Sunday, September 9, 2012
Wrap-up: Lions 27, Rams 23
By Mike Sando
Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 27-23 defeat to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Week 1:
What it means: The Rams are instantly more competitive under new coach Jeff Fisher than they were at just about any time last season. They looked like a team that could go from 2-14 last season into the .500 range this season. Performing so well under difficult circumstances provides instant validation for a new head coach. Fisher didn't need the validation. Rams players have bought in. But this performance can provide a springboard, even in defeat.
What I liked: The aggressive defensive style Fisher promoted all offseason paid off quickly with three first-half interceptions off Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Rams weren't sitting back and waiting for the football to come their way. They were jumping routes. They were the aggressors. We knew that would be the approach, but we didn't know whether the Rams could execute it against a quality opponent on the road. The Rams also sought to run the ball even when the defense knew it was coming. They did that well early when Steven Jackson converted a third-and-short from a power formation.
The pass protection was superb late in the game even though the Rams had lost center Scott Wells (foot) and left tackle Rodger Saffold (neck) to injuries. They were down to only five available offensive linemen. Wayne Hunter was at left tackle, Rokevious Watkins at left guard, Robert Turner at center, Harvey Dahl at right guard and Barry Richardson at right tackle. The running game bogged down late, but quarterback Sam Bradford somehow had time to throw.
Bradford moved the Rams down the field for rookie Greg Zuerlein's go-ahead field goal. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter. That was important for him. But the Rams couldn't stop Stafford in the end.
What I didn't like: The Rams settled for two early field goals after suffering breakdowns. A 15-yard penalty against receiver Brandon Gibson killed one drive. A sack Bradford took on third-and-5 killed another. Bradford took sacks after having ample time to unload the football. That was a little troubling. One of those sacks cost the team precious field position early in the second half, setting up the Lions for a shorter drive to the tying field goal. Another missed chance on third-and-3, this one when Bradford and his receivers appeared out of sync, also stood out.
Defensively, the Rams did yield a couple of quick scoring drives, including the final one with the game on the line. They needed their outside pass-rushers to win their battles in those situations.
Line scrambles: The Rams lost veteran center Scott Wells to a foot injury. Robert Turner moved from left guard to center at that point. Rookie Rokevious Watkins, who had been a candidate to start at left guard, moved into the lineup for Turner.
Wells was the Rams' key free-agent addition on offense. Knee surgery sidelined him for much of the offseason. Losing him to a foot injury in Week 1 tested the Rams' line depth, which was already a concern.
Medical personnel transported Saffold off the field on a stretcher board. Saffold had feeling in his extremities, the Rams told FOX's broadcast team. There were no additional details immediately.
What's next: The Rams are home against Washington in Week 2. They kick off at 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday from the Edward Jones Dome.