Three things revisited: Rams-Chiefs
August, 26, 2011
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
Looking back on three things discussed here before the St. Louis Rams' 14-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday night:
1. Run defense. Teams playing with purpose during the exhibition season often look very good. The Rams, unhappy with their performance against Tennessee last week, resembled such a team early in this game. They allowed no rushes longer than 4 yards in the first half. They sent linebacker Ben Leber, safety Craig Dahl and safety Quintin Mikell on blitzes. Cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Ron Bartell were hitting hard, too. This was the sort of defensive performance the Rams were seeking from their starting unit, against the run and everything else. Leber at halftime, courtesy of the Rams: "The defense is looking good right now. We had the one sudden change and we responded great. Overall, we’ve been in some good situations, some tough situations, and we’ve responded. I think the defense is playing good right now."
2. Offensive consistency. The Rams opened with 12- and 10-play drives for touchdowns. They established running back Steven Jackson early. Jackson, a non-factor against the Titans last week, carried 15 times for 72 yards in a performance that should serve as a tune-up for the regular season. The Rams were determined to get him going. Although new coordinator Josh McDaniels generally prefers a one-back offense, the Rams used fullback Brit Miller extensively, and with positive results. Quarterback Sam Bradford used the running game to beat the Chiefs with play-action passes, including a 6-yard scoring pass to receiver Mike Sims-Walker. Bradford did throw an interception deep in Rams territory when he didn’t see Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson dropping into coverage. Bradford completed nine of 16 passes for 95 yards with two touchdowns and one pick. Jackson: "Overall, we look good. I think we’ve been able to execute in the running game and the passing game. Last week, we had some up and down possessions, but this week we wanted to re-establish ourselves."
3. Wide receiver competition. Sims-Walker made an impact with his 6-yard scoring reception. Rookie Greg Salas made a positive impression with a reception across the middle for a first down. We saw, again, just how much Lance Kendricks will figure into the passing game. The rookie tight end caught another touchdown pass, this one an 11-yarder. But the focus remains on the wide receiver race. Donnie Avery, Mardy Gilyard and Danario Alexander are the three receivers I’ve singled out as likely fighting for a spot if the team keeps six at the position. None seemed to get much separation in this game, either from defenders or from each other. Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, providing commentary on the Rams’ broadcast, found fault with Alexander on two incomplete passes late in the first half. The way Faulk saw things, Alexander didn’t anticipate the ball well enough coming out of his break. Faulk thought Alexander rounded off another route, allowing the defensive back to make a play on the ball. Gilyard found little running room on punt returns and fielded one inside the 10, usually a no-no. The Chiefs picked off Rams backup A.J. Feeley on a pass intended for Avery. Faulk suspected Avery tipped off his route.