By Curt Macysyn
Many would like to categorize the St. Louis Rams victory over the New Orleans Saints as a statement win, but doing so ignores the fact that the Rams have already defeated playoff contenders Arizona, Indianapolis and Chicago.
Instead St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher must be pleased that his team is finally creating an identity for itself, as a strong defensive squad that can throw any offensive off its game plan in a hurry. The next step for Fisher and the Rams is for the team to bring the same consistency to the field every Sunday, regardless of who the opponent is.
Righting the Ship
After an 0-8 start, first-time NFL head coach Greg Schiano has his Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad heading in the right direction. The team has won four of its last six games, with the two losses coming at the hands of the playoff-bound San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers.
After enduring an early quarterback controversy with the benching and release of Josh Freeman, Schiano has been able to install strong-armed Mike Glennon as his signal caller. The rookie from North Carolina State has thrown 17 touchdown passes in 11 games behind center and has only eight interceptions on the season. Glennon has fumbled the ball eight times this season, losing three, and that statistic bears watching as Robert Quinn and Chis Long bring the heat on Sunday.
Losing dynamic running back Doug Martin to a knee injury has not crippled the Buccaneers, as former Cleveland Brown tailback Bobby Rainey has rushed for almost 500 yards and four touchdowