TSX: Rams Report Card

Sam Bradford (Getty/Elsa)

It was a true throwback day at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday when the Rams defeated the Carolina Panthers 20-10.

On a day when the club retired the No. 80 jersey of wide receiver Isaac Bruce, the Rams won wearing the throwback uniforms from the 1999 Super Bowl season.

Of course, one major difference was that rookie quarterback Sam Bradford's 25 completions gained just 191 yards (7.6 per completion), significantly less than the Greatest Show on Turf.

However, with the receiver corps battling injuries and with running back Steven Jackson playing with a broken finger, the gritty performance put the team's record at 4-4 entering the bye week.

Bradford completed 25 of 32 passes with two third-down touchdown passes, and he had a 112.4 passer rating. For the third consecutive game, he didn't have an interception. He now has thrown 96 consecutive passes without a pick since having one returned for a touchdown by cornerback Alphonso Smith in the fourth quarter of St. Louis' Week 5 loss to Detroit.

Said Bradford, "I think I've said it all year: The more I'm out there, the more comfortable I become. I feel like things are really starting to slow down for me. I'm not forcing things, and I think today was a great example of ... early in the game I just took what the defense gave me.

"I think that's a sign I'm becoming more comfortable in this offense, knowing that I don't have to force anything downfield. Eventually those plays downfield will present themselves. Completions are just huge for us right now."

That was never more true than on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that gave the Rams a 17-3 lead. On second-and-15 from the Carolina 48-yard line, Bradford connected with wide receiver Brandon Gibson on a 33-yard play. Four snaps later, on third-and-18, it was Bradford to tight end Daniel Fells for a 23-yard touchdown.

Those 56 passing yards accounted for 29.3 percent of Bradford's passing yards. His other 23 completions averaged just 5.9 yards.

Bradford was visibly upset with himself after the previous week's loss to Tampa Bay, when he completed just half of his 26 passes and was off target frequently.

Asked about the rebound performance, he said, "I think when I watched the film last week, there was nothing major that I missed last week. Just a couple of little things with my feet, not getting my body in a great position. I felt like today for the most part I was really able to keep my feet under me and get my body in a good position. I think that's why I was able to be accurate with the football."


-- Another throwback to 1999 came in the final stages of Sunday's game after S Oshiomogho Atogwe intercepted a pass and returned it 34 yards to the Carolina 2-yard line. There was 1:24 left in the game, and the Panthers were out of timeouts.

Atogwe and CB Ron Bartell did the Bob 'N Weave in the end zone, the celebration often done by the Rams after touchdowns during the '99 season. Following that year, the NFL banned group celebrations by players.

Said a beaming Atogwe afterward, "That was for Isaac. We weren't trying to show anyone up or be flashy. But it was the right time and the right place. It was for Isaac."

Atogwe was 18 years old in 1999, and Bartell 17, but when asked how they knew about the Bob 'N Weave, Atogwe said, "If you're with the Rams, you have to know about the Bob 'N Weave. But Ron, well, he wasn't the instigator, but he was passionate about doing it."

When it was mentioned there would probably be fines coming from the NFL, Atogwe smiled and said, "No problem. We'll just suggest they give the fine money to Isaac's foundation."

-- Bruce's No. 80 is the ninth jersey retired by the Rams, and the day before the game, coach Steve Spagnuolo invited him to talk to the team.

Said Atogwe, "He talked to us about having fun and belief in the organization. He gave us some history of the Rams' organization, what it meant to him, and how he used it to uplift his teammates. He talked about having pride and that you're not just passing through. You should strive to leave the team better than it was."

Added quarterback Sam Bradford, "He really focused on having confidence in yourself, being positive, always encouraging your teammates. I think it was really good for us as a team to hear that. Isaac is a great guy, and to be able to win on the day we retire his jersey is a great day for the organization."

Spagnuolo was also impressed.

"Terrific as always, in the special way that Isaac does it," Spagnuolo said of Bruce's words. "He's not very loud, but his words speak volumes. What I remember most is him reminding the team to always encourage each other."

Concluded Atogwe, who was with the team for Bruce's final three seasons with the Rams, "I learned (from Isaac) about playing with a passion. Everybody knows that Isaac is competitive, and there are ... few who can match his competitiveness. I was out there filled with his spirit and having fun, just how Isaac used to play and practice. I can't say enough about a phenomenal individual and a blessed man of God."

That brought back some of Bruce's words as he spoke before the game. Said Bruce, "This is just another example of when you honor God, he honors you."

-- In pregame warm-ups, running back Steven Jackson wore goggles in honor of Eric Dickerson, whom Jackson passed the week before to become the franchise's all-time leading rusher.

