting and had a few short kicks. But Zuerlein had his best performance of the year, and it won the game for the Rams.