I like a lot of what I’m seeing from the St. Louis Rams, especially from the younger players right now.
The Rams have rolled to two consecutive convincing victories in a row after holding off the Chicago Bears Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
The Rams have rallied since losing starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending injury, and it’s been for a lot of reasons.
The team has developed a running game around rookies Zac Stacy, Bennie Cunningham and Daryl Richardson, although only two can be expected to be healthy at any given moment.
It’s not because they are necessarily fragile. Stacy and Cunningham are inside-the-tackles style runners who run hard, take hits and come back for more.
I saw Cunningham get hit so hard Sunday that I think he lost some letters from his last name. But, he was right back and ready to go for the next play.
The development of a running game has eased the transition to Kellen Clemens, which has made him a more effective quarterback.
Clemens benefits because teams will buy the play-action fakes and that gives him some extra time to find receivers. The staff also has him roll out at times, which extends the plays.
Despite injuries, the offensive line has done an effective job in giving him the time to look.
Because Clemens doesn’t seem to have a favorite target, teams have to defend everyone. It seems that all receivers and ends have come up with big grabs at different times. That allows Clemens to find favorable matchups.
Because there is nobody to key on defensively, Tavon Austin is developing into a multiple threat running, catching and returning the ball.
Defense has played a huge role in the turnaround. Alec Ogletree seems to be the proper player to wear Mike Jones’ 52 because he has made a number of touchdown-saving tackles near the goal line.
Robert Quinn is becoming the star the team envisioned when it drafted him in the first round. Chris Long is a leader and Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford make a good defensive tackle pairing.
The return of Jo-Lonn Dunbar at outside linebacker has helped to solidify the tackling and James Laurinaitis remains a strong middle linebacker.
The Rams are forcing turnovers as well and two set the tone for Sunday’s win. The fumble forced by Trumaine Johnson and recovered by Laurinaitis gave the Rams a 14-0 lead early in the game. Quinn’s strip and recovery with a touchdown return in the fourth quarter sealed the game.
At times, Sunday’s game seemed to be a road contest. The Bears fans traveled very well and there was a lot of orange in the stands. I don’t know why that’s the case. Would St. Louis fans allow Cubs fans to inhabit a great number of seats in Busch Stadium without making sure to drown them out? Would the Blues allow Black Hawks fans to hold a majority at the Scottrade Center? Then rally behind the Rams and fill the seats.
The Rams have fought back to 5-6, but still stand last in the NFC West at this time in one of the league’s best divisions. If the Rams can continue their recent success, who knows what could happen?
The schedule doesn’t get any easier. The Rams are on the road at San Francisco and Arizona over the next two weeks before returning home for games against New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
The Rams close the season on the road at Seattle.
It’s not going to be an easy stretch by any imagination. The three division games in San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle are going to be extremely tough. The Tampa Bay game definitely is winnable and we all remember the last visit of the Saints, a gem of a game by the Rams.
If the Rams could win the two home games and take one of the road contests, that would give the team a .500 season, one win more than 2012.
Also consider that the team dropped very winnable home games against Seattle and Tennessee and you have the potential for a strong team in the future.