Said Jackson, "I just wanted to pay respect, pay homage to him. I've had a couple times exchanging text messages with Eric Dickerson. One, last week I was just telling him that it was just an honor to be able to be in a position to break his record. And two, that I would never think that I would replace him in this franchise, that I will continue to run hard, continue to make him proud.

"I just feel that this organization has had a great run at running back, and I will continue to try to run hard and hopefully, for the next guy, whoever replaces me, will have the same respect."

Later, Jackson tweeted, "I received a text from Mr. Dickerson himself, saying he loved the goggles!! Wish I could have rocked them all game."

Jackson played with a soft cast to protect a broken left ring finger, and earlier this season he played with an injured groin. Last season, he played five of the final six games with a herniated disk in his back that required surgery in April.

Said defensive end Chris Long of Jackson, "I can't say enough about his toughness. Every year he's been here, he just comes to play every game, and ever since I've been here, he's been a guy you could look at and (say), 'That's a professional. That's a guy that works every week."



-- CB Ron Bartell, who played Sunday against Carolina with quad and shoulder injuries, came through the game OK regarding the shoulder, but his quad was sore. Bartell will benefit from this week's bye.

-- S James Butler has what might be a high ankle sprain, suffered Sunday against Carolina. Butler was scheduled to have an MRI.

-- P Donnie Jones has been fighting a calf injury in his kicking leg, and he will have an MRI to make sure there isn't anything seriously wrong.

-- LB James Laurinaitis is battling a sprained knee, and he will look forward to the bye week.

-- OT Jason Smith, inactive Sunday against Carolina because of a concussion suffered in practice Thursday, was in meetings Monday.

-- TE Daniel Fells is experiencing some back pain and was scheduled for an MRI.

-- TE Michael Hoomanawanui left Sunday's game because of bruised ribs, but returned to the game. He has a contusion in his back, and he was scheduled for an MRI to get a precise diagnosis.


PASSING OFENSE: B-plus -- Seems strange to give anything short of an A when QB Sam Bradford completed 25 of 32 passes, threw two third-down touchdown passes with no interceptions and had a passer rating of 112.4. The game plan was to have the passing game be mostly an extension of the running game, and it worked. However, it's difficult to give a top grade when the total passing yardage was 191 yards, and Bradford averaged 7.64 yards per completion and 5.97 yards per attempt. Twenty of his 25 completions were for less than 10 yards, 18 were 7 or less and 13 gained 5 yards or less.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The sledding was tough for RB Steven Jackson, who had his string of three consecutive games with 100 or more yards stopped. Playing with a broken finger, Jackson managed 59 yards on 23 attempts (2.6-yard average), but the finger had little to do with it. Still, Jackson had mostly positive attempts, and the combination of a controlled running and passing game led to the Rams having the ball for 36:28.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- The Rams intercepted QB Matt Moore and set the tone on the first play when LB James Laurinaitis had an interception. The pressure was good with three sacks, and one interception was the result of DE James Hall hitting Moore as he threw. WR Steve Smith was targeted 15 times, and while he caught nine, his total was just 85 yards (9.4 average). On a third-and-5 play early in the fourth quarter, Smith was trying for extra yardage when S Craig Dahl forced a fumble and DE Chris Long made the recovery near the sideline. Seven snaps later, despite two 10-yard offensive penalties, the Rams scored a touchdown and took a 17-3 lead.

RUSH DEFENSE: A-plus -- The Rams stuffed RB Jonathan Stewart, who gained just 30 yards on 14 attempts with a long of 8 yards. Overall, including a scramble for 5 yards by Moore and an 11-yard loss on an end-around to WR David Gettis, the Rams allowed 25 total rushing yards on 17 carries. That's the fewest rushing yards allowed by a Rams team since Carolina gained 31 on Nov. 11, 2001.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The return game is still average at best. Coverage was solid, except for a 31-yard punt return by Captain Munnerlyn. PK Josh Brown hit field goals from 33 and 41 yards, and he missed his first attempt this season from beyond 50 yards (51). P Donnie Jones had a 40.4-yard net, and he stuck his final punt of the game at the Carolina 2-yard line.

COACHING: A -- The offensive game plan was based on the available talent, and it was executed expertly. A minor gamble was taken with the decision to start Renardo Foster at right tackle instead of sliding RG Adam Goldberg to his right and playing John Greco at right guard. Foster was solid, and the line protected Bradford. Despite injuries that occurred in practice Thursday (RT Jason Smith) and Friday (WR Danario Alexander), coach Steve Spagnuolo kept his team on point and focused.

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