Ram Tough: St. Louis' Clutch Crew
By Shlomo Sprung
How do you define a "big game" for a team that hasn't reached the .500 mark in a season since 2006? There was that regular-season finale against Seattle in 2010 that determined who would win the NFC West, but it would be irresponsible to make blanket statements about just one game. So let's take some key players' performances in divisional games and see which St. Louis players fare the best. All stats provided by Pro Football Reference.
» Sam Bradford: Compared to his other numbers, the QB's statistics against divisional opponents are very similar to what he puts up against every other opponent. He's 7-8-1 in his career against the NFC West, identical to the Rams' record last season. His completion percentage (58.5-percent) is nearly the same as his 58.3-percent career mark. Yards per attempt (6.34 vs. NFC West; 6.29 for his career), QB rating (75.9 to 77.3) and yards per game (223.4 to 223.3) are similar as well.
» Steven Jackson: Let's pretend for the time being that Jackson will be back in 2013. It may sadden Rams fans, or make them happy if you want him gone, that Jackson has been worse against divisional opponents in his career. In just about the same amount of attempts — 19.1 vs. NFC West and 18.9 — he's averaged six fewer yards per game (72.2, compared with 78.2 for his career). He did average 78.5 yards per game in 2012 against the division, but averaged fewer than four yards per carry.
» Chris Long: It's harder to quantify defensive players, but how many of Long's 24.5 sacks over the last two seasons came against the NFC West? Try 10, including five in each of the past two seasons. For a team that needs a defensive leader, that kind of production is something that he needs to continue.
» Robert Quinn: The 2011 first-round pick has 15.5 sacks in his first 31 games as a pro, making him one of the top, young pass-rushers in football. But how does he fare against opposing NFC West offensive lines? Quite well. He has 9.5 sacks in his 12 games against divisional rivals, compared to six against everyone else. He's a guy who seems to get up for the big games, at least from a purely statistical pass-rushing perspective.
» Janoris Jenkins: The cornerback needs to work on his tackling, but there is a lot to like about the cornerback after an encouraging rookie season. Jenkins showed a propensity for big plays, with three of his four interceptions being returned for touchdowns. The best part? He had half of his four picks in the five games he played against the NFC West, both returned for touchdowns. As he improves as a tackler and return man, he should be an asset for years to come.
The Rams will look to build around these players, and an important determining factor in how this team is built and constructed going forward is how players fare against divisional rivals. While there are a lot of encouraging signs on the defensive side of the ball, Bradford needs to improve for this team to take the next step.