The St. Louis Rams valiantly battled back to give the Atlanta Falcons all they could handle but ultimately lost by a final score of 31-24. Once again, the team was plagued by too many untimely penalties and various other mental miscues – e.g. Tavon Austin costing the Rams 20 yards in field position by letting a punt bounce instead of catching it. On the bright side, the Rams’ offensive firepower through the air is pretty evident. If the team can just figure out how to get off to better starts and avoid backbreaking pick-sixes, they’ll be very competitive with all of their opponents this season.
MVP – Sam Bradford
Personally, I’ve always had faith in Bradford’s ability, but if you were lukewarm on him coming into this season, I can’t really argue with you. I think there is no doubt that the team is better when he’s the starting QB, yet, through his first three seasons, he really hasn’t been the transcendent talent that you normally expect with a number one overall draft pick.
That being said, Bradford sure has looked good through the first two games this season. He’s already thrown for 651 yards and five TDs with only two picks (one of which came today on a dropped pass by the LVP) on the season, and more importantly, his body language oozes confidence. Say what you will about Brian Schottenheimer – like many fans, I’ve been known to disagree with his play calling at times – but there’s no question that having the same offensive coordinator for two years in a row has immensely helped Bradford’s development. Because of his familiarity with the offense, he makes his reads decisively and confidently, which also helps explain why he has yet to be sacked or really roughed up much at all this season.
The one thing I’d like to see Bradford improve on is avoiding batted balls. There were far too many of those today, and at 6’4, he should be able to do better. Very encouraging start to the season overall though.
LVP – Daryl Richardson
I’m not going to be nearly on tough as this week’s LVP as I was on last week’s. The problem is that Richardson just isn’t good enough to be getting the lion’s share of the snaps. He was valuable last year as a change-of-pace back, but as a featured RB, he’s just not cutting it. He had 10 carries for 35 yards today, with a long of 10. He’s averaging a little over three yards per carry with his 30 carries so far this season. In the passing game, Richardson was targeted six times and had five catches for 45 yards, which on paper qualifies as a good performance, but that sixth target was a bad drop that DE Osi Umenyiora caught on a deflection and took 68 yards for a Falcons TD. It was a critical play in the game that, despite the Rams’ best efforts, put the game just out of reach. Without that drop and resulting pick-six, the Rams would’ve had a really good chance at pulling off a great upset to go 2-0.
Moving forward, I think the Rams should consider working Isaiah Pead into the rotation more. He caught two balls for 18 yards, but on both of them he made guys miss and, for the first time I can remember, displayed the shiftiness that convinced the Rams to spend a second round pick on him last year.
X-Factor – Austin Pettis
Like a lot of people, I’ve been clamoring for the Rams to give a good portion of Pettis’s snaps to second-year WR, Brian Quick. I still think the Rams should kick the tires on that idea just because Quick seems to have so much potential whereas Pettis kind of is what he is – a possession WR who’s inconsistent when it comes to getting separation, kind of like former Ram Brandon Gibson. Like Gibson though, Pettis has his moments, and today was one of his best days as a pro. He caught six balls for 78 yards and a TD. His touchdown was a great bit of execution all around by the offense, and Pettis ran his route perfectly.
If Pettis can stay consistent in his third season, the Rams might have something going with their WR corps as Chris Givens and Tavon Austin both submitted very good performances themselves today.
Key Stat – 117.8
I’ve been focusing on the offense for much of this recap, but the defense doesn’t escape scrutiny here. Matt Ryan’s QB rating today was 117.8 (his QBR was 79.0 if you’re interested), which is simply too high. Just like last week, the defensive line did their jobs for the most part (the Falcons only managed 36 yards on 16 rushes), but the linebackers and secondary looked suspect in their pass protection. James Laurinaitis in particular simply cannot cover players in space, which is not good for a guy who’s getting paid like he’s a cornerstone of the defense. The Rams need to figure out their coverage issues quickly because Dez Bryant and Miles Austin loom next week.
Tweet of the game
GOOD GAWD ALMIGHTY William Moore gets the full Jim Ross treatment http://t.co/fOsoE7XlC1
— Earl (@JasonKirkSBN) September 15, 2013
What This Loss Means
Losing sucks, which we Rams fans know very well. But there are a lot of positives to take away from this game starting with the fact that the Rams were one tipped interception away from forcing overtime on the road against a perennial Super Bowl contender in the Falcons. Penalties continue to be a major issue, and there are a lot of little things that need fixing, but ultimately, I think the Rams have confirmed that while they may not be a top tier team yet, they will still be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Sunday, September 22, 2013 | 12:00 p.m. CT
Rams vs. Cowboys