COMMENTARY | On Sunday, September 30, the St. Louis Rams upset the Seattle Seahawks 19-13 to even up their record at 2-2 on the season. Kicker Greg Zuerlein kicked four field goals, including a franchise record 60-yarder, in the Rams' victory.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
I thought it was all about saving money when the Rams released Josh Brown and drafted Greg Zuerlein. After all, Brown is a solid kicker, despite having a tough year in 2011. However, it's obvious that Zuerlein caught the eye of Rams general manager Les Snead at some point, and the team took a shot by taking him late in the 2012 draft.
Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher understood the need for kicker with a strong leg, especially for a team that has struggled to put points on the board. Now the Rams are reaping the rewards for drafting the rookie. There's no question that Zuerlein is the team's most valuable player after four games. While I hope to see the Rams scoring more touchdowns instead attempting field goals, it's good to know that the team has a kicker to rely on for the next 10-15 years.
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Rams' victory over the Seahawks. However, the team still has one glaring weakness: run defense. The Rams allowed 179 yards rushing on 34 carries for a 5.3 yards-per-carry average. This includes Marshawn Lynch's 118 yards and a touchdown.
I thought the Rams wouldn't have a chance of winning this game without containing the Seahawks' running game. Fortunately, St. Louis was facing a rookie quarterback in his fourth career start. If it weren't for Russell Wilson's poor performance, this game probably would have turned out differently.
The Rams made a concerted effort to upgrade the defensive line during the offseason. The team drafted run stuffer Michael Brockers in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft and signed athletic defensive lineman Kendall Langford in hopes of fixing the problem. However, despite Brockers's return to the lineup, the Rams still struggled to stop the rush.
The defensive line needs to pick up its play, but it's also becoming clear that the team's outside linebackers aren't providing enough run support. I'm starting to believe that the Rams won't improve their rush defense until they get more out of their linebackers. If that doesn't happen, then I suspect the club will take a linebacker early in the 2013 draft.
Words cannot express how important this victory is for the Rams. The team has struggled against divisional opponents, including a 2-13 record against the Seahawks in their last 15 meetings. Winning games within the NFC West was the first step towards contention for the Rams, and that's what they did on Sunday.
The truth is that the Rams aren't the same team that has compiled a 15-65 record throughout the past five seasons. They are faster, tougher, and more athletic than they have been in years. Yet the biggest difference is with the coaching staff. There are plenty of people out there who have said that Jeff Fisher is overrated, but after watching the Rams pull out the victory, it's clear that he's one of the best coaches in the NFL.
The Rams have a tough schedule this season, and I'm not expecting them to win more than six games. However, after watching the team fight its way to victory over the Seahawks and the Washington Redskins, I'm sold on the Rams' future. Fisher and Snead are turning this franchise around; it's only a matter of time.