Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Morning Ram-blings: Special teams strides
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Asked a general question about his team's performance in a 38-8 win against the Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher had plenty of things to choose from to kick off the discussion.
Tavon Austin, Robert Quinn, the improved run defense and the work of quarterback Kellen Clemens were just a small sample of the choices. But Fisher went in a different direction.
"I'll start with special teams," Fisher said. "It was an outstanding job on special teams. (Special teams coordinator) coach (John) Fassel and (assistant special teams) coach ‘Bou' (Paul F. Boudreau) did a great job with the plan. Guys were running free and just carrying over what they're learning on the practice field into the game. Everybody took turns. It was just good to see everybody involved. We punted the ball well, covered, and we returned it well. It was a good overall day for us.”
Through the first nine games of the season, perhaps no unit on the Rams had been more maligned than the special teams, no small feat given some of the struggles in the other two phases of the game. Penalties, the lack of a consistent return game and a couple of key field goal misses were just a few of the groan-inducing issues the special teams had provided.
Punter Johnny Hekker and the coverage units had been outstanding, but the problems seemed to mask those positives. Despite those problems, Fisher and Fassel continued to insist it would all come together as the many youngsters making up the core members of the group began to grow up.
It all came together against the Colts. Austin returned a punt 98 yards for a touchdown and averaged 36.25 yards per punt return. Kicker Greg Zuerlein made his only field goal attempt and five extra points. Hekker was his usual, excellent self and the coverage units pinned the Colts inside their 20 eight times.
"It was great," Hekker said Sunday. "Seeing production like today was just a real testament to our coaching staff and the time they put in and they came up with a great game plan for what the Colts were bringing to the table and we just brought it a little harder than they did. We outworked them today."
It was a performance weeks in the making, but maybe it can serve as a small example of how the Rams view the entire team. It's a young group, but when it all comes together, the results can make a big difference.
A roundup of Tuesday's Rams' stories on ESPN.com. … The day began with Ram-blings followed by a look at Jeff Fisher's success against his old division, the AFC South. … From there, it was the Rams' move up the Power Rankings from 25 to 20 after a convincing win against Indianapolis. … Finally, it was the return of study session with a look back the Indianapolis game. Offensive and defensive versions available.
Here at ESPN.com, Austin placed second in this week's cross-sport power rankings. All in all, a good week for the Rams in all things ranked by power.
Tim Keown takes a look at how difficult it can be for backup quarterbacks to adjust without many practice reps.
At stltoday.com, Jim Thomas looks at the ups and downs of the Rams first 10 games.
Bryan Burwell writes that the Richie Incognito incident doesn't seem to be a sweeping issue in the NFL.