Stats & Info: St. Louis Rams

Contenders build off strengths on Day 2

May, 9, 2014
Quarterbacks highlighted the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, and early on in Round 2 the Raiders made a splash at quarterback as well.

The Raiders selected Derek Carr 36th overall Friday, months after sending a sixth-round pick to the Texans in exchange for Matt Schaub.

The Raiders using multiple draft picks on quarterbacks shouldn’t come as a surprise. Three of the Raiders selections in 2012 were sacrificed in various moves to acquire three different quarterbacks (Carson Palmer, Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn).

The rest of Friday’s action was most notable for playoff contenders building off strengths and teams making some interesting pairings.

The rich get richer

WR Jordan Matthews – 42nd overall, Eagles
WR Davante Adams – 52nd overall, Packers
WR Cody Latimer – 56th overall, Broncos

Nick Foles, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning each finished in the top six in Total QBR last season. All three lost a wide receiver in the offseason, and now all three have a new one to work with.

Matthews joins an Eagles team that led the NFL with 569 yards off screen passes last season. Last year at Vanderbilt, Matthews made 44 receptions off screen passes, tied for most among AQ-receivers (Sammy Watkins).

Adams’s specialty is yards after catch. His 888 YAC was second in the FBS to Watkins last season. He should fit in well with a Packers team that ranked third in yards after the catch in the NFL last season.

Latimer should prove to be a reliable target for Manning. Last season at Indiana, Latimer dropped only one pass on 119 targets.

RB Carlos Hyde – 57th overall, 49ers

The 49ers drafted a running back for the sixth straight draft, and for the ninth time in the last 10 drafts.

Hyde fits the downhill rushing mold for the 49ers. Hyde averaged 7.3 yards per rush last season at Ohio State, with 3.1 coming after first contact. Hyde gained at least one yard on all but 12 of his 208 rushes last season.

DE Kony Ealy – 60th overall, Panthers

The Panthers led the NFL with 60 sacks last season and drafted one of the most disruptive pass rushers in the SEC last season. Defensive end Ealy pressured the quarterback 35 times last season, most in conference.

Dynamic duos

WR Marqise Lee and WR Allen Robinson – Jaguars

The Jaguars took two wide receivers in the second round Friday night. The last team to take two wide receivers in the second round was the 2008 Redskins (Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas).

Lee and Robinson will join first-round quarterback Blake Bortles. They were two of seven receivers in AQ-conferences to gain 1,000 yards after the catch the past two seasons.

OT Greg Robinson and RB Tre Mason – Rams

Robinson went second overall in the first round, but Mason was selected 75th overall in the third round. The duo helped Auburn lead the FBS in rushing last season. Mason averaged 6.5 yards per rush running behind Robinson last season.

LB Ryan Shazier and DE Stephon Tuitt – Steelers

The Steelers ranked 21st in yards per rush allowed last season and ranked 25th in sacks. To fix that, the Steelers used their first two picks on front seven defenders.

Shazier was a first round selection that should help the rush defense. He was the only player in the FBS with 20 tackles for loss and 100 total tackles.

Tuitt should help the pass rush. He had 21.5 sacks in 35 career games at Notre Dame, and his 12 sacks in 2012 were second most in school history.

WR Mike Evans and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Buccaneers

Evans measured in at 6’5". Seferian-Jenkins measured in at 6’5". They will join Vincent Jackson, who also stands 6’5". Only one team – the Lions – had at least three players that tall making 20 receptions each.

Rams got a haul in RG III trade

December, 20, 2013
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesAlec Ogletree is among the players the Rams selected with picks received in the RGIII trade.
Less than two years ago, the Washington Redskins made a franchise-changing deal when they traded with the St. Louis Rams to get the second-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, selecting Robert Griffin III. To get that pick, the Rams received three first-round picks and a second rounder.

Griffin and the Redskins’ performance have been broken down in detail this season. But, in the end, the Rams may have gotten better end of the deal, as they’ve turned the first three picks into seven players, including three defensive starters, and still have the Redskins 2014 first-round pick in hand.

Here’s a look at what each of those picks have become.

2012 First-Round Pick
The Rams didn’t trade down far to make the original trade, only moving down from second to sixth. But from there, the sixth pick was again traded down again, this time to the Dallas Cowboys for the 14th-overall pick and a second-round pick.

The 14th pick became defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who has 9.5 sacks in his two NFL seasons. This season, Brockers has started every game, and his 5.5 sacks are tied for seventh among all defensive tackles.

