The St. Louis Rams’ 52-0 win over the Raiders was the biggest margin of victory for any team in the NFL this season. The victory over Oakland improved the Rams to 5-7, while Oakland dropped to 1-11.
And the win shows that, despite the injuries, and struggles over the past decade, the Rams have potential (yes, really).
Ok, it’s pretty obvious that the phrase “future potential” has been used a lot since 2004 when talking about the Rams. And naturally, seeing is believing.
But the 2014 Rams have shown that they can compete with any team in the NFL, even with backup quarterbacks at the helm, and despite all the injuries that have affected the team this year. With the return of defensive end Chris Long, on Sunday, the defense looked and performed at their highest level this year, save for shutting down Peyton Manning and the Broncos two weeks ago.
Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr had a mere 9.5 QB rating, went 24/39 for 173 yards, threw two interceptions, and could not reach the level of play he did when they beat the Chiefs in Week 12. Backup Matt Schaub eventually entered the game, and struggled himself, going 5/9 and throwing an interception. Oakland did not have an answer for the pressure the Rams were forcing, and the speed at which they were scoring points.
Perhaps the lowest point for Oakland, and the play that could very well sum up how they played all day came when Johnny Hekker punted to T.J Carrie, and after a four yard gain, ran right into linebacker and teammate Ray Ray Armstrong, who was a former Rams player himself.
For the Rams’ offense, the running game was the main factor in their offensive dominance all afternoon. Rookie running back Tre Mason ran for 117 yards, and early in the second quarter, had a major 89-yard touchdown run, which NFL Network ranked as their “#2 play of Week 13”.
The sudden burst of speed shown by Mason gives fans reasons to be excited. For over 10 years, the running back position has usually, believe it or not, been the strong suit of the offense, from Marshall Faulk to Steven Jackson, and now, Tre Mason.
QB Shaun Hill and WR Tavon Austin also had rushing touchdowns, and running backs Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham had carries during the game as well. WR Stedman Bailey was quiet for the last three quarters, but had five catches for 100 yards in the first quarter, forcing Oakland to shift focus, and lock-down on him better, which they did, which explains why he had no receptions after the first.
While the Raiders had the ball for over 35 minutes, they were either stalled on drives, or the Rams would force a turnover. They sacked Carr and Schaub six times: once by William Hayes, three by Robert Quinn, once by Long, and once by rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has made a strong case for himself to be defensive rookie of the year.
One position that performed outstanding on Sunday was the secondary. All year, the secondary has had brief glimpses of strong outputs overshadowed by getting beaten badly by opposing receivers. Trumaine Johnson had two of the three interceptions, while rookie corner E.J Gaines had the other one. What makes one of Johnson’s interceptions significant is that he returned the one he picked off from Schaub 43 yards to the end zone, giving the Rams the 52-0 lead that remained.
With games against the Redskins, Cardinals, Giants, and Seahawks left, St. Louis can really end the season on a strong note after such a porous start.
Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead had an underrated 2014 draft, and the performances from the rookies are really what has stood out the most from the team this season. Mason has the ability to be a franchise running back, Gaines is a young defensive back in an improving secondary, #2 pick Greg Robinson has had his share of struggles, but also has shown good awareness and agility while on the offensive line, which took a huge blow earlier in the year when they lost left tackle Jake Long to his second ACL tear.
Arguably, the biggest need for the Rams is a franchise quarterback, because Sam Bradford has become too injury prone, and while neither Hill or Austin Davis has performed terribly this year, it’s more than likely St. Louis will draft a quarterback in next year’s draft. The question is, if they do, which one?
The bottom-line is: as hard as it could be to believe, there is plenty of potential in the franchise. If they just play more consistently, then they will become a force to be reckoned with in the NFL…
(Photo credit: L.G Anderson/AP Press)