Sam Bradford earned his first ever fourth quarter comeback today against the Cleveland Browns. Here's how he did it:
Drive 1: Incomplete (negated by tripping penalty on Goldberg), Incomplete, Delay of game, 7 yard pass on 3rd and 20. Punt.
Drive 2: Incomplete, incomplete, punt.
(DAVID NIXON FORCES A JOSH CRIBBS FUMBLE)
Drive 3: 7 yard pass on 2nd and 10. Sacked.
(Watch as team kicks go-ahead field goal. Watch as Cleveland marches down the field. Watch as Alex Mack steps into his own snap on the Browns' attempt at a game-winning field goal.)
Drive 4: Kneel. Kneel. Kneel.
Okay, so it's not one that Bradford or the St Louis Rams will be looking to hang on the mantle, or tell the grandkids about. But somehow -- cue Steven Jackson highlight reel -- the team got a win today, and that's all that matters for the moment.
It was a game that honestly should not have been won, as the Rams had only one good quarter of football (the second). But just-good-enough play in the other three, with a stout defensive performance helped by the Pat Shurmurest of Pat Shurmur offensive gameplans ("Third and two? Let's dial up a one-yard pass...") that held an opponent's offense without a touchdown for the second consecutive week.
With jobs on the line, the Rams will take a just-good-enough performance and a win over 55 minutes of dominance and a loss, which is what they got last week in Arizona.
#1 Star: Steven Jackson (128 yards rushing, 23 yards receiving, endless motor)
Running behind an offensive line with more patches than the AIDS quilt, Steven Jackson literally carried the Rams offense on the day. He was kept from the end zone, as the Rams ended up kicking two very short field goals, but he helped set the tone for the Rams, and erased a lot of mistakes by his teammates. Just one example: breaking off a 17-yard run immediately after a stupid penalty set them back to 1st and 15.
#2 Star: Brandon Lloyd's 1st Half (4 catches, 48 yards and a TD)
Brandon Lloyd made the difference in this game, coming up with two very difficult catches - a one-handed tiptoe job on the sideline to rescue a botched drive, and making a tunnel for Bradford to throw into in the end zone, with Joe Haden draped on his back. His scoring catch was the first Rams touchdown thrown by Sam since October 2nd, and gave the Rams a 7-3 lead.
#3 Star: James Laurinaitis (10 total tackles, 1 sack)
The Rams' continued inability to move the ball after halftime placed yet another game in the hands of their defensive quarterback, and Laurinaitis came through with yet another big game. Laurinaitis and Chris Long teamed up for a pair of drive-killing sacks of Colt McCoy, forcing a punt with the Browns clinging to a 12-10 lead. When they next got the ball, they were down 13-12.
Honorable Mention: The Rams' replacement players
St Louis got stung by yet another set of maddening injuries. Another tackle (Rodger Saffold) suffered a concussion. Another two defensive backs (Al Harris and Darius Butler) left the game with injuries. Michael Hoomanawanui took a bad shot to the knee. Sam Bradford limped off for a play after having his knees rumbled on a 3rd down scramble. And in the oddest injury of the day, Cadillac Williams pulled a calf muscle while jogging onto the field.
But the Rams' depth saved them. Mark Levoir stepped in and stopped a certain amount of bleeding at left tackle, Josh Gordy and Justin King (yes, Justin King) played well at cornerback, and the Rams' linebackers got extra time on the field once Spags ran out of healthy safeties.
Oh, and David Nixon: Welcome to the Rams.