The second-round pick originally received was traded to the Bears for the pick that became Alshon Jeffery. The Rams moved down five spots in the deal, selecting running back Isaiah Pead, who has mostly contributed on special teams this year. St. Louis also picked up a fifth-rounder in the deal, tackle Rokevious Watkins, who was waived after his rookie season.

2012 Second-Round Pick
The Rams actually held on to this pick, and wisely so, as they selected cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

Jenkins has already emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, starting all 14 games this season. He has 12 pass breakups this season, which is tied for the fourth-most in the NFL.

2013 First-Round Pick
The Rams again traded this pick (22nd overall) down, this time to the Falcons, picking up an extra third and sixth-round pick, giving up a seventh-rounder in the deal.

Moving down eight spots in the first round, St. Louis picked LB Alec Ogletree, who has started all 14 games as a rookie. His 102 tackles rank first on the team and T-24th in the NFL. He’s tied for 13th in the NFL with nine tackles for loss, and his eight pass breakups are second in the NFL among linebackers.

The third-round pick became wide receiver Stedman Bailey. He only has 10 receptions for 149 yards in his rookie season, but eight of those receptions and 118 of the yards have come in the last three games, both team highs in that span.

The Rams took the sixth-rounder, and packaged it with their existing sixth-rounder to move up to the fifth round to get starting RB Zac Stacy. Stacy’s 854 rushing yards this season are second among rookie running backs.

2014 First-Round Pick
The Rams greatest haul in the deal could come in the next draft, as they will receive the Redskins’ first-round pick this year, which as of right now, stands as the second-overall pick.

In Todd McShay’s first mock draft, he has them selecting Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews in that spot.

Keys to victory: Seahawks 14, Rams 9

October, 29, 2013
What were the biggest keys to the Seattle Seahawks' 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams on "Monday Night Football"?

Wilson capitalized when Rams didn’t blitz
Russell Wilson was limited in what he could do against the Rams' blitz, taking a career-high seven sacks in this game.

Wilson completed only four passes on the 16 dropbacks in which the Rams sent five or more pass rushers. The other dozen dropbacks featured seven incompletions and five sacks.

But on the nine instances in which the Rams sent four or fewer rushers, Wilson did damage. He was 6-for-7 for 113 yards and two touchdowns on those throws.

Wilson was 5-for-6 for two touchdowns when connecting with Golden Tate. He was 5-for-12 when throwing to anyone else. The 80-yard touchdown throw to Tate was the longest touchdown pass in Wilson’s career.

The Rams couldn’t punch it in at the end
The Rams remained the only team in the NFL without a rushing touchdown this season. They couldn’t score near the goal line in the final seconds, partly because of their rushing struggles, and also because quarterback Kellen Clemens couldn’t finish from in-close. He was 3-for-11 on his passing attempts in the red zone.

This was an odd win
Both the Seahawks' seven first downs and 135 yards of offense were the fewest by any team in a win in the past three seasons.

The Rams outgained the Seahawks 339-135, but still lost. It was the fewest yards the Seahawks recorded in a win since they had 128 in a win over the Chargers in 2000.

Entering Monday, teams that outgained their opponent by 200 or more yards were 291-37 (an .887 winning percentage) since the start of the 2001 season.

Gore runs wild between tackles in 49ers win

September, 27, 2013
Scott Rovak/USA TODAY SportsFrank Gore ran for 153 yards against the Rams.
After two straight subpar weeks that resulted in consecutive losses for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick got back on track against the St. Louis Rams to snap his team’s losing streak.

Kaepernick threw multiple touchdown passes for the fifth time in his career, all five of which have resulted in 49ers victories.

Kaepernick averaged 9.8 yards per attempt when targeting Anquan Boldin or Vernon Davis, including a pair of touchdowns. When targeting all other receivers, Kaepernick averaged 4.9 yards per attempt with no touchdowns.

Despite the improved numbers on Thursday, Kaepernick continues to struggle on throws of at least 15 yards downfield this season. Kaepernick was 2-of-5 on such throws Thursday. This season, Kaepernick is completing 34 percent of throws at least 15 yards downfield after completing 54 percent of such throws last season, which ranked third in the NFL.

Gore looking young again
Frank Gore had 153 rushing yards, his most in a game since Week 14 of the 2009 season (167 vs Cardinals).

