If you line up all the Rams' wins at the end of the season and held a beauty pageant, this 19-13 grunter over the Seattle Seahawks would rank dead last. But in the standings, all wins look beautiful. With a 2-0 record at home, and a 1-0 mark in the division, Jeff Fisher and his team won't be apologizing to anyone for lack of appearances.
Aesthetically speaking, there was very little to be proud of. Our run defense got trampled, as Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin averaged 6.2 yards per carry in their 26 touches. Our passing game alternated bad plays for good, with Bradford completing barely half his passes and no single receiver emerging as a go-to threat. (Somehow, Bradford hit eight different receivers with only 16 completions, a new high-mark in egalitarianism.) And our one touchdown came on some special teams tomfoolery that caught the Seahawks napping.
But boy, those special teams. Rookie kicking tandem Johnny Hekker and Greg Zuerlein accounted for all 19 Rams points. Hekker, a former high school quarterback, found Danny Amendola in the crouching tiger position on the far right sideline, unnoticed and uncovered in the end zone on a masterful fake-FG-turned-touchdown. And Greg Zuerlein ...
The kid from Missouri Western is a weapon that can be used at any time, lethal from anywhere north of the 50 yard line. Young Geezy / Greg the Leg / Legatron ... the sixth-round rookie already has earned more nicknames than the rest of the class of 2012 combined. He is also the first to etch his name in the Rams' record book, breaking (and then re-breaking) the team's longest field goal record with kicks of 58 and 60 yards. He may also have written his name in the NFL record books as the first kicker to make two FGs of 58 yards or longer in the same game.
Zuerlein's 60-yarder turned a failed Pete Carroll special teams gambit - a surprise onside kick to open the second half that Josh Hull alertly pulled down - and seven painful yards of huffing, clanking and chugging Rams offense into points on the scoreboard. There is no sweeter weapon than one that can create its own opportunities out of tiny increments of momentum.
The Rams' offense in the second half was mostly putrid. Put one clock-chewing 15-play 74-yard drive that ended in the game's final points aside on the shelf for a moment; our men's other five second half drives totaled 14 yards on 15 plays.
This Seattle defense is a very active, athletic bunch that did an excellent job snuffing our efforts to run the ball. However, they couldn't quash the coaching staff's commitment to the run, not after last week. Fourteen called run plays in the second half nearly perfectly mirrored twelve called runs in the first half. The fact that they got a mere seventeen yards on those plays is less relevant than other measurables.
Stat: Only two sacks and three QB hits were allowed on Bradford by the Rams offensive line, against a Seattle front four that accumulated eight sacks and four hits on Aaron Rodgers a week before.
Stat: 8:22 of possession time in a critical fourth quarter of a one-score game, playing keep-away from Seattle and encouraging them to abandon their own highly effective running game.
Stat: One big fat win against a rising Seattle team, dropping them to 0-2 in the division with San Francisco still looming twice on their schedule.
We like that last one the best.
One quick note on Sam Bradford, lest you think we were wholly unimpressed with the Rams' offensive day. He had a remarkably resilient performance, saving his best throws for clutch time. Bradford completed third down passes of 17 yards on 3rd-and-14, 26 yards on 3rd-and-13, 15 yards on 3rd-and-10 and 19 yards on another 3rd-and-10. Three of those conversions led directly to Rams points. And he made an absolutely gorgeous throw on a 50-yard connection with speedster Chris Givens. If these two can consistently find the range, this offense gets an order of magnitude more dangerous.
Will, great article. My suggestion is you better learn to like ugly because I don't see any return to the greatest show on turf days. The quick note, your last paragraph, is what I am focusing on. I thought Bradford showed many things that people say he can't do. That makes me optimistic.
I did like the Jackson screen that I knew would work. Sam did an excellent job second half of doing some very (dare I say) "Bulgeresque" slide of shoulders avoiding rush and sacks. But that D! Man. The smallish mr wilson looking even smaller after his barely 170 yard 3 int performance. If we can stop the run, this team can win more like this. Last year, we would've made sure we lost it. This year, I'm unsure if Fisher and his young "don't know any better" team knows how to quit. If they do, they are keeping it a well hidden secret.