NFC West: Rams-Lions

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams' Steven Jackson woke up Monday morning and thought better of it.
"Good morning to all," he tweeted less than 24 hours after the Rams' first victory of the 2009 season. "I'm just waking but realize today is victory Monday (day off). I'm going back to bed."
Earlier, Jackson apologized to the official he inadvertently steamrolled during the Rams' 17-10 victory over the Lions.

Jackson's inspired running makes the Rams worth watching despite all their deficiencies. He's on pace to finish the season with 330 carries for 1,568 yards. His 4.8-yard average would mark a career high since Jackson became a full-time starter in his second season. That is remarkable given the Rams' weak passing game.

Around the NFC West: Rams break through

November, 2, 2009
11/02/09
7:24
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams' victory over the Lions was "the culmination of weeks and months of blood, sweat and tears." Steven Jackson on his game-winning touchdown run: "That run felt really good. At that point of the game we felt like we had to close the game out. We knew that pretty much whoever had the ball last was going to have a pretty good chance of driving the ball and putting the game away. We as an offensive unit really felt like it was our time to take over the game. The offensive line, the fullback, everyone believed in what we were doing and it really showed. That last run was an exclamation point for the way the game went for us."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams took special pleasure in their first victory under first-year coach Steve Spagnuolo. Tight end Randy McMichael: "It was an honor to be able to deliver him the game ball with his first win in the National Football League. And I know for a fact it won't be his last. I told him how much we appreciated that with all the stuff we've been through, all the support that he's given all of us. You could see the emotion that was in him."

Also from Thomas: Leonard Little and Chris Long each had sacks for the Rams against Detroit. On offense, left guard Jacob Bell suffered what the Rams thought to be another concussion, his second of the season.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says there's no minimizing or qualifying the Rams' first victory of the season. They won, and that is all that mattered. Burwell: "So today, 1-7 is better than 0-8: light years better. And if you don't believe me, then you should have been inside that visitors' locker room at Ford Field, where these Rams players didn't know whether to laugh or sing, dance or shout, slam their heads against the wall or raise their hands to the sky and give thanks for this wonderful absolution from nearly 13 months without a victory."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down the fake field goal St. Louis used to change the momentum shortly before halftime. The Rams installed the play in the game plan only Saturday. They didn't plan to run it until Marc Bulger called timeout as the Rams lined up to go for it on fourth-and-8. And tight end Daniels Fells, the man on the receiving end of Josh Brown's first career touchdown, had never practiced the play.

Also from Coats: a Rams report card featuring an A-minus grade for a reconfigured offensive line.

Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com thinks the Rams won despite some questionable offensive play calling.

Turf Show Times' VanRam offers thoughts following the Rams' victory.

And if you're a long-suffering Rams fan -- the only kind -- by all means check out what Lions fans are experiencing right now. The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and Booth Newspapers all have extensive Lions coverage.

Wrap-up: Rams 17, Lions 10

November, 1, 2009
11/01/09
4:05
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams needed some sort of reward for staying the course during this lost season.

They got it Sunday, with a bonus: The bye week gives them time to savor the first victory of the Steve Spagnuolo era.

This victory should prevent the Rams from crumbling under the pressure of mounting frustrations. They no longer have to hear about the NFL's longest current losing streak. They no longer have to worry about a potential 0-16 season. They might no longer qualify even as the worst team in the league.

Steven Jackson continued to set the tone for the Rams by shaking off tacklers and willing the Rams to victory. He has played at a Pro Bowl level all season. The difference Sunday was that the Rams finally found an opponent they could outscore despite issues on offense.

It wasn't easy. The Rams needed a fake-punt touchdown. They surrendered a safety on an interception return.

But with the game on the line, Jackson ran once for 17 yards and again for the winning 24-yard touchdown.

The schedule only gets tougher for the Rams. They face the Saints in Week 10. Preparations for that one can wait. The Rams finally won a game. They should get some time to enjoy it.

Josh Brown's passer rating perfect 158.3

November, 1, 2009
11/01/09
2:25
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Lions had allowed 17 touchdown passes entering Week 8.