Gore now has 14 career rushing touchdowns against the Rams, the most by any player against the Rams in franchise history. The next-most is 12 by Lenny Moore, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

His touchdown came on a 4th-and-1 at the Rams' 34-yard line. It was the longest fourth-down rushing touchdown by any player since LeSean McCoy's 50-yarder in Week 11 of the 2010 season against the New York Giants.

Gore ran for 115 yards between the tackles. In Gore’s first three games this season, he totaled 88 rushing yards between the tackles. Gore averaged 9.6 yards per carry between the tackles Thursday, the most by a running back in a game this season (minimum 10 such rushes).

Rams' rushing problems
The Rams had trouble running the ball against the 49ers, who had allowed more than 170 rushing yards in each of their previous two games. The 49ers came into the game allowing the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL this season after allowing the fourth-fewest last season.

The Rams totaled just 18 rushing yards on 19 rushes, the first team with at least 19 rushes and 18 or fewer rushing yards since (coincidentally) the 2008 Rams, who had 19 rushes for 14 rushing yards against the Bears in Week 12.

The Rams' struggles on the ground are nothing new. They now have nine straight games with less than 100 rushing yards, tied with the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers for the longest active streak in the NFL.

Top stats to know: Kaepernick's struggles

September, 26, 2013

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesAfter a breakout season in 2012, teams are finding ways to stop Colin Kaepernick.

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick has struggled in his last two games after looking like an elite quarterback down the stretch last season.

What are Kaepernick and the 49ers doing differently this season, and why is he struggling lately? And how did the Rams contain him last season?

Kaepernick struggling on long throws
Kaepernick is struggling on deep throws this season. After ranking third in completion percentage and yards per attempt on throws at least 15 yards downfield last season, he ranks 28th in completion percentage and 26th in yards per attempt on those throws this season.

Kaepernick is 0-for-9 on throws at least 15 yards downfield over his last two games.

In every other start in his career, Kaepernick has completed at least two passes on those throws.

Kaepernick has already thrown as many interceptions on throws at least 15 yards downfield this season (two) as he did all of last season.

Teams adjusting to Kaepernick
Last season, Kaepernick's first as a starter, teams often loaded the box against the running quarterback and running back Frank Gore.

Kaepernick took advantage with his arm. But this season, teams have adjusted and aren't loading the box as often because they are aware of Kaepernick's ability to also beat teams by throwing the ball.

Last season, defenses had seven or more defenders in the box on 53 percent of Kaepernick's drop backs.

This season, his opponents have put seven or more defenders in the box on only 43 percent of his drop backs.

With seven or more defenders in the box last season, Kaepernick had the fourth-best Total QBR in the league. But with six or fewer defenders in the box, his QBR ranked 17th. This season, teams have adjusted by putting fewer defenders in the box.

49ers not running as well or as much
Last season, the 49ers ranked third in the NFL with 5.1 yards per rush. This season, they rank 16th with 4.0 yards per rush.

There has especially been a difference on first down. Last season, the 49ers ranked fourth with 5.1 yards per rush on first down. So far this season, they rank 25th with 3.3 yards per rush on first down.

The 49ers have also run 17 option plays with an average of 1.2 yards per rush this season. They averaged 6.4 yards per option run in 2012.

Rams' blitz could present problems for Kaepernick
The Rams sent five or more pass-rushers on 60 percent of Kaepernick’s drop backs in their last matchup (Week 13 last season), the highest rate in any start of his career.
The strategy worked to force quick throws, as his average pass length and time in the pocket during the game were the lowest in any start of his career.

The longest pass Kaepernick attempted in that game was 16 yards downfield, and it's the only start in his career in which he didn't attempt at least one pass more than 20 yards downfield.

Week 17: One for the record books

December, 27, 2012
While Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson have commanded most of the attention to this point, they are not the only NFL players attempting to put a stamp on the record books in Week 17. In fact, there are several records that are much more likely to fall, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Sacks: After sacks became official in 1982, Mark Gastineau established the standard with 22 in 1984. That mark stood until 2001 when New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan broke through for 22.5. Two different players enter Week 17 with a chance to take down Strahan’s record – J.J. Watt of the Houston Texas and the San Francisco 49ers’ Aldon Smith.
Watt leads the NFL with 20.5 sacks this season and needs two sacks to tie Strahan, a number he has hit in six of 15 games played this season. Statistically, his Week 17 opponent should provide him the opportunity, as he’s facing an Indianapolis Colts team against whom he registered three sacks – tied for his most in any individual game this season – in Week 15.

