By Cedric Williams
The St. Louis Rams turned in their best effort of the season Sunday afternoon in a 38-13 win over the host Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
A slow start by both clubs in the first quarter, gave way to a 31-point outburst by the Rams in the second and third quarters, which allowed St. Louis to win its second straight game, and also extended Houston’s losing streak to four straight games.
Houston out-gained St. Louis on the ground and through the air, and held the ball more than 10 minutes longer than the Rams did.
But the Rams also forced four turnovers, including two that were returned for touchdowns, while also getting three touchdown passes from quarterback Sam Bradford, in a huge win that raised St. Louis’ overall record to 3-3.
Despite the big numbers turned in early by Houston, the Rams delivered what was easily their most complete effort of the season, which earned St. Louis its highest marks this season.
Here’s how we graded out the Rams in their 38-13 romp over the Houston Texans:
Offense Grade: A
It was a spectacular day for the Rams offensive line, which didn’t give up a sack or even let Bradford get hit (except for the one time when Houston linebacker Brian Cushing was penalized for hitting the Rams QB after he was already on the ground).
The St. Louis front five also opened huge running holes for rookie running back Zac Stacy, who had his second straight solid day carrying the ball (18 carries, 79 yards).
But most importantly, the Rams offensive line managed to contain Texans DE J.J. Watt, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who has made a career as a one-man wrecking crew against opposing offenses.
On Sunday, Watt was just another guy who couldn’t keep the Rams from making first downs or scoring key points.
Defense Grade: A
Houston running back Arian Foster had a huge day, with 141 rushing yards, and quarterback Matt Schaub was able to snap his NFL record streak of throwing interceptions returned for touchdowns in consecutive games, but other than those two meaningless stats, the Rams “D” dominated the Texans offense.
Defensive tackle Michael Brockers had seven tackles, including two sacks and three tackles for loss to lead the way, while rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree made the defensive play of the day, when he returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown that gave St. Louis a 38-6 lead late in the third quarter.
The Rams makeshift secondary had its second straight solid day as well, with only a couple of screwy assignment misses. But this group also came up huge when it had too. Especially in red zone situations, like the one when Janoris Jenkins picked off a pass in his own end zone to prevent what looked like a sure scoring chance for Houston.
Special Teams Grade: A
The Rams special teams committed no penalties on Sunday. That’s a win in and of itself, after the way this much-maligned group had performed in 2013.
And on top of that, the kickoff coverage unit even produced a score, when Rodney McLeod drilled Houston’s Keshawn Martin and forced a fumble, which was picked up and returned for a touchdown by fellow rookie Daren Bates.
Coaching Grade: A
After the embarrassing loss to San Francisco on Thursday Night Football back on September 26, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said that he and his staff would fix the problems their club was having in what had become a three-game losing streak.
Well since then, St. Louis has found a way to run the ball; has discovered a way to make key plays in the passing game; has given an inspired effort on defense; and has cut down on its penalties.
Fisher and his staff should be commended for the fine job they’ve done the last two weeks.
It’s only been two weeks, but the Rams are playing much more like the team people expected this season and that can be directly attributed to the coaching staff.
The question is can the Rams sustain it against another young, but improving club, the Carolina Panthers next week?
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at email@example.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.