Report Card: Rams Beat Punchless Jags
By Joe Vastola
After getting blown out at home by the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4, the Rams, at 1-3, were in desperate need of a win against Jacksonville. St. Louis fell behind early in the first quarter, but played a strong game to knock off the lowly Jaguars, 34-20. The Rams trailed the winless Jaguars as the second quarter began, but a 17-point second quarter had St. Louis up two touchdowns at the half. Despite putting a few good drives together in the second half, Jacksonville was unable to cut the deficit to under a touchdown. With the victory, the Rams improved to 2-3 and will travel to Houston for a date with the struggling Texans in Week 6.
The win puts the Rams right back in the middle of the NFC playoff race, too. They are only one game out of a wild-card spot. Here are the grades for the Rams in their Week 5 performance.
Sam Bradford, B-: The quarterback started slow, but rebounded nicely. After the opening 15 minutes, the Rams had only one first down and Bradford had a fumble that he was able to recover. Despite the poor offensive showing, the Rams only trailed by a field goal. In the second, Bradford was able to capitalize on a Jaguars fumble as he hit Lance Kendricks for a 16-yard touchdown pass. Then, he found Austin Pettis for the first of his two touchdown receptions. The score gave the Rams some breathing room and they never looked back. Bradford ended the game 19-of-34 for 222 yards and three touchdowns — and he didn't turn the ball over.
Running game, B+: After four rough weeks on the ground, St. Louis finally had a decent performance. Zac Stacy got his first start of the year and rushed for 78 yards on 14 carries. The Rams also received 48 yards from Daryl Richardson, who helped add a dynamic this offense has missed in the first quarter of the season. With the ability to get yards on the ground, it wasn't necessary for Bradford to attempt 50 passes like he had in previous weeks.
Defense, B-: In Week 4, the Rams had a difficult time stopping Frank Gore and they ended up allowing 35 points to the Niners. They did a much better job on Maurice Jones-Drew, who was held to 70 yards. They did face problems with their pass defense, as Justin Blackmon caught five passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. Even though the Jaguars were able to move the ball, the Rams forced three turnovers and returned an interception for a touchdown.
Special Teams, D: For the second straight game the Rams played poorly on special teams. The Rams once again had numerous penalties on punts and punt returns. In addition, the Rams' coverage has been an Achilles heel and almost cost them seven poitns as they allowed an 88-yard return that was called back. Lastly, St. Louis had a punt blocked which gave the Jaguars excellent field position. Playing poorly on special teams may not cost them against Jacksonville, but it will against better teams who are also competing to earn a playoff spot.
Next up: The Rams will take on the Texans (2-3), who have dropped back-to-back games against NFC West opponents. St. Louis is hoping to continue this trend and reach .500.