Watt has also disrupted a league-high 35.5 dropbacks this season, the most in the NFL over the last three seasons. Working in his favor is the fact Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has had 135 dropbacks disrupted this season, 26 more than the next-closest quarterback.

Smith, meanwhile, remains at 19.5 sacks after failing to record a sack in either of his last two weeks. Smith needs three sacks to tie Strahan’s mark, something he’s done only once in a game this season (five and a half sacks against the Chicago Bears in Week 11). He registered two sacks against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8, and working in his favor is the fact that the Cardinals have given up more sacks this season than any team in the NFL (56).

And while he may not end up with the record, no player in the last three seasons has had more success with the standard pass rush – four or fewer rushers – than Smith, who has recorded all 19.5 sacks this way, four more than Jared Allen compiled last season.

Touchdown passes by rookie: While Luck and Robert Griffin III have received the publicity, Russell Wilson is the one who needs a single touchdown pass to tie Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26 touchdowns set in 1998. Wilson currently stands four touchdown passes ahead of both Luck this season and Cam Newton last season, and his 25 touchdown passes ranks ninth in the NFL this season overall.

Perhaps no quarterback has been as effective as Wilson over the last nine weeks, considering his Total QBR of 88.7 ranks first over that span, while he has also compiled a plus-14 touchdown-to-interception differential since the start of Week 8, second in the NFL to Tom Brady (+15). It’s not all roses, though – Wilson produced a season-low 16.8 Total QBR against the St. Louis Rams in Week 4, including three interceptions and no touchdowns.

Pass attempts: Barring an injury or an extreme shift in play calling, Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions will break Drew Bledsoe’s record for most pass attempts in a single season. Entering Week 17, Stafford needs to throw the ball just seven times to pass Bledsoe, who recorded 691 attempts for the New England Patriots in 1994.

Colts look to add more than Luck to offense

April, 27, 2012
Allen Kee / ESPNAfter selecting Andrew Luck first overall in the NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts added a number of offensive weapons on the draft’s second day.
After taking Andrew Luck with the first pick overall on Thursday, the Indianapolis Colts continued to overhaul their offense on Friday.

The Colts became the seventh team in the common draft era to draft three pass catchers (wide receivers or tight ends) in the first three rounds. After adding Luck’s Stanford Cardinal tight end Coby Fleener in the second round, they picked tight end Dwayne Allen and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in the third round.

The last team to select three pass catchers in the first three rounds was the New York Giants. They chose Hakeem Nicks, Ramses Barden and Travis Beckum in the 2009 draft.

Last season, Colts tight ends dropped nine passes, tied for second-most in the NFL. They are the first team to draft two tight ends in the first three rounds since the St. Louis Rams in 2006. Among NFL teams last year, the Colts ran the fourth-fewest plays in multiple-tight end sets.

By taking Luck and Fleener, they were the first team to draft a quarterback and tight end from the same school in a draft since the 2003 Houston Texans, who picked Drew Henson and Bennie Joppru from the Michigan Wolverines.

Luck threw multiple touchdown passes to his tight ends in nine of Stanford’s 13 games last season. No FBS quarterback attempted more passes or gained more yards when targeting tight ends. Fleener led all FBS tight ends with 10 touchdown receptions of at least 20 yards over the last two seasons.

Draft chatter
• The Denver Broncos selected defensive tackle Derek Wolfe with the 36th pick. Last year, the Broncos recorded only two sacks from players lining up on the interior of the defensive line, tied with the New Orleans Saints for the fewest among teams playing a 4-3 defense.

• The Rams selected North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins with the 39th pick. It was the highest that a Division II player has been picked since Ricardo Colclough of Tusculum went 38th overall in 2004.

• Bobby Wagner went 47th overall to the Seattle Seahawks, the first player from the Utah State Aggies to go in the first two rounds since Rulon Jones was a second-round pick in 1980.

• By taking safety Tavon Wilson in the second rounds, the New England Patriots drafted a defensive player with their first three picks. Last season, the Patriots had 12 players play at least 100 snaps at defensive back, most in the NFL.

• The Pittsburgh Steelers selected offensive tackle Mike Adams late in the second round. Pittsburgh used a league-high 25 different offensive line combinations last season.

