Rams Report Card: O-line, special teams fail

2012-12-17T12:20:00Z 2012-12-21T11:47:11Z Rams Report Card: O-line, special teams failBY JEFF GORDON, STLtoday.com Sports Columnist stltoday.com

Here are the grades for the St. Louis Rams after their grisly 36-22 loss to Minnesota Vikings at the Edward Jones Dome.

QUARTERBACK: Sam Bradford has done a solid job taking care of the ball this season, but Sunday was an exception. A fumbled snap exchange put the Vikings in field goal range. That mishap was on center Scott Wells -- the ball slipped on him -- but Bradford had a chance to regain the ball and failed. Then Bradford threw a devastating “pick six” on the next Rams possession, failing to see defensive end Everson Griffen dropping into his passing lane. “We got behind, we didn’t control the football, we turned the football over,” Bradford said. Once the Rams were down 33-7, he managed to throw the ball around a bit. Bradford finished with 377 yards passing, three touchdowns, a two-point conversion and a 94.3 passer rating despite missing on a number of key downfield throws. This was a solid fantasy football performance, but not a winning effort in real life.

Grade: D

RUNNING BACK: Steven Jackson did his thing, piling up 146 yards from scrimmage on 21 touches. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 9.1 yards per catch. He reached the 10,000-yard plateau in career rushing to earn a nice ovation from those brave fans who stuck it out. Rookie Daryl Richardson (three catches for 25 yards) helped in the passing game. It’s hard to lose with such efficiency at running back, but the Rams pulled it off.

Grade: A

RECEIVERS: Danny Amendola came back from his foot/heel injury to catch six passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Brian Quick made a spectacular touchdown catch, using his size to win a jump ball. Brandon Gibson (six catches, 78 yards) and Austin Pettis (five catches, 55 yards) were solid for a second consecutive week. Chris Givens caught just one of the four passes that came his way, but it went for 22 yards.

Grade: B

TIGHT ENDS: Lance Kendricks caught three passes for 35 yards and his third touchdown of the season. Cory Harkey (!) got on the board with a 21-yard catch in garbage time. This unit did OK in run blocking as well.

Grade: B

OFFENSIVE LINE: Right tackle Barry Richardson allowed a sack just three plays into the game, playing turnstile for Brian Robison. On the second Rams possession, left tackle Rodger Saffold erased what would have been a 12-yard completion to Gibson for a first down on the Minnesota 32. The Rams had to punt . . . and a bleak tone was set for the day. Wells botched a center snap that the Vikings converted into a field goal. Bradford took four sacks and absorbed a beating. “Sam was under quite a bit of pressure,” coach Jeff Fisher said with an understatement. The line stacked up false-start penalties again, including two costly calls on their last possession of the first half. “Guys were flinching,” Fisher said. “We were . . . changing things at the line of scrimmage and that didn’t help us.” Oh, and right guard Harvey Dahl suffered a season-ending biceps tear amid all this failure. The line opened a few big rushing holes and afforded Bradford time to pile up some late yardage, but overall it failed.

Grade: F

DEFENSIVE LINE: This unit made lots of good plays. The Rams kept Adrian Peterson bottled up for much of the game. Defensive end Williams Hayes dumped him in the backfield on consecutive plays. Defensive ends Chris Long (two) and Robert Quinn (one) had tackles for losses as well and Eugene Sims sacked Christian Ponder. But Quinn let Ponder escape a sack and score the game’s first touchdown. He had Peterson measured for a loss in the fourth quarter, but got held in the backfield as Adrian got loose for 52 yards. It was that kind of day as Peterson finished with 212 yards gained on 24 carries.

Grade: D

LINEBACKERS: This unit also made plenty of good plays. Outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar had three tackles for loss. He and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis had a half-dozen solo tackles. But, again, Peterson rushed for 212 yards on 24 carries. And that was that.

Grade: D

SECONDARY: Safety Quintin Mikell blasted Ponder, forcing a fumble that skipped 21 yards . . . and safely out of bounds. Ponder completed no passes longer than 14 yards. But some big missed tackles (safety Craig Dahl in particular) and cornerback Trumaine Johnson’s dropped interception added to the mayhem. And did we mention that Peterson rushed for 212 yards?

Grade: D

SPECIAL TEAMS: There was not a lot to like here. An ill-advised kickoff return by Givens from deep in the end zone pinned the Rams offense on its 12-yard line to start the game. Harkey’s blocking-in-the-back penalty wiped out Amendola’s 35-yard punt early in the third quarter. Rookie Greg Zuerlein didn’t hit his 57-yard field goal attempt well at all. An attempted flea-flicker punt return turned ugly when Janoris Jenkins spit up the ball. (The Rams were fortunate to get it back.) Johnny Hekker pinned one punt inside the 20, but he kicked one duck and one line drive right at the return man as well.

Grade: F

COACHING: This was a big indicator game for the Rams and they flopped, delivering a sloppy performance every way possible. An unfortunate blitz call opened the door for Peterson’s 82-yard TD run. “We had a defensive tackle dropping into coverage, so in a lead draw  the guy hits the secondary unblocked,” Fisher said. The staff needed to force a turning point during the second quarter and failed. The Rams regrouped a bit at halftime but it was too late.

Grade: D

Jeff Gordon

Copyright 2015 stltoday.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

ACTIVATE YOUR DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION

Jeff Gordon

This is the new home for STLtoday.com sports columnist Jeff Gordon. Here you'll find his columns on the Cards, Rams, Blues and more, plus his daily "Tipsheet" blog about who's in and who's out in the world of sports.

Get weekly ads via e-mail