If you need any evidence that head coach Jeff Fisher has the Rams moving in the right direction, then all you need to is look at the team’s last visit to Detroit in 2010. During that season, Steve Spagnuolo and Bradford led the team to a 7-9 record against a rather weak schedule. The Rams played well against clubs that lacked skill players, but they were often crushed by teams that featured stars like Calvin Johnson. That was the case on October 10, 2010, when the Lions smashed the Rams 44-6.
Almost two years later, the Rams traveled to Detroit and gave the Lions all they could handle. This is a huge sign that St. Louis has turned a corner. Since 2010, Detroit has progressed from a mediocre club to a worthy playoff and possible Super Bowl contender. The Lions have stars throughout their roster, but the Rams still gave them a game.
The team’s new playmakers were the reason why the Rams were able to keep up with the Lions. Both starting cornerbacks picked up huge interceptions, including Cortland Finnegan‘s 31-yard return for a touchdown. Not to be outdone, rookie Janoris Jenkins also picked off a pass deep inside St. Louis territory and returned it 34 yards. Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar then stepped up with an interception of his own just as the Lions were driving again.
All three players were not part of the Rams last season. Finnegan was suiting up for the Tennessee Titans, and Dunbar was playing for the Saints. Jenkins was trying to restore his reputation at North Alabama. Meanwhile, the Rams defense often struggled to force turnovers and make plays in 2011. They had talent, but they were missing players who could create turnovers from the outside linebacker and cornerback positions. That’s what Finnegan, Dunbar, and Jenkins did for this team on Sunday.
I look forward to seeing this defense grow together. The unit didn’t give a perfect performance. The Lions made it look far too easy when they scored two touchdowns on the Rams in the fourth quarter. However, it’s clear that the St. Louis defense has the potential to become on the best units in the league.
Unfortunately, it’s a little harder to be optimistic about the Rams offense. It did improve in the second half, but the offense has a long way to go. Bradford’s numbers look alright on paper. In fact, they seem to be more than reasonable. However, his stats aren’t the problem; his mentality is. There were times when Bradford liked like the same shell-shocked quarterback that we saw take the field in 2011. That’s something to be concerned about.
Another problem remains the offensive line. The unit allowed three sacks and proved unable to open many holes for Steven Jackson for much of the game. It doesn’t help that starting left tackle Rodger Saffold and center Scott Wells were injured in the game. Saffold suffered what appears to be a sprained neck in the fourth quarter, and Wells injured this foot. Right now, there’s no timetable for their return to the lineup.
The Rams offense is built around Jackson. If the offensive line doesn’t open up some holes for him, then it’s going to be a long year in St. Louis. Look for the Rams to make a roster move this week for another lineman. Currently, there are only five healthy offensive linemen on the roster.
Overall, the team gave a solid opening performance. The Rams showed that they aren’t going to lie down against teams with superior talent; they’re going to fight to the very end. That’s going to go a long way in turning this franchise around. If the Rams can get some better blocking up front, they have an outstanding chance to beat the Washington Redskins next weekend.
(Originally published on Yahoo! Sports)