• The San Francisco 49ers selected LaMichael James 61st overall. It’s the fourth straight season that the 49ers drafted a running back. Last season, San Francisco targeted running backs just 54 times, second-fewest in the NFL.
Multiple sources are reporting that Jeff Fisher has accepted an offer to coach the St. Louis Rams, opting to take his talents to the Midwest after spurning a similar job with the Miami Dolphins.

Fisher, considered by many to be the top prize in this offseason’s head coaching sweepstakes, joins the Rams organization after spending 17 seasons with the Oilers/Titans franchise. Only Curly Lambeau spent more time in his first head-coaching job (29 seasons) before taking his second position.

Fisher established quite a legacy while with the Titans franchise, compiling 147 wins from 1994 to 2010, a total that was nearly three times that of the next-closest coach, Bum Phillips (59).

Fisher won three division titles and took the team to its only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history in the 1999 season, losing to the same team he is now set to lead – the Rams.

The rebuilding job in St. Louis will be a huge challenge for Fisher, who had a swift fall from grace over his last three seasons in Tennessee.

The Titans finished with a 13-3 record and the AFC South title in the 2008 regular season, but were upset in the Divisional Playoffs, and then stumbled to an 8-8 record in 2009 and bottomed out at 6-10 last year.

The Rams haven’t had a winning season since 2003 and have an NFL-worst 15 wins since 2007. If total sounds familiar, it’s the same number of games the Green Bay Packers won in 2011 alone.

Steve Spagnuolo, who became Rams coach in 2009, had presided over arguably the most anemic stretch of football in franchise history.

The Rams have lost 14-or-more games three times in their history, and Spagnuolo was the coach for two of them (2009 and 2011). The 2009 and 2011 teams were also the two lowest-scoring Rams teams since the franchise moved away from Cleveland in 1946.

One of the first things on offense that Fisher will look to fix is a passing game that netted the third-fewest yards and fewest touchdowns in the NFL.

Sam Bradford, who started 10 games this year, has really struggled throwing downfield since entering the NFL. His completion percentage of 32.5 on throws 15 air yards or more downfield since 2010 is the worst in the league.

The rushing game, led by workhorse back Steven Jackson, was marginally better than the passing attack this year with a ranking of 23rd in the league. Jackson, who was injured early in the season, wore down in the second half of 2011.

After grinding out more than five yards per carry through Week 10, he averaged just 3.7 yards per rush during the Rams’ seven-game losing streak to end the season.
On the day the NFL traditionally calls Black Monday, for the inevitable firings that occur, the first two head coaches axed were St. Louis' Steve Spagnuolo and Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris.

Both coaches came from defensive backgrounds, and defense ultimately played a big role in their firings.

The two worst point differentials in the NFL this season belonged to the Rams (-214) and Buccaneers (-207), continuing a trend that has plagued both teams since Spagnuolo and Morris took over before the 2009 season.

In the last three seasons, the Rams and Bucs have the two worst point differentials in the league, and it's not close. The Rams have been outscored by 514 points since 2009; that's 174 points worse than the Buccaneers, who are 60 points worse than any other team.

St. Louis has surrendered 1,171 points since 2009, seventh-most in the NFL, but the Rams have major offensive problems as well, scoring only 657 points (13.7 PPG) in three seasons, by far the fewest in the league.

The Buccaneers issues have been largely defensive, allowing a league-high 494 points this season and a total of 1,212 points in the last three years, second-most behind Detroit's 1,250.

Spagnuolo bracketed a promising 7-9 record in 2010 with a combined three wins in 2009 & 2011. His win total of 10 ties the second fewest by any coach in his first 48 games. Only future NFL commissioner Bert Bell had fewer, with the Eagles in the 1930s.

Morris and Tampa Bay also had a promising 2010 campaign, going 10-6 and missing the playoffs on tiebreakers. The Bucs then started 4-2 this season before completely collapsing and going winless in their final 10.

The big culprit for Tampa Bay was turnovers. The Buccaneers had a +3 turnover differential in their first six games but were -19 over their final 10 games, finishing with a league-worst -16 differential. Josh Freeman particularly regressed, committing a league-high 27 turnovers this season, three times as many as he had in 2010.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
The 49ers defense caused trouble for Eli Manning, leading to good field position for an offense that capitalized enough to win.

On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers got the biggest win on a day when the west proved to be best.

That’s west as in the NFC West, which went 4-0, with the St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks all winning close games as well.

