Monday, October 1, 2012

Extra Points about the Rams' 19-13 win over the Seahawks:

by Bernie M.

Four games into the new season, the Rams aren’t going to be admired for their good looks. Their performances aren’t smooth, refined, or handsome. It’s a team of dirty faces. A team with bruises, abrasions, and blood stains. The Rams will win ugly, if that’s what’s necessary. The Rams often get themselves into trouble, but also can find their way out of the jam. They are laborers. They make plays.
That’s the best way to explain their 2-2 record and competitiveness in all four games. Even in their two losses, the Rams had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. They twice took the lead late at Detroit, but the defense couldn’t make a stop at the end. At Chicago, the Rams were within one score of tying it up with less than 10 minutes remaining, but the offense couldn’t block the Bears’ front four and the situation deteriorated.
The Rams have been outscored 24-9 in the first quarter. They have been outscored 31-20 in the fourth quarter. They have the same number of points (13) as their opponents in the third quarter. The Rams have “won” only one quarter, the second, outscoring foes 36-24. So despite trailing early and fairly often, the Rams are 2-2, and probably should be 3-1.
The Rams hang tough and stay close for several reasons, and we’ll mention a few:
1. This one isn’t quantifiable, but they’re just a lot tougher under Jeff Fisher. Which was the expectation. That’s his rep. He builds tough teams. The Rams have that. It isn’t just a matter of physical play. The Rams are mentally tough. That’s why they’re able to come back from so many deficits.
They were down 7-3 to Detroit, and took the lead twice when trailing the Lions in the fourth quarter. The Rams defeated Washington despite being down 14-3 and 21-6. They fell behind 10-0 at Chicago, and got it to 10-6 before slipping late. Seattle took the opening kickoff and went 80 yards for a 7-0 lead; the Rams didn’t blink. In Seattle, they’re wondering how the Seahawks managed to lose this one 19-13 despite rushing for 179 yards and not allowing a touchdown.
(Well, look at the coach. Fisher won the matchup against Pete Carroll.) But more than anything, opponents have to realize that they’re up against a different kind of animal now when they tangle with St. Louis. The Rams are not the same, old, sorry-sack team that’s been kicked around for years. Not with Fisher coaching them. This is new. We’re not used to seeing such resilience.
2. The Rams defense makes stops: they’re giving up around 349 net yards per game. That’s nothing special; it ranks 14th among 32 teams. The Rams are vulnerable against the run. They rank 26th in yielding 135 yards per game, and 26th in allowing 4.7 yards per rushing attempt. They’ve been barreled over for six rushing TDs. Quarterbacks have completed 64.7 percent of the passes against the Rams defense.
This group limits the damage. It cuts its losses. It makes plays. It puts up resistance. The Rams are 7th in the NFL in stopping opponents on 3rd down, allowing a conversion rate of 31.1 percent.
The Rams lead the NFL with eight interceptions. They’ve been dinged by only two TD passes, which is tied for first. The Rams TD/INT ratio of 0.25 is the best in the league. They’re limiting quarterbacks to a passer rating of 64.2; that’s No. 2 in the league.
And that Rams defense that isn’t so rigid against the run? Yesterday Seattle ran the ball four times on third down and short (0-2 yards). The Rams held them to six yards on the four rushes, and twice prevented a first down.
Fisher always tells his players: don’t look at the scoreboard. Keep playing. Make enough plays, and the scoreboard will change.
3. Sam Bradford makes plays: Really, I’m not trying to cause the Sammy haters to go into convulsions. Bradford’s overall stats are ordinary. The offense is limited. The Rams average 19.8 points per game, 26th in the NFL. They have five TDs from scrimmage, tied for last. They average 311 yards, which is 27th.
So why do I say that Bradford makes plays? Well, because he does. Bradford has been one of the best quarterbacks in third-down situations. He’s been good on third down and longer distances. He’s been effective in the fourth quarter when his team is up by seven or fewer points, or down by seven or fewer points.
Let’s take a look:
• On third down, Bradford has completed 22 of 33 (66.7 percent) with a TD and no interceptions. That completion percentage ranks 7th among starting quarterbacks. His third-down passer rating of 102.2 is also No. 7 among QBs. His percentage of picking up third downs on passing attempts is 51.5, which ranks 4th in the league. Bradford’s yards per passing attempt of 8.27 on third down ranks 6th.
• Against Seattle, Bradford converted a 3rd and 14, and two 3rd and 13s. When Bradford faced a third and 11+ yards through the first four games, he’s completed all three passing attempts and secured a first down each time. His passer rating in that situation is 118.8. Quarterbacks don’t have great success on 3rd down needing between 8 and 10 yards. In those instances Bradford has completed 8 of 10, and his first-down conversion rate of 50 percent ranks No. 8 among
• In the 4th quarter and the Rams are leading by 7 points or fewer or trailing by 7 points or fewer, Bradford has completed 17 of 27 with two TDs and an interception. In this category, his passer rating of 97.6 ranks 10th in the league. And he’s converted third downs at a rate of 55.6 percent; that’s No. 2 among passers.
Yes, we’d all like to see more touchdowns, fewer field goals. We’d like to see more big plays, and fewer catches for short yardage. We’d like to see better red zone success. Absolutely. But until the Rams develop more playmakers, it’s positive to have your quarterback making plays that move the chains and set up the rookie kicker for field goals.
4. Greg the Leg: Zuerlein is 12 for 12 in his field goal attempts, but we aren’t talking about a lot of putts or chip shots. Of the 12 FGs, seven have been for 46 yards or longer. The rookie already has kicked field goals of 56, 58 and 60 yards. The Rams’ single-season franchise record for most field goals of 50+ yards is six, held by three players. (Tony Zendejas, Jeff Wilkins, Josh Brown.) So Zuerlein only needs four more FGs of 50+ to set a record.
Needless to say, young "GeeZy" has become an extraordinary weapon for Fisher and the Rams. As we’ve discussed, the Rams are not a touchdown machine. Getting into the end zone will be a challenge. But you still need to score as many points as possible, and now the Rams have a kicker with remarkable range, which sets up more FG chances. Now when the Rams move past the 50-yard line, they’ve entered Zuerlein’s range. What used to be a fourth-down punt may become a FG attempt instead. Not many kickers are game-changers, but Zuerlein seems to be one. I don’t think the Rams win yesterday with four blasts from Kid Dynamite.

No comments: