Blog by Richard Winer, M.D.
The stage was set for a nostalgic Throwback Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome as the Rams and Titans met in an inter-conference game. The blue and yellow jerseys, Jeff Fisher patrolling the sidelines, and a seven-point game were all reminders of the Rams’ victory in Super Bowl XXXIV. That was about the extent of any resemblance to that January day in 2000. Instead, the two teams engaged in a see-saw battle that ended in a frustrating loss for the Rams. Here is a look at some of the noteworthy numbers and records from the game.
You had to know this game was not going to be a carbon copy of the Monday night game against Seattle based on the opening drive. The Titans marched down the field aided by three consecutive first downs off of St. Louis penalties. Shonn Greene gave Tennessee the early lead with a five-yard run on a drive that covered 68 yards—just over one-half of the yards the Seahawks had gained the entire night. The Rams hadn’t yet run a play and the Titans already had not only seven points, but they had six first downs, one shy of the total number of Seattle first downs Monday. Unfortunately, the Rams were unable to follow suit and the team came away empty-handed as they have on every opening drive of the season.
The Rams entered the game as the only team in the league yet to tally a rushing touchdown in 2013. That finally changed when Zac Stacy found pay dirt on a three-yard run with 9:37 remaining in the first half to tie the game. After 590:55 covering over 39 quarters, 622 plays from scrimmage, and 243 rushing plays, the Rams got on the board via the ground. The “Zac Attack” continued as the rookie who played his college ball at Vanderbilt, just a few miles from the Titans stadium in Nashville, followed with a nine-yard touchdown run on the opening possession of the second half. The Rams had their third touchdown out of their last four drives to begin the third quarter, not to mention a 14-7 lead. It took only 13:56 off the clock, 11 rushes, and 21 plays to get that next rushing touchdown. As it turned out, the Rams held a lead in the second half for the first time this season without winning the game.
For the day, Stacy ended up with 127 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns along with a team high of six receptions for 51 yards. The last Rams running back not named Faulk or Jackson to have two rushing scores in a game was Arlen Harris who had three touchdowns in a Rams 2003 win in Pittsburgh. Stacy’s back-to-back 100-yard rushing games were the first since 2011 when Steven Jackson had three straight games with 100 yards on the ground. The last Rams running back to have consecutive 100-yard rushing games who did not gain 10,000 rushing yards in his career was Cleveland Gary back in 1992 (there was a bye week between the two games). The others since then are Jackson, Faulk, and Jerome Bettis.
Let’s keep in mind that Stacy followed up his 132-yard night against the Seahawks with another 100-yard game only six days later. Only three other Rams running backs have had back-to-back 100-yard games in that time span over the past 50 years. Charles White in 1987 had 112 yards in a Monday Night Football game in Washington followed by 137 yards against the Bucs in Los Angeles the next Sunday. Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson opened the 1984 season with 138 yards on Monday Night Football against Dallas and then gained 102 yards against the Browns also in Los Angeles the following Sunday. Lawrence McCutcheon did the deed in a slightly different way in 1976 as he rushed for 119 yards against the Saints on a Sunday and then came up with 121 yards the next Saturday afternoon in a 59-0 romp also at home against the Falcons.
When the Rams first moved to St. Louis in 1995, the Rams ran off a string of 39 consecutive wins when a running back gained 100 yards. That ended in a 2006 loss at San Francisco when Jackson gained 103 yards. Since the streak ended, the Rams are only 12-19-1 in games with a 100-yard rusher.
Results on first down and third down are often intertwined to help tell the story of a game and the numbers are fairly telling from last Sunday. Both teams were committed to the run on first down, but the results differed. The Rams ran the ball on 19 of their 29 first down plays and averaged only 4.0 yards per play, about a yard-and-a-half below the league average. The rushing plays averaged 3.7 yards and Clemens was 5-for-10 for 45 yards on first down. The Rams managed only three first downs on those 29 first down plays. On the other hand, the Titans averaged 6.8 yards on their 30 first down plays and totaled nine first downs that included two of their touchdowns. Tennessee ran the ball 23 times for 134 yards, a 5.8 average, and Jake Locker completed four of six passes (he was sacked once for five yards) for 76 yards. This was a far cry from the Seattle game when the St. Louis defense held the Seahawks to only one yard per first down play.
Thankfully, the Rams made 12 first downs on their 26 second down plays. In fact, over one-half of the Rams total offense came on second down as the offense racked up 193 yards on those plays. That still left them 13 third down opportunities. All three of the Rams touchdowns came on 80-yard drives and the offense succeeded on all three third downs on those drives that took up 29 plays. On the drives that resulted in no points, the Rams had only two conversions in ten tries and both of those came on the opening drive of the game that ended with the Benny Cunningham fumble deep in Titans territory. We often have looked at the Rams on third-and-one, but that was a non-issue Sunday as the Rams did not have a single third down attempt of fewer than four yards and they were 0-for-3 on their three third-and-four situations. Yet, the offense converted half of the ten third downs that had five-to-nine yards to go. The Titans did not succeed on any of their three third downs with at least ten yards to go, but they converted all three of their third-and-one opportunities and went four-for-six with five-to-nine yards needed. Perhaps most troubling is the lack of success on third downs in the second half as the Rams are now 13-for-55 for only 24 percent while their opponents have gone 23-for-55 for 42 percent.
Even though the Rams were a perfect three-for-three in the red zone from a statistical standpoint, they had one turnover on a play that was entering the red zone, but started right at the Titans 20-yard line. The last chance to tie the game was on a fourth down at the Tennessee 26-yard line, but fell incomplete not just in the red zone, but in the end zone. Plus, the second and most costly St. Louis turnover gave the ball to the Titans in their red zone and they needed only one play to score the game-winning touchdown on their fourth successful trip to the red zone. In the vitally important statistic of points off of turnovers, the Rams have no points off of their two forced turnovers in the last three games. However, the opponents have cashed in on the seven Rams giveaways to the tune of 24 points.
So, it’s on to Indianapolis for a Sunday clash with the Colts, a team they haven’t defeated in 12 years. The Colts may have a Luck on their side, but it would be nice to see some good luck come the way of the Rams.