Since the NFL’s divisions were re-aligned in 2002, the four teams had never won in the same week.

The 49ers beat the Giants despite losing Frank Gore to a knee injury. He finished with zero rushing yards, snapping his streak of five straight 100-yard games.

Alex Smith, who entered the day second in the NFL in completion percentage when targeting his tight ends, was again sharp when looking to his big target on Sunday. He was 9-for-11 for 109 yards and a touchdown on such throws. The touchdown for Vernon Davis was his 33rd, tying Brent Jones for the most by a tight end in team history.

The 49ers defense forced two turnovers and won the field position battle. It was the eighth time in nine games this season that they forced two or more turnovers. The Giants’ best starting field position was their own 22-yard line (10 possessions), while the 49ers’ average drive started at their own 35-yard line.

Eli Manning had a pair of interceptions on throws traveling at least yards downfield, giving them 10 interceptions on such throws this season. Last season, the 49ers intercepted only four passes on throws of that distance, ranking 28th in the league.

Earlier this week, we wrote about how the 49ers special teams would be a key and the kicking game was huge.

David Akers made all four of his field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder that made him 5-for-5 on kicks of at least 50 yards this season. He’s made 15 straight field goals overall and is now 23-for-25 on tries this season.

Elsewhere in the NFC West

Other statistical highlights from Sunday …

• The Seahawks eked out a 22-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Marshawn Lynch ran for 109 yards, giving him consecutive 100-yard rushing games for the first time in his 65-game career. Steven Hauschka made a career-high five field goals.

The Seattle defense held Ray Rice to 27 rushing yards, his lowest total in 21 games (ran for 20 yards at Steelers in Week 4 last season).

• Earlier in the day, the Cardinals snapped a streak of 25 straight games without back-to-back wins and snapped its 11-game road losing streak by beating the Philadelphia Eagles, 21-17. The Eagles have now blown five fourth-quarter leads this season and been outscored, 74-27 in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals thwarted Michael Vick, holding him to 1-for-11 with an interception on throws of at least 11 yards.

• The Rams survived a scare from the Cleveland Browns, 13-12, winning when Phil Dawson missed a late field goal attempt from 22 yards. Steven Jackson rushed for 128 yards. He’s had three straight games with at least 100 yards rushing, the third straight season in which he’s had a streak of that length.

US Presswire/Jeff Curry
Steven Jackson had one of his best games in a long time in helping the Rams to their first win.

For the second time in five seasons, the St. Louis Rams found the New Orleans Saints to be the perfect opponent against which to end a season-long winless drought.

In 2007, the Rams were 0-8 to start the season and picked up their first win against the Saints. There were a few similarities between that contest (a 37-29 win) and this one (31-21).

The Saints were the fourth team in the past 40 seasons to score at least 62 points in a game. Of those four, three lost their following game. The 1973 Atlanta Falcons also lost to the Rams (then the Los Angeles Rams). In fact, those Rams shut out the Falcons 31-0 in the second week of that season.

The Rams held the Saints, who scored 62 points in a win over the winless Colts last week, to no points in the first half of this game.

Steven Jackson finished with 159 yards rushing and two touchdowns, the first time a Rams player posted 150 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in a game since Jackson in Week 17 of 2008.

Jackson also was responsible for two touchdowns in that 2007 win over the Saints, although he managed them in a slightly different fashion, throwing for one and running for the other.

Chris Long posted three sacks for the Rams' defense on Sunday, the first time a Rams player had at least three sacks in a game since Leonard Little in Week 13 of 2003. The Rams finished with six sacks and two interceptions against Saints quarterback Drew Brees. They had four sacks and two interceptions against Brees in that losing-streak-snapping win in 2007.

The Saints now are 2-3 on the road this season. That is as many road losses as in the previous two combined seasons, 2009-10, in which they were an NFL-best 13-3 in road games.

The only statistical positive for the Saints was that Brees threw a touchdown pass with 6 seconds left, marking the 35th straight game in which he’s thrown at least one. That’s one shy of Brett Favre for the second-longest streak in NFL history.

Elsewhere on the winless front
• The New York Giants became the latest team to come back to beat the Miami Dolphins, rallying from 11 points down to win 20-17. The Dolphins are 0-7 for the second time in franchise history (they started 0-13 in 2007). They’ve lost 10 straight games, the second-longest losing streak in team history and the longest since losing a franchise-record 16 in a row from 2006 to '07.

It’s the fourth straight season in which the Giants won their first game following a bye week. They’ve also won four straight overall against AFC opponents.

• The Tennessee Titans downed the winless Indianapolis Colts 27-10, making the Colts 0-8 for the fourth time in franchise history, the first time since starting 0-10 in 1997.

One highlight from this contest was that Titans kicker Rob Bironas made field goals of 50 and 51 yards. He continued a fine run for NFL kickers on long-distance kicks. Kickers entered the day 41-for-58 on field goal tries of 50 yards or longer.
The New York Giants capitalized on numerous mistakes by the St. Louis Rams and secured their first win of the season Monday night, 28-16.

The Rams had four fumbles, including one on a lateral pass from Sam Bradford to Cadillac Willliams in the second quarter that Williams fumbled. Giants linebacker Michael Boley returned that fumble for a 65-yard touchdown, the first of his career and the first fumble recovery for a touchdown by the Giants since 2009.

The Rams also had a muffed punt that led to a Giants touchdown and several miscues on defense which led to a Eli Manning 31-yard pass to Mario Manningham.

Manning (18-for-29, 200 yards) had two passing touchdowns and an interception. This is Manning's seventh straight regular-season game with an interception, tying the longest such streak of his career. He also threw a pick in seven straight games in 2007.

Bradford threw for 331 yards and a touchdown against the Giants, his second career 300-yard passing game. Bradford has now thrown for over 4,000 yards in his career.

Bradford took advantage of a weakened Giants secondary and was 8 of 13 for 239 yards and a touchdown when passing 15 yards or more downfield. Prior to Monday's game, Bradford had never completed more than four attempts of that length in a single game.

In addition, last season, Bradford completed the lowest percentage of throws over 15 yards among all qualified NFL quarterbacks (30.9).

Bradford entered the game averaging 6.4 air yards per pass attempt with his single-game high being 7.9 air yards per attempt. Monday night, Bradford averaged 9.1 air yards per attempt.

While the Giants secondary struggled, their pass rushing was strong throughout the night. Bradford was under duress (either forced from the pocket, altered his throwing motion due to pressure or a defender had a clear path in his line of sight) on 14 of his 49 dropbacks.

The pressure worked as intended, as Bradford went 0-11 and was hit five times while throwing. In comparison, he was 22-35 for 331 yards and a touchdown when not under duress.

The Giants didn’t record an interception against Bradford, but they were able to defend eight Bradford passes. Prior to Monday night, Bradford had eight or more passes intercepted or defended only once in his career, in Week 15 last season against the Kansas City Chiefs (10).

Brandon Jacobs (16 rush, 50 rush yards) picked up his 50th career rushing touchdown. He is now second on the all-time Giants rush touchdown list behind Tiki Barber (55).

The Giants have taken the last five meetings in this series after the Rams won the previous five. Under Tom Coughlin, the Giants are 3-0 versus the Rams, previously beating them 44-24 in 2005 and 41-13 in 2008.

Trevor Ebaugh, John McTigue and Dan Riccio contributed to this story.

Brady, Cassel Under Center of Attention

December, 31, 2010
Our weekly look at quarterbacks who are under the center of attention.

Tom Brady
If Tom Brady plays for the New England Patriots Sunday, he'll put a number of historic streaks on the line. He's won an NFL-record 27 straight home games. He's thrown an NFL-record 319 straight passes without an interception. But did you know he has also thrown a touchdown pass in every game this season? If he does throw one Sunday, he'll be the sixth different quarterback in the 16-game schedule era (since 1978) to throw at least one TD pass in every game and the first since Daunte Culpepper in 2004. Keep in mind, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints can also achieve this feat Sunday as well.

Speaking of Brees, no down or distance is too difficult to overcome for the New Orleans Saints quarterback. On third down and more than 10 yards to go, Brees has completed 20-of-28 passes and nine of those completions have gone for first downs. That's the most completions for first downs in that situation he's had in a single season in his career. In fact, the only quarterback to throw for more facing 3rd-and-10 or more yards is Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers with 12.

The rookie QB will try to get the St. Louis Rams into the playoffs with a win Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks. He has thrown 554 passes and has completed 60.5 percent of them this season, an outstanding feat for someone so young. According to Pro Football Reference, if he can keep his accuracy up Sunday, he'll be just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw 500 passes with a completion percentage of 60 or better at age 23 or younger.

