Oh, hell, didn’t I write the same thing two years ago after the opening week of 2010 when the Rams lost their opening game to the Cardinals? Yeah, I did, and the Rams went 7-9 that season, barely missing the playoffs and giving every Rams fan a reason to hope for what would come in 2011. I won’t get into that specific season after, but today? Ah, today.
Today’s loss was a disappointing one… primarily because the Rams were in a position to win the game. And that should be cause for some hope again.
The Detroit Lions are a very talented team, one of the best in the NFC, with a lot of weapons at their disposal. They didn’t win this game until the final 20 seconds of the contest. The Rams went toe to toe with them, and kept it close until the finish. Simple as that.
That’s something to be proud of for this young group of players, and something to build on down the stretch of this season. The Rams came to play against a better opponent and stood toe to toe with them right until the end. That’s an improvement over the product we saw for much of 2011.
Some positional thoughts on what I saw today…
— Sam Bradford wasn’t quite as good as his QB rating would suggest, but he got better as the game went on and made a fantastic throw to Brandon Gibson for the Rams’ only offensive touchdown. The Rams will need Sam to make more plays and put more points on the board if they want to win some of these close contests, but his best moments came when his team needed him late in the game.
— Steven Jackson ran hard despite not having a lot of room in front of him. He only gained 53 yards on 21 carries, but fought hard for each of those yards, breaking tackles and high stepping over diving defenders. He also caught four passes for 31 yards, getting some looks on screen passes that worked quite well against the Lions’ defense. Richardson was used on minimally, with only two carries. No sighting of Pead except on special teams.
— Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson combined for nine catches; the rest of the Rams’ wide receivers only had one total and that was from Steve Smith late in the game on a crossing route. Chris Givens would have had a great deep reception had Bradford hit him in stride; Quick was no where to be found. It was nice to see Kendricks actually catch the ball, but his contributions were minimal today.
— The offensive line did a better job than I expected, holding up to a talented defensive front fairly well. Bradford was sacked three times, at least one was entirely on him while another came about as the rookie Watkins was completely shoved aside by Corey Williams. In the run game, the line opened up few holes for Jackson, who got most of his yards the hard way. Hopefully Rodger Saffold and Scott Wells (both injured today) won’t be out for long.
— Defensively, the Rams missed Michael Brockers, as Kevin Smith averaged nearly five yards on each of his 13 carries. The Rams were inconsistent at getting pressure on Matt Stafford, in part because the Lions countered the Rams’ pass rush with a quick passing game that minimized Stafford’s time in the pocket. Robert Quinn had the only sack of the day.
— Jo-Lonn Dunbar went from possibly being one of the best defensive players on the field today to the poster-boy for the defeat. He made some nice tackles in the backfield and had a great first half interception, but when Kevin Smith ran into the end zone to seal a Lions victory, it was Dunbar who blew the coverage. Laurinaitis was second on the team in tackles but didn’t make many impact plays. McIntosh was practically a ghost. The linebackers share in some of the blame for the lack of better run defense, as they were blocked out of a number of runs.
— The defensive secondary had its highs and lows. Jenkins and Finnegan both came away with interceptions, the latter of whom returned his for a touchdown, tying the offense’s output for the day. The secondary looked primed to deny the Lions much when it came to the red zone, giving many a positive impression for the first half. But despite the interceptions, Stafford completed 66% of his throws and put up over 350 yards. Megatron surpassed 100 yards on the day on six receptions, and the Rams did not have an answer in coverage for either Brandon Pettigrew or Tony Scheffler, who combined for 107 yards on ten receptions.
To conclude, I think there were some positives here. Not enough to beat a strong team like Detroit, but definitely enough to give Rams fans some hope for 2012.
The offense was stagnant early but came on late to keep the team in the game. In the first half, the defense bent but did not break against a tough opponent, and came away with some turnovers in the process.
There are some things to build on here, and Jeff Fisher looked like a coach who was ready for the challenge today. He celebrated the team’s accomplishments with leaps of joy on the sideline, and shared in their agony in mistakes.
Many fans wanted to see a competitive Rams team on the field this Sunday, and that’s what they got. Everyone wanted a better outcome on the scoreboard, but there were enough signs to make fans believe that result will come eventually.