COMMENTARY | On Thursday, October 4, the St. Louis Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals 17-3 to improve their record to 3-2 on the season. The Rams defense recorded nine sacks and held the Cardinals to 282 total yards in the victory.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
It was easy to doubt whether or not the Rams defense had improved in the offseason when the unit gave up 802 total yards and 55 points in its first two games. However, the team has given each of its last three opponents major problems, including Thursday's masterful performance against the Cardinals.
The Rams have had some defensive talent for years, but the difference appears to be some of general manager Les Snead's offseason additions. You didn't see it on the stat sheet, but new defensive tackle Kendall Langford did an outstanding job disrupting the middle of the Cardinals' offensive line. His work in the trenches opened up some holes for defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long to pressure Kevin Kolb throughout the game.
Meanwhile, two other offseason additions had solid games for the Rams as well. Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and cornerback Janoris Jenkins were all over the field. Jenkins, in particular, made up for a couple of early coverage mistakes by making some outstanding plays on the ball in the second half. Overall, I was very impressed with the effort the defense gave against the Cardinals.
Bradford's ups and downs
I've defended Rams quarterback Sam Bradford from the moment the team drafted him, but I'm starting to have doubts about his future. He hasn't had it easy in the NFL; there's no question about that. Bradford has only been in the league for three years, and he's already on this third offensive coordinator. He's never played behind a solid offensive line, nor has he had a decent group of receivers to support him.
However, there are some issues with Bradford as a player that are holding him back. First, he's too reliant on one receiver. That's one reason why the Rams' passing game fell apart last season when Danny Amendola dislocated his elbow: Bradford focused on him far too much. Now he'll face the same problem again this season with Amendola out for about six weeks with a collarbone injury.
Second, Bradford is inconsistent; more than his fair share of passes completely missed the mark on Thursday night. Yet he also threw a great deep ball to Chris Givens in the fourth quarter for a touchdown. I think this is happening because he's often unsettled in the pocket. There were multiple plays against the Cardinals where Bradford either held onto the ball or got rid of it too early. That comes from feeling a pass rush that is sometimes not even there.
That said, I'm not giving up on Sam Bradford. I still believe in his potential to lead this team. However, the time has come for him to take the next step in his career. The Rams appear to be building something special in St. Louis, but it won't happen without a franchise quarterback to lead them.
Fan support is an issue that I tried to avoid in the Rams' first four games. This is a franchise that entered the 2012 season with a 15-65 record and a history of poor personnel decisions in the past five seasons. I can understand the fans' unwillingness to invest in a team that has proven itself as one of the worst franchises in the NFL. Fans shouldn't be required to financially support a team that consistently disappoints them.
However, I don't understand how the folks in St. Louis could only muster an attendance of 54,663 for this game. The Rams had a couple things going for them as they entered Thursday night's showdown with the Cardinals.
First, they were playing in their only primetime game of the season, which is the perfect opportunity for the city to show off how much it loves the team. Second, it was the Rams' chance to go above .500 for the first time since 2006. Finally, they were playing a divisional opponent that just happens to be the team that broke the St. Louis' heart when it moved to Arizona in 1988. Yet the attendance still fell nearly 13,000 fans short of the Edward Jones Dome's capacity.
This team isn't the same old Rams. Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher have this franchise heading in the right direction, and it needs the fans' support. Furthermore, it's important to note that the Rams and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC) are in arbitration over the club's future in the Edward Jones Dome. I'm sure that Rams owner Stan Kroenke is monitoring how well the team is being supported in the Gateway City. The Rams are currently ranked last in the league in home attendance. That's not going to help the city in any potential negotiations that it has with the Kroenke.
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