For the first time in 6 seasons the St. Louis Rams have started the NFL season with an unblemished record as they sit atop their division. It wasn’t an easy win against a divisional opponent, but the Rams showed they have fight in them when it comes to pressure situations. The Rams trailed by 11 points in the third quarter when Sam Bradford and company marched down the field to take the lead with 40 seconds left. The win was a total team effort and if they plan on making some noise this year they will need to play as whole consistently. Here are a few takeaways from the first game.
McDonald and Ogletree can play
This season the St. Louis Rams are youngest team in the league with an average age of 24.98. This would be a cause for concern for a head coach as there is raw talent on the roster that needs to be molded. For Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, he is not using the team’s youth as an excuse. Coach Fisher knew it was going to be a gamble to start his young rookies, but they are showing they aren’t afraid of the big stage. Although all of the hype is around 1st year receiver Tavon Austin, it was linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety TJ McDonald who made the most noise on Sunday. Ogletree tied for the team lead in tackles with seven. Although his stock dropped in the first round this past draft, he is going to make a lot of teams wish they did not pass him up. The other rookie, safety McDonald, was known in college for some monster hits on receivers. This past Sunday he showed us he could do it at the professional level too. Even though his hits can look brutal, McDonald is so fundamentally sound when it comes to tackling that he won’t be getting fined for his hits.
Stop them on 3rd and long
For the most part the St. Louis Rams defense had a solid game. The front seven was phenomenal as they held the Arizona Cardinals running game to under 100 yards. Third year defensive end Robert Quinn is coming into his own as he took advantage of tackle Levi Brown, finishing the game with 3 sacks. The area they struggled was stopping Carson Palmer from converting on third downs. The Cardinals had a 50% conversion rate that led to some big drives. Some of those conversions were due to Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan and his extra-curricular activities. If the Rams want to give Sam Bradford more time with the offense, Finnegan and his secondary are going to need to shut down receivers coming their way on third and longs.
Release the Cookie monster
When Coach Fisher brought tight end Jared Cook over from Tennessee this offseason, he knew the true value of the 5th year player and his versatility. Many experts knew Cook was misused in his time with the Titans, but never knew if he could play to his potential. Cook started off the first drive with an incomplete pass, but came out and balled after that. His first catch came on a pass down the middle for 48-yards right before he fumbled it in front of the endzone. He made up for it on a spectacular 13-yard touchdown catch as he broke the plane while mid-air. He finished the night totaling 141-yards with two touchdown grabs. All the reports coming out of camp were about Bradford and Cooks chemistry. We did not see much of it during the preseason, but the St. Louis Rams are starting to prove Cook is worth his big deal contract.
When coach Fisher said the Rams had a lot of tricks up their sleeves that he was not going to reveal during the preseason, he showed some of it on the first game of the season. The Rams even had a toss play to rookie receiver Austin that resulted in negative yardage. The first game was tight end Cook and defensive end Quinn’s coming out party. The St. Louis Rams have other weapons on both sides of the ball that have yet to even scratch the surface. This could be a sign of good things to come for the Rams if they could do it on a consistent basis. They have the potential to be a playoff team, this week they get to show what they can do against a team favored to come out of the NFC in the Atlanta Falcons.