Rams LB James Laurinaitis after sacking Panthers QB Matt Moore
Today, the St. Louis Rams played the Carolina Panthers, but the focus pregame was on St. Louis Rams great Isaac Bruce as his number 80 was retired. The Rams and Panthers did not do their best Greatest Show on Turf impressions as only 13 points were scored in the first half and the Panthers did not have a first down until less than 2 minutes were left in the 1st half. The feature of the game was the Rams defense lead by James Laurinaitis and Chris Long. The Panthers did not get to 100 total yards until midway through the 4th quarter. The Rams were not much better on offense, but were able to get down the field with short passes, occasional long passes and Steven Jackson’s running. The Rams did not experience the 2nd half swoon they experienced in the last two regular season contests.
In a first half that was largely devoid of offense, the Rams ran their standard inside the 5 yard line offense with a sprint right for Sam Bradford and a quick pass to Danny Amendola. That was the only highlight on offense for either team in the first half as both defenses played well. The Carolina Panthers came up on the Rams short throws and were about to make solid 1 on 1 tackles.
The Rams went into the 2nd half up 10-3 and hoped not to repeat their 2nd half struggles against the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Execution on the defensive side started out effective as an overload blitz got to Matt Moore in the form of an OJ Atogwe sack. The Rams offense did not score points on their first effort of the 2nd half, but they were able to hold the ball and push the Panthers back inside their own 10 yard line. The Rams defense continued to be stout behind linebacker James Laurinaitis who has the defensive trifecta – an interception, tackle for loss and quarterback sack.
However, the Rams offense continued to put the pressure on their defense as mistakes continued to doom the offense. On 3rd and short, Sam Bradford dropped the center-quarterback exchange and the Rams were forced to punt. The Rams defense responded by forcing a turnover from Steve Smith as he was trying to get extra yardage out of a short completion. Craig Dahl forced the fumble from behind and Chris Long was able to jump on the loose ball before it rolled out of bounds.
The Rams offense then burst to life after the turnover through a long throw downfield to Brandon Gibson, who was able to get open downfield. The Rams were backed up with 3rd and 18 inside the 20 yard line and then Bradford was able to roll out (see a theme here?) and hit Daniel Fells in stride. Fells was able to break the first tackle and leap over 3 tacklers at the 5 yard line for the touchdown. Bradford’s accuracy made the play as Daniel Fells was covered well, but not well enough.
The Rams offense had to make due without tight end Mike Hoomananui for a while after he went up for a pass in the 2nd quarter and picked up a rip injury on the collision. However, Hoomananui was able to return to the game in the 4th quarter. The Rams defense continued their opportunistic ways as the Panthers went into all passing mode. Ron Bartell was able to knock away a long pass to Steve Smith and then James Butler was able to catch a deflected pass from Matt Moore. The Rams pass rush was able to get to Moore and the ball flew straight up in the air. Last week, the Rams were unable to catch the easy interceptions and it cost them. This week, the Rams had no problem catching the easy picks.
The Rams needed the next offensive drive to go up by 3 scores and they had a back and forth drive that was continued by a Panthers penalty on a 41 yard FG by Josh Brown. The Rams drove down to inside the 5 yard line, but the long 3rd down run was negated by a holding penalty on the Rams. The Rams ended up settling for another 41-yard field goal to make the game a 3 score game at 20-3.
The Panthers were able to successfully drive down the field late in the 4th quarter on the Rams defense that missed way too many tackles. But, the Rams defense picked off Matt Moore again to finish the game as the Panthers were desperately attempting to pass enough to get two scores to win the game. OJ Atogwe picked off the pass and headed for the end zone. He did not get there, but he and other Rams defenders celebrated the interception that ended the Panthers chances with the Bob and Weave celebration that Isaac Bruce’s Rams made famous. A fitting end to the game for the opportunistic Rams defense winning the 4th win in a row at home for the St. Louis Rams team honoring Isaac Bruce.