Matt Cassel needs to throw three touchdown passes and he will tie Len Dawson's single-season franchise record of 30, set in 1964. But like Brady, Cassel has not been turning the ball over. His interception rate of 1.2 (percent of his pass attempts that are intercepted) is second only to Brady (0.8) this season. Historically speaking, Cassel's TD-to-interception differential is +22, which is three better than Steve DeBerg's previous team record set in 1990 when he threw 23 touchdown passes and four interceptions.

Freeman, Bucs taking care of the ball

December, 31, 2010
ESPN NFL Research Coordinator Russell Baxter's Top Five Things to Know as heard this morning on Mike and Mike in the Morning .

• The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have committed just 17 turnovers in 15 games this season after having 34 turnovers during their 3-13 season in 2009. A lot of that improvement can be tied to QB Josh Freeman, who went from 20 turnovers in 10 games last year to just eight turnovers in 15 games this year.

• The Indianapolis Colts have rushed for 346 yards in their past two games after totaling just 360 yards rushing in their previous six games. In the past two weeks, Jim Caldwell’s team has outrushed the Jaguars and Raiders by a combined 346-147 count.

• The Chicago Bears have totaled 19 sacks in their past six games (13 sacks in first nine games). That could be bad news for the Green Bay Packers, who need a win to reach the playoffs. Green Bay has given up 15 sacks in their past four games, after allowing just 21 sacks in their first 11 games this season.

• Since leading the Philadelphia Eagles, 31-10, in the fourth quarter in Week 15, the New York Giants have been outscored a combined 73-17 in their last four-plus quarters of play. Turnovers continue to be the story for Tom Coughlin’s team. In their past 26 games dating to 2009, Big Blue has coughed up the ball an astounding 67 times.

• St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford has thrown 18 TD passes in 15 games this season after the Rams offense scored an NFL-low 16 touchdowns in 2009. With a win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, St. Louis would become the second team in three seasons to finish 1-15 and go onto win a division title the following season (Miami Dolphins in 2008).

Colts, Saints try for rare playoff appearance

December, 29, 2010
• The New Orleans Saints wrapped up a playoff berth Monday night with their win at Atlanta, meaning we are on the verge of something that hasn’t happened in quite some time. A Colts win (or Jaguars loss) Sunday means Indianapolis is also in the playoffs, marking the first time since 2000 (Rams and Titans) that both teams that reached the Super Bowl the previous season went back to the playoffs.

Joe Webb
• Tuesday night, Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback Joe Webb was the 60th different quarterback to start a game this season, the second time in four years that the league reached that number for the season (64 in 2007).

Webb was also the eighth different rookie quarterback to start a game in 2010, and seven of them have won at least one contest.

• The Carolina Panthers have had a dismal season and would like to avoid one more negative distinction. John Fox’s club has scored a league-low 186 points and should they fail to score at least 14 points this week, it would mark the 14th time a team failed to score at least 200 points in a 16-game season. The dubious 16-game record still belongs to the 1992 Seahawks (140).

• The New England Patriots have not committed a turnover in seven straight games and have just nine turnovers all season. The league record for fewest turnovers in ANY season is 12 by the 1982 Chiefs during the nine-game strike-shortened season. The Patriots’ nine miscues are more amazing when you consider that the Buffalo Bills committed seven turnovers Sunday alone.

• The New York Jets reached the playoffs despite the loss at Chicago, but the bigger question continues to be their defense. Rex Ryan’s team has allowed 24 touchdown passes in 15 games this season, after allowing an NFL-low eight in 16 games in 2009. In fact, the Jets’ defensive unit only gave up 19 touchdowns total (fewest in the league) last season.

• The St. Louis Rams were 6-42 from 2007-09 and are 7-8 this season. The Kansas City Chiefs were 10-38 from 2007-09 and are 10-5 (and AFC West champions) in 2010.

• The Indianapolis Colts have spent much of the year with the league’s worst rushing attack, while Jacksonville and Oakland have been amongst the NFL’s best at running the ball all season. So in the last two games, Indianapolis has out-rushed the Jaguars and Raiders by a combined 346-135. The once-struggling Colts need a win over the Tennessee Titans Sunday to make their ninth straight playoff appearance, tying the NFL record set by the Dallas Cowboys (1975-83).

• The Seattle Seahawks have outscored opponents 170-88 in their six wins, while being outscored 313-124 in their nine setbacks this season. All told, win or lose, 13 of Seattle’s 15 games have been decided by double-digits.