Wrapping up the St. Louis Rams' 20-10 win against the Carolina Panthers.
What it means: The Rams improved to 4-1 at home and 4-4 overall heading into their bye, showing they've made significant strides since last season. This team has a competitive defense, an emerging quarterback and strong leadership. The foundation is in place. But the road gets tougher following a Week 9 bye. The Rams play four of their next five games on the road. They could have a hard time keeping pace in the NFC West during that stretch. The long-term outlook remains bright, however.
What I liked: The effort on defense appeared disciplined. The Rams sniffed out a couple trick plays that could have hurt an unprepared team. James Laurinaitis' early interception following a Carolina flea-flicker stood out as an important tone-setting play early in the game. Later, defensive end Chris Long brought down Panthers receiver David Gettis for an 11-yard loss on another trick play. Sound play on defense has helped the Rams hold seven of their first eight opponents to 18 or fewer points. The Panthers got very little going on offense, either by run or pass, and the Rams sealed the victory with a late interception.
What I didn't like: The Rams' running game wasn't as effective as it had been in the recent past, and kicker Josh Brown missed from 51 yards. Brown has long been a clutch kicker from 50-plus yards. He hadn't attempted one this season before Sunday. This was a close game through the first half and the Rams could have used points following Laurinaitis' interception.
Respecting the past: Steven Jackson played through a broken finger. He also showed respect for the Rams' past on a day when the team wore throwback jerseys while retiring Isaac Bruce's number. Jackson came out for warm-ups sporting an Eric Dickerson look, complete with signature goggles. Jackson was already honoring Dickerson's legacy with strong play on the field. The pregame gesture added a nice touch.
Trending: Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford has five touchdown passes without an interception over the Rams' last three games. He had previously thrown an interception in every game this season. His efficient play should keep the Rams competitive as long as their defense keeps playing well.
What's next: The Rams have a bye in Week 9, followed by a road game against the San Francisco 49ers.