Quick Thoughts from the St. Louis Rams’ 24-0 Victory Over the Washington Redskins


Amazingly, the St. Louis Rams are still in the playoff race as this post publishes, having handily defeated the Washington Redskins 24-0 on Sunday afternoon.

It’s senseless to play the “what if” game in football, but still, it’s just a bit frustrating that the Rams could so easily be at 9-4 rather than 6-7. If the Rams don’t choke in the fourth quarter and blow what was a 21-0 lead against the Dallas Cowboys, primarily due to two horrendous Austin Davis-thrown interceptions, that’s a win. Obviously they got off to a terrible start against the Philadelphia Eagles the next week, but if Austin Pettis doesn’t drop two passes in Philadelphia territory on the Rams’ final drive, the Rams have a legitimate chance to steal a comeback win. And if Shaun Hill doesn’t throw an interception on the goal line in San Diego, the Rams easily score and defeat the San Diego Chargers. So while football is a game of converted and missed chances, it’s still very unfortunate that the Rams are on the outside looking in right now, especially with as dominant as they’ve looked over the past couple weeks.

Here are a few quick observations from Sunday’s game:

  • The Rams’ defense has simply been dominant over the past two weeks. The team has outscored their opponents 76-0 in that period of time, which is a sharp contrast from the earlier part of the season, when they gave up at least 30 points in six of their first nine games. The pass rush is back, and perhaps more importantly, Alec Ogletree has officially arrived in force at outside linebacker. The defensive backfield has resolved the coverage issues that plagued them earlier in the year, and they’re finally getting takeaways, as evidenced by T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod’s interceptions on Sunday. If this group can keep up the good performance, they’ll be a tenacious unit to deal with going forward.
  • Aaron Donald has already established himself as one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. The rookie picked up his seventh sack of the season, moving him ahead of Brian Young in 2001 for the most single-season sacks by a St. Louis Rams defensive tackle. Donald now sits only behind D’Marco Farr, who had 11.5, 7, and 8.5 sacks in 1995, 1998, and 1999, respectively. Donald looks like he’s going to be an intimidating force from the interior for years to come, and it’s easy to see him getting into the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

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  • In a year where tight end play has not been great around the league, especially because of Jimmy Graham’s regression, Jared Cook has established himself as one of the better tight ends in the league. While he’s always going to be frustrating because of his tendency to drop easy passes and his inability to run block, his production can’t be denied. He did all of the Rams’ offensive scoring on Sunday, and his with his big day, he raised his totals to 534 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 41 catches. Cook probably isn’t ever going to be a Rob Gronkowski-like franchise talent, but he’s definitely a difference-maker. Among tight ends with at least 40 receptions this year, Cook has the fifth-highest average yards per catch with 13. It’s hard to say that the Rams should throw Cook’s way more often because of his problems with drops, but at least they know that they have a guy who can be a gamebreaker when they need him.
  • It should be interesting to see what the Rams do with rookie second-rounder Lamarcus Joyner going forward. The 5-foot-8, 184-pounder was a healthy scratch on Sunday, officially signifying that he’s been passed up on the depth chart by E.J. Gaines, Janoris Jenkins, and Trumaine Johnson on the cornerback depth chart. With Gaines pretty clearly the Rams’ best corner, he doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Joyner may not get another chance to contribute until the Rams decide to move on from one of their third-year corners, either Jenkins or Johnson. It certainly doesn’t help that his size pretty much limits him to the nickelback position, and while he does theoretically have the ability to play safety, there aren’t very many players as small as him that are capable of contributing as safeties at the NFL level.
  • I would not be at all surprised to see kicker Greg Zuerlein unemployed tomorrow. While he’s had some great moments as a Ram and appears to have an extremely close bond with fellow third-year specialist Johnny Hekker, who just signed a long-term contract extension to stay in St. Louis, his performance on Sunday was simply unacceptable and followed some other embarrassing moments that have occurred for him during 2014. Zuerlein missed an extra point wide right following the Rams’ first touchdown, and followed up that disaster by missing a 28-yarder and a 38-yarder right before halftime, both wide right. He successfully kicked a 34-yard field goal and made an extra point before halftime, but his first half meltdown may have put the nail in the coffin. He’s now 18-for-24 (75%) on the season, and he’s only hit five field goals of over 40 yards. There aren’t a whole lot of attractive free agent options—39-year-old David Akers and 37-year-old Rian Lindell appear to be the two most experienced ones—but perhaps the Rams could find a fill-in for the rest of the year and then draft someone or find a free agent this offseason.