To quote Sam Bradford, "Wow." That was his response to Danny Amendola's highlight-reel-worthy one-handed, no-look touchdown catch that put the Rams up 14-0. But it may as well extend to the whole game, a 180-degree turnaround from last week and one of those rare football days when every single thing seems to go right.
Last week's Rams fan mantra, "It's only the preseason, it's only the preseason," might fall on a few deaf ears tonight in the wake of a manful 31-17 tuneup of the Kansas City Chiefs. Everything clicked for Jeff Fisher's team tonight, from start to finish, from first string to third, from Sam Bradford's first pass (an absolute beauty) to the rarely-seen victory formation.
It's only the preseason.
In many ways, the game was reminiscent of last year's preseason home opener, an outright embarrassment of the PeytonManningless Colts. Again, everything appeared to be clicking for a Rams team on offense and defense. This is a better Chiefs team, and one that played its first string for longer than the Rams did, but we don't know that they were taking the game's outcome any more seriously, Governor's Cup rivalry be damned.
So let's not focus on the score, which doesn't matter. There were still plenty of things that do matter that we can take away as very positive outcomes from this game, and let's start with the one everyone can say together: "Nobody got seriously hurt."
- The newly-nicknamed House of Pancakes kept Bradford as clean as he's ever been in a Rams uniform, and he got to shake some more rust off his deep passing, starting with a gorgeous 30-yarder to the right sideline, finding Danny Amendola. (He also launched one down the left sideline that Steve Smith couldn't catch up to.) He went 6-9 for 102 yards and two TDs against a pretty strong Chiefs pass rush and secondary, in a single quarter of work. That is not bad, no matter how you spin it.
- Bradford's timing looked a lot better as well. His throw to the end zone on 4th and 2 was a gutsy play, but a canny one as well as he saw the Chiefs' DB beaten and out of position to do anything but draw a flag. Bradford soft-tossed the ball in there for what looked like a fresh set of downs as Danny came back for the ball and got plowed over. But somehow Danny came out with the ball in hand and six points on the scoreboard, amazing even Sam.
- Backup center Robert Turner did a nice job in both the run and passing game. Jackson found some wide-open running between Turner and Quinn Ojinnaka, two guys who are essentially here to be placeholders for better-pedigreed starters. Even Barry Richardson did a nice job on Tamba Hali. At this point, I have to be relatively happy with where we are on offensive line depth.
- Amendola played a good portion of the game outside the slot, and looked like he belonged. A key to Schottenheimer's offense is positional flexibility among his WRs and TEs, so taking an existing weapon like Danny and establishing him in a new spot makes him that much harder to game-plan against.
- Also, Lance Kendricks did a damn fine Dustin Keller job. We need more of that, Mr. Kendricks.
- Brian Quick carried forward his good practice field form, making several tough catches and out-muscling Chiefs DBs for position to make plays. Justin Blackmon laid down the blueprint yesterday for the Jaguars, and Quick followed it to a tee.
- In the lower ranks, Daryl Richardson's running really stood out. He was decisive and sudden to the hole, a must for an inside runner, and despite his small size he was not an easy man for Chiefs defenders to bring down. Richardson's primary competition, Isaiah Pead, did not have a good game by any means, but he was not to be denied on a cathartic one-yard touchdown dive.
- We'll have to get tape to be sure, but Jason Smith appeared to do a stand-up job in his time with the 2s. And he spent additional time on the sideline, by himself, practicing his stance. The light switch may be coming on.
- Robert Quinn got his first real test in Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert, and he did well. Albert is much quicker with his hands than and surer in his backpedal any Rams tackle on the roster, and kept Quinn at bay for much of their time. But Quinn got the better of him anyway with a wicked pass rush that ended in a monster sack of Matt Cassel.
- Janoris Jenkins continues to be a playmaker, forcing a fumble on the Chiefs' first offense possession to set up Bradford. The Rams took a 14-0 lead and never had cause to worry for the rest of the game.
- It would be unfair of me not to point out that my personal punching bag Craig Dahl had a very fine game after stinking up the joint a week ago. He seems to see the field well from the free safety position, and is quick enough moving forward to still be a factor against the run. Granted, he wasn't tested much in the passing game, but for today we'll take it.
- The Rams' outside linebackers made a series of plays. Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Clark Haggan were both active, and veteran backup Rocky McIntosh seemed to be everywhere on the 2nd team defense, getting involved in two fumble recoveries.
- Trumaine Johnson and Josh Gordy, the team's presumptive 3rd and 4th CBs if Bradley Fletcher stays on the shelf, both had strong performances. Tru in particular really seems to be coming on, after looking outpaced during the first couple weeks of training camp.
- A pair of Spagnuolo draftees continue to thrive in the Fisher / McGinnis / Williams defense, as Eugene Sims and Jermelle Cudjo wreaked havoc with the Chiefs' 2nd and 3rd string offenses.
Fisher challenged his team on multiple occasions with aggressive situational play-calling, and got rewarded for it. He cashed in a touchdown on 4th and 2, and appeared ready to got for it on 4th and 4 from the 34, until he remembered that he has a golden-legged field goal kicker to work with.
Fisher even won a challenge on yet another forced fumble from his defense. Spagnuolo's record on challenges was abysmal, and there were numerous opportunities that he let go by for whatever reason.
You have to take it all with a truckload of DOT-grade road salt, but there was a lot to like in this Rams preseason win.