After the dust had settled on Sunday afternoon, I walked alone to my car just rehashing the game–which came in waves of what I could remember– the emotions, twist and turns, another overtime game and finally a Rams’ win. The one side of the ball that just kept jumping out at me was how aggressive both defenses were, each matching the physicality and toughness of the other, stopping the run and creating pressure. On Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams and 49ers stood toe to toe for five quarters for the second time in a three week period. Both coaches had the same philosophy–in my mind the perfect formula; they ran the football, managed the game offensively through the air and played dominating defense.
This is the formula that Coach Fisher has brought to the Show-Me State and the teams in the NFC West have all taken notice. The Rams are now 4-0-1 in the NFC West, they have swept the Arizona Cardinals and have a chance to do the same against the Seattle Seahawks on December 30th up in the great northwest in the last game of the season. They hold the tie breaker against the San Francisco 49ers as well, if it should come down to that.
When I look back at this game and review the tape, it was dominated by the front seven of both defenses Having played just three weeks ago gave both teams great familiarity of the opponent. Ultimately, this game came down to a chess match– a complexity of X’s & O’s, some luck and which team would make a mistake and allow the other team the opportunity to win.
The hiring of Jeff Fisher and an outstanding staff, a new GM in Les Snead (who is very thorough in his approach to scouting) and the retaining of the Rams COO Kevin Demoff to run the business side of the franchise have all been improtant pieces to the complicated puzzle.
During the off season the Rams revamped and aging roster, signed several key free agents to fill some hot spots and many of those players have paid dividends on both offense and defense;
OC/OG Robert Turner (starter at OC and OG maybe the MVP on offense)
OC Scott Wells (starter and dominate player when healthy)
OT Barry Richardson (starter)
OT Wayne Hunter (trade for Jason Smith, swingman at OT position and key contributor)
TE Matthew Mulligan (back-up & core special teams)
LB Jo Lonn Dunbar (starter)
CB Cortland Finnegan (starter)
LB Rocky McIntosh (starter)
DE William Hayes (back-up & key contributor)
DT Kendall Langford (starter)
LB Mario Haggan (starter)
2012 NFL Draft Class
WR Chris Givens (starter)
RB Daryl Richardson (key contributor)
WR Brian Quick (back-up & special teamer)
TE Cory Harkey (core special teamer)
CB Janoris Jenkins (starter)
DT Michael Brockers (starter)
CB Trumaine Johnson (back-up & core special teamer)
DB Rodney McLeod (core special teamer)
PK Greg Zuerlein (starter)
PT Johnny Hekker (starter)
Other rookies that have shown progress but were slowed by injuries are DT Matt Conrath (needs more girth), DB Matt Daniels and OG Rokevious Watkins; they are on IR and flashed a promising upside.
The Rams have a great jump on building a championship team through both free agency and the draft. Winning their division will always be the main goal as this young team matures and moves forward. Sunday was a great step forward, it sent a shot across the NFC West bow that the Rams can stand toe to toe with the second best defense in the NFL and come out with a win against a team that was projected to be back in the NFC title game. The future is bright.