Only the Rams could have seen the 18th coming.

Kicker Josh Brown's 36-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Fells qualifies the Rams to appear in NFL highlights packages, and that's a start for St. Louis.

If that play winds up giving the Rams their first victory of the season, well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. It is looking good for St. Louis so far, though.

The Rams are up, 10-2, as the first half is winding down.

49ers, Rams, Seahawks lead games early

November, 1, 2009
11/01/09
1:25
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The NFC West has shown up so far in Week 8.

Embattled 49ers left guard Chilo Rachal gets credit for an effective block on Frank Gore's 64-yard touchdown run against the Colts. The 49ers lead 7-0 even though left tackle Joe Staley remains sidelined by injury. Barry Sims is playing left tackle.

In Dallas, the Seahawks got their running game going better than anticipated. The quick passing game also worked well at times as Seattle moved toward a field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Even the Rams are leading, with Josh Brown hitting a 41-yard field goal.

The Cardinals are the only NFC West team not leading at this point. And they do not kick off for a few hours.

Update: The Cowboys just scored to take a lead. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

A few thoughts as NFC West games approach in Week 8:
  • The 49ers need more from their offensive line. I'm not sure why the team hasn't given Tony Wragge a chance at one of the guard spots, but perhaps it is time.
  • Recently benched 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill seemed reluctant to push the ball down the field, perhaps a reflection of the coaching staff's emphasis on avoiding mistakes. Alex Smith seemed more comfortable taking those chances. Smith has nothing to gain by mimicking Hill. He needs to cut loose a little bit. I expect him to play aggressively.
  • Nate Clements is not finished as a starting cornerback for the 49ers. He hasn't looked right at times this season, particularly recently, and he was never a shutdown cornerback, but Clements can still be a good player, in my view.
  • Kurt Warner should pay special attention to getting rid of the ball quickly early in the game against the Panthers. He basically needs to convince Carolina that its pass rush isn't going to get there no matter how well Julius Peppers and the Panthers apply pressure. Warner did this effectively in the playoff game against the Panthers last season, as I recall. Once that happens, a quarterback can take more time later in the game.
  • Jake Delhomme's interceptions appear almost entirely responsible for the Panthers' struggles this season. Carolina seems to have a good offensive line. Massive turnover on the coaching staff could be hurting the Panthers, but this team shouldn't be nearly this bad. Delhomme's problems have transcended situations, but his numbers against added pressure are second-worst in the league among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts. The numbers, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information: 22-of-47 passing for 315 yards with one touchdown, six interceptions and a 36.5 rating. Ouch. Delhomme has three touchdowns and seven interceptions against standard pressure.
  • The Seahawks expected their running game to hit stride at about this part of the season, but that assumed at least some continuity on the offensive line. The constant shuffling up front will likely delay the ground game's emergence, putting additional pressure on Matt Hasselbeck to carry the offense -- a tough task for a team that seems to change left tackles every week or two.
  • Nate Burleson has been the Seahawks' best wide receiver. He ranks ninth among NFL wide receivers with 157 yards after the catch, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The top eight: Wes Welker (266), Hines Ward (235), Miles Austin (225), Andre Johnson (224), DeSean Jackson (208), Santonio Holmes (206), Hakeem Nicks (173) and Roddy White (171).
  • Something has to give when the Rams' weak pass offense meets the Lions' weak pass defense. Detroit has allowed 17 passing touchdowns this season. The Rams have scored only five. Opposing quarterbacks have a 117.8 rating against the Lions this season. If the Rams cannot have success against this pass defense, then what?
  • The Lions' Calvin Johnson and the Rams' Steven Jackson have combined for one touchdown this season (Johnson scored it). I like both players' chances of finding the end zone in Week 8, assuming Johnson's injured knee allows him to contribute. (Update: Calvin Johnson is inactive for today's game)

I'm heading to University of Phoenix Stadium shortly to watch the early games on TV and the Panthers-Cardinals game in person. Have a great first day of November.

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