Sunday, December 22, 2013
Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 23-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
What it means: The Rams had many opportunities to put the Bucs away early but couldn't get out of their own way. Still, the Rams found a way to win a game in which they didn't overwhelmingly claim the turnover battle. The defense dominated, and the offense was just good enough to overcome its offensive miscues.
The real takeaway here is the Rams have matched their win total from 2012, and we can probably safely say this team is better now than it was then. For a team that has long eyed 2014 as a potential breakout season, the importance of improvement can't be overstated.
Stock watch -- up: Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold -- Maybe more accurately, this should be "price up." The Rams lost left tackle Jake Long to a knee injury on their third offensive play of the game. Saffold moved over from right guard to left tackle and held up just fine. If Long's injury is serious, the price to retain Saffold might have just gone up. There aren't many linemen in the league who can play so many spots and perform like Saffold. The Rams already had plenty of reason to retain Saffold. Now it may be imperative.
Stock watch -- down: Red zone offense -- The Bucs entered the game eighth in the league in red zone scoring defense, a little known fact that has helped them stay close in many games. The Rams were 19th in scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Those numbers held Sunday and enabled Tampa Bay to keep it close. The Rams were 1-of-3 on their trips to the red zone, including a costly fumble on a strange quarterback draw call for Kellen Clemens. A game that easily could have been in hand early was far more interesting because of the Rams' inability to convert.
Defensive dominance: The Rams faced the league's worst offense in terms of yardage output, so this was a game they should have dominated. But the Rams haven't always done what they're supposed to do in 2013, especially on that side of the ball. They shut down the run game, racked up seven sacks and two fumble recoveries, and held the Bucs to a measly 170 yards of total offense on the day.
Robert Quinn led the way again with three sacks to set the franchise record for a season with 18.
What's next: The Rams wrap up the regular season with a trip to Seattle to enter the Seahawks' House of Horrors. The Rams under coach Jeff Fisher have played the Seahawks close in their three meetings, including the season finale last year in Seattle. The question will be whether Seattle coach Pete Carroll elects to play his starters if his team has the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage wrapped up. Either way, the Rams will be looking to finish .500 or better for the first time since 2006.