The St. Louis Rams played host to the Carolina Panthers, and for a while it looked to be a snooze fest. The first seven possessions, combined between both teams, resulted in only 33 yards. The Rams attempted a 51-yard field-goal on their second drive of the game, but kicker Josh Brown missed.
The first score did not come until the 2nd quarter, when Brown hit a 33-yard field-goal on the Rams' fourth drive of the game, making the score 3-0. Then, after the Rams' defense forced a three-and-out, the Rams were able to score again on the very next drive. A reception by WR Laurent Robinson took the ball inside the 10-yard line, which eventually set up a two yard touchdown pass from QB Sam Bradford to WR Danny Amendola, making the score 10-0.
Carolina got the ball back after the touchdown for the final drive of the half. QB Matt Moore ran a no-huddle offense pretty effectively on that drive; he was 7-for-9 on the first nine passes on the drive, including a big pass completed to WR Steve Smith into Rams' territory. The Rams' defense eventually prevailed, forcing the Panthers to kick a field-goal, making the score 10-3 to end the first half.
The second half started off just as slow as the first; both teams were forced to punt on their first two drives. Nothing major happened in the half until Moore completed a 3rd-and-5 pass to Smith, and Smith fumbled on the play, which was recovered by DE Chris Long.
The fumble recovery by Long set up another scoring drive for the Rams. A solid pass by Bradford to WR Brandon Gibson brought the ball to the 15-yard line. On 3rd-and-18 it looked as if the Rams would have to settle for a field-goal, until Bradford hit TE Daniel Fells around the 5-yard line, and Fells continued to dive into the end-zone for a touchdown, making the score 17-3.
Carolina then got the ball back. Ron Bartell had a solid pass deflection on 2nd down, forcing a 3rd down situation. On 3rd down DT Fred Robbins tipped Moore's pass, and the "wounded duck" was picked off by SS James Butler, who took the ball to the Carolina 30-yard line, which set up a field-goal for the Rams. That made the score 20-3.
The Rams defense was dominant for most of the game, but once they had a 17 point lead in the 4th quarter they began to play relaxed defense. The lenient defense resulted in Carolina's first touchdown of the game. While in the red zone, rookie receiver Brandon LaFell caught a pass from Moore around the 5-yard line, fighting his way into the end-zone, making the score 20-10 with just over three minuted left in the game.
The onside-kick was recovered by the Rams, but they were eventually forced to punt. After the punt, Carolina tried to put together the final drive of the game, but FS OJ Atogwe picked off Moore, and took the ball to the 1-yard line. Atogwe was flagged for celebrating, so the Rams took over at the 16-yard line, and they took a knee to win the game 20-10.
The Rams will enter their bye-week this week, and then they have their work cut out for them. They return from the bye-week to face the 49ers in San Fransisco, then they play Atlanta at home. The Rams then go on a three game road trip that will take them to Denver, New Orleans, and Arizona. The fate of the Rams' season will likely be decided on that three game road trip.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
-THE DEFENSE The Rams' D was absolutely swarming around the ball today. James Laurinaitis had a sack and an interception, Chris Long had a forced fumble and a sack, and OJ Atogwe got the game ending interception. The defense really only gave up three meaningful points, since the Carolina touchdown was scored after the Panther's fate was practically sealed, and the Rams' defense was playing loose.
-SAM BRADFORD The rookie quarterback just threw two touchdowns for a second game in a row, and he hasn't been picked off in three games. The young quarterback continues to play at an unheard of level for a rook, and continues to show monster potential. The defense is getting most of the credit this year, but the future is certainly bright for the offense.
-COACHING See what happens when the Rams actually tries to score in the 2nd-half? Not only do they get more points, but they win with comfort. It definitely beats trying to run out the clock with only a 10 point lead, and with an entire half of football remaining. The coaches should get credit for not being too conservative in the 2nd-half, and for actually trying to put the game away.
-THE RAMS WR SITUATION Bradford was struggling to find targets today. Eventually Brandon Gibson was able to step up, and even Laurent Robinson made some plays. However, other than Amendola, the receiver are struggling to get separation. With the injuries that the Rams' receiving core has endured, someone needs to step up, and step up big. I think Gibson has what it takes to be that guy, and fans have certainly been expecting more from Mardy Gilyard. The return of a healthy Danario Alexander during the three game road trip could be huge.
-PANTHERS OFFENSE Wow. That offense has some promising young players, such as Brandon LaFell, and Jonathan Stewart (even though he's been bad this year), but I just don't see a bright future for that team's offense. The thing that's working against them, in my opinion, is their quarterback situation. I just don't see either Moore, or Jimmy Clausen, having long and successful careers.
St. Louis Rams
PASSING: Sam Bradford- 25/32 191 yards 2 TD 0 INT
RUSHING: Steven Jackson 23 ATT 59 yards 0 TD
Brandon Gibson 6 REC 67 yards 0 TD
Daniel Fells 4 REC 35 yards 1 TD
Laurent Robinson 5 REC 33 yards 0 TD
PASSING: Matt Moore 23/37 194 yards 1 TD 3 INT
RUSHING: Jonathan Stewart 14 ATT 30 yards 0 TD
Steve Smith 9 REC 85 yards 0 TD
Brandon LaFell 4 REC 40 yards 1 TD
Jeff King 2 REC 22 yards 0 TD