Sunday, November 24, 2013
Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 42-21 win against the Chicago Bears.
What it means: Left out of the playoff conversations that have begun in earnest, the Rams sent a reminder to the rest of the NFC that they aren't going to be an easy out for anyone. A dominant run game that piled up 258 yards helped the Rams score 28 points or more in consecutive games for the first time since 2000. The win is the Rams' second in a row and again came at the expense of a team with a winning record. Now 5-6, the Rams still have almost no margin for error in their final five games, but they can at least stake claim to having a better shot at the playoffs than they did before this game.
Stock watch -- up: Running back Benny Cunningham. When starting running back Zac Stacy went out because of a head injury, the undrafted rookie from Middle Tennessee State stepped in and didn't missed a beat. Cunningham posted his first career 100-yard game and scored his first career touchdown to help put the game away late. All told, Cunningham had 13 carries for 109 yards with the score.
Stock watch -- down: Cornerback Brandon McGee. It's unfair because this was McGee's first extended chance to play on defense, but he was simply overmatched by Chicago's bigger receivers. McGee picked up pass-interference and holding penalties to set up a late touchdown for the Bears and had trouble in coverage otherwise. He'll improve from the experience, but his struggles helped Chicago stay in the game.
Fighting through injuries: The Rams were able to hang on to the lead despite losing three key starters to head injuries. Stacy, left guard Chris Williams and cornerback Trumaine Johnson left to be evaluated for concussions. After originally having their returns listed as questionable, they were downgraded to out in the third quarter. The loss of Stacy was particularly costly as he was shredding the Bears' defense to the tune of 12 carries for 87 yards. Cunningham replaced Stacy, Shelley Smith stepped in for Williams and McGee filled in for Johnson.
What's next: The Rams begin a two-game West Coast swing against San Francisco and Arizona, the two teams directly ahead of them in the NFC West standings, before returning to St. Louis for two more at home before Christmas.