In a NFC West match-up the Rams found a way to win on the road in Arizona on Sunday. The Rams had gone 5 straight weeks, 352 snaps on defense, without a turnover which is a huge part of the losing streak they endured.
That changed on Sunday thanks to rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins, a player heavily targeted by Green Bay and New England and beat for touchdowns on slug-o (double move) routes. Yesterday the highly touted rookie, who was passed up in the 2012 NFL draft because of some off field concerns, paid dividends. Jenkins picked Arizona rookie QB Ryan Lindley not once but twice and returned both for touchdowns. His performance Sunday made history, first rookie in Rams’ history to return two interceptions for touchdowns (36 and 39 yards) and was the first rookie in NFL history to do it since 1960. The Rams picked the Cardinal QB off two other times, safety Craig Dahl had a gift thrown right to him and his run after catch skills turned the Rams take-a-way in to great field position and linebacker James Lauriniatis’ pick pretty much sealed the victory late in the fourth quarter.
This was a team win with all three phases contributing. The formula to winning games in the NFL is simple. Teams must run the ball consistently and play opportunistic defense while winning the turnover differential. The Rams offense started the same way they did their game against the Jets by running the football, but the major difference was they kept running it. They fed Steven Jackson 24 times and the results were 139 yards, and Daryl Richardson contributed as well with 32 yards rushing. This allowed offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to open the playbook up and dial up calls that created play action for Sam Bradford to throw the ball down the field.
When Coach Fisher was asked about taking over the game by running the ball he replied, “Well, it’s kind of what we had talked about, not only at halftime, but also at the quarter change, that this is how we’re going to have to win this game is the offensive line’s going to have to take it over and they did with some help from ‘Jack’ (RB Steven Jackson). That’s how you win games on the road. When you have a lead going into the fourth quarter you have to keep the ball and that’s what they did. They did a nice job with it.”
While The Big Easy only completed 8 passes out of 17 attempts, he threw for two touchdowns and had one interception. Rookie Chris Givens had a great afternoon with 5 receptions 115 yards, 23.0 yard average, long of 37 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 kickoff return for 31 yards.
“Well, you’re seeing more production, different types of production. The first few weeks it was the long balls and now he’s making the short catches and runs, the jailbreak screens, and then the third-down catch there in the fourth quarter was a big play for him as well. He’s coming. As we said, we want to get him involved in the short and the intermediate passing game. He’s coming along,” Fisher commented.
The Rams defense played lights out in the second half. After holding the Cardinals to 23 yards rushing in the third quarter they became one dimensional and the Rams applied relentless pressure on Arizona’s rookie QB. Rams linebacker Double Nickel (Laurinaitis) led the team in tackles with 16, cornerback Cortland Finnegan tallied 13 and linebacker Jo Loon Dunbar, who delivered another big hit this game, and had 12 total tackles.
The Rams face Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome. The question being asked is did the Rams rise to the occasion on their last meeting or did the 49ers come sleep walking in that contest a few weeks ago? Each week in the NFL is different and this Sunday will bring a different storyline.