Rams Win Again As Offense Contributes
September 29, 2016
The Los Angeles Rams are turning heads while attracting media hits as they won their second consecutive thriller, 37-32, on the road in a hot, muggy Raymond James Stadium last Sunday.
Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were trying to shove the ball down their throat on the final drive of the game but didn't succeed.
All this, after the threat of lightning passing through the Tampa area had the NFL suspending the game for over an hour right at the two-minute warning and the Rams hanging onto the slim lead with the ball but facing a third-and-11 situation at their own five-yard line.
Los Angeles also eradicated its two-game touchdown drought leading off the 2016 season by finding the end zone five times. For the first time in three games the offense, defense and special teams functioned in unison. But it was the defense that delivered the final blow once again.
The Rams threw an incomplete pass when the game restarted but a pressure-packed Johnny Hekker punt from the back of the end zone boomed past midfield. The Bucs drove from their own 44-yard line but stalled at the Los Angeles five-yard line when defensive end Robert Quinn tackled Winston from behind as time expired.
Ram head coach Jeff Fisher offered the following day: "I think after three weeks, you can tell that every game is different, every game's a challenge when you're competing against a different opponent. Situations, circumstances are all different and again, this was a great win for us. Looking back at all three phases, they all contributed."
It was a defensive play that turned the tide of the game. Quinn's forced fumble on Winston driving the Bucs deep into Ram territory resulted in defensive tackle Ethan Westbrook picking up and returning the ball 77 yards for a 31-20 Los Angeles lead.
"Defensively, we made the plays at the end, we got some stops, we got a defensive score, we got the turnover that we needed. We're not there yet... Even though they were depleted injury-wise, I thought we handled their run game pretty well," said Fisher.
Greg Zuerlein kicked a 53-yard field goal that gave the Rams a brief 10-7 lead late in the first quarter. "On special teams, they were solid... Greg's hitting the ball really well right now, kickoffs and field goals. There was a huge kick for him. Then, with Johnny when we needed the long punt, we needed to change field positions. Johnny hit a great ball there inside two minutes."
Los Angeles scored its first touchdown of the season on the opening drive as Case Keenum threw to 44-yard touchdown pass to Brian Quick capping the eight-play, 75-yard drive. Tampa Bay tied the score, 7-7, when Keenum was intercepted by Kwon Alexander, who returned the ball 38 yards for a pick-six.
Zuerlein kicked a 53-yard field goal that gave the Rams a brief lead before the Bucs scored two touchdowns in the second quarter to take the lead. Los Angeles cut the lead to 20-17 just before the half on a one-yard run by Todd Gurley.
The Rams retook the lead, 24-20, just before the end of the third quarter as Gurley scored his second touchdown, again from the one-yard line. Tampa Bay responded with a touchdown with 8:55 remaining in the game but missed the two-point conversion attempt.
Keenum threw 43 yards to Tavon Austin to give the Rams the insurance score with 4:38 in the fourth quarter to improve L.A.'s season record to 2-1, tied for the NFC West Divison lead with the Seattle Seahawks. The Buccaneers scored a touchdown with 2:55 in the game to pull within five points, setting up the final drama.
The Rams next face the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday, October 2 at 1:25 p.m. PST in Glendale, Arizona, at University of Phoenix Stadium. The West Division foe and preseason favorite Cardinals are 1-2 this season after suffering a 33-18 road-beating to the Buffalo Bills last weekend.
The highly-touted Cardinal defense gave up an unprecedented 208 yards rushing to the Bills, the most ever given up on the road during Arizona Head Coach Bruce Arians' reign.
Head-to-head, Los Angeles won the first game last season at Phoenix, 24-22, but lost the last game of the year at home, then in St. Louis, 27-3, to the eventual 2015 NFC West Division Cardinals.
Arizona won a franchise season-high 13 games last season and took the NFC West title for the first time since 2009.
L.A. defensive stats: Alec Ogletree with 29 tackles; Mark Barron with 22, Lamarcus Joyner with 21 and Trumaine Johnson with 18 lead the team. Robert Quinn leads with two quarterback sacks. Barron has the lone interception for the Rams this season. The team has recovered five fumbles while only giving up one to the opposition.
Tony Jefferson leads the Arizona defense this year in tackles with 30. Markus Golden and Chandler Jones each have three quarterback sacks while Marcus Cooper and Patrick Peterson lead in interceptions with two each.
L.A. offensive stats: Keenum is 49/91 for 559 yards in passing, two touchdowns and three interceptions for a 66.1 quarterback rating through the first three games. Gurley leads the team in rushing with 63 carries for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin lead in receptions with 14 each for 199 and 145 yards respectively.
Offensively, Arizona averages more than 100 yards-per-game over Los Angeles including more than 100 yards-per-game in passing. They average more than seven yards-per-game rushing and 11 points-per-game over L.A. The Cardinal's third down conversion percentage dominates the Rams: 41.5% to 30%.
Quarterback Carson Palmer leads Arizona with five touchdowns thrown but also tossed a painful four interceptions in the loss to the Bills. David Johnson leads in rushing with 217 yards in 47 carries. Larry Fitzgerald leads in receiving with 218 yards on 20 receptions.
Fisher was asked about taking anything away from Buffalo's successful game plan against Arizona: "No, if we go and change our defense and do what they did, then we don't have a chance of being successful.
"We have a system, they have a system. There's familiarity with both of these two teams... "Bruce is a good coach and he'll have them ready to play. We respect them, as I said. We have a long week ahead of us, we'll put together the best plan we can and go out and execute."