Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Morning Ram-blings: Getting his kicks
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS -- Most of the attention paid to the St. Louis Rams' special teams this season has been on either punter Johnny Hekker (positive) or the early-season rash of penalties (negative).
Lost in that mix has been the under-the-radar second season of kicker Greg Zuerlein. In a major departure from 2012, Zuerlein has only attempted two field goals from 50 yards or further. That's a far cry from the whopping 13 he tried as a rookie.
The lack of long-distance attempts has probably kept Zuerlein's profile a bit lower, but it's also kept his leg fresh and allowed him to put together strong sophomore campaign.
Zuerlein offered a pair of resounding reminders of his prodigious kicking abilities against Tampa Bay, knocking home field goals of 54 and 48 yards with plenty of room to spare. Zuerlein's 3-for-3 performance on field goals raised his season total to 25-of-27, a 92.6 percent conversion rate which is tied for fifth-best in the NFL.
In addition to his consistent performance on field goals, Zuerlein has made all of his 34 extra point attempts and has left opposing offenses starting nearly every drive from their 20-yard line with his 50 touchbacks which puts him fourth in the league in that category.
The two blemishes on Zuerlein's record did come at inopportune times, especially a miss against Seattle from 50 yards out which would have made it a two-point game and offered him a chance to win it on the game's final drive. The following week, Zuerlein missed a 44-yard attempt which would have given the Rams a 10-7 halftime lead against Tennessee.
Despite those two miscues, Zuerlein has been extremely reliable all season and seems to have kept his leg strong throughout the season. The Rams had Zuerlein dial back his offseason workload over the summer after he attempted 31 field goals and 26 extra points in 2012, much of that work coming in the season's first six weeks.
From there, Zuerlein's superhuman early efforts began to slow as he missed a field goal in the final five games of the season in which he attempted one. The Rams believed it was leg fatigue that contributed to those misses (and in fairness, many of them were coming from some extraordinarily long distances) and told him to rest up in the offseason.
No matter the reason for his improvement -- the proliferation of more easily made attempts included -- Zuerlein's performance in 2013 deserves a tip of the cap.
A roundup of Monday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. … The day began with this week's edition of Upon Further Review, an examination of four hot issues coming out of the Rams' win against Tampa Bay. … In yesterday's Ram-blings, we took a look at the Rams' turnaround in forcing and recovering fumbles in 2013. … From there, it was time for this week's Rookie Review, a look at snap counts and production of the Rams' rookie class. … Next, we revisited three things to watch with an evaluation of how the Rams fared in each key area. … Finally, we offered an injury update with the official news on left tackle Jake Long's ACL injury.
At stltoday.com, columnist Bernie Miklasz provides plenty of Rams' takes on a variety of topics in the Extra Points blog.
Miklasz also writes that the Rams have found and produced their identity moving forward.
In his morning video blog, Miklasz discusses why Sunday's game against Seattle matters.
Bryan Burwell discusses the "freak of nature" that is Rams defensive end Robert Quinn.
Joe Lyons offers his take on Zuerlein's performance against the Bucs.
The Associated Press provides its recap of the game.
Turf Show Times presents its latest mock draft for the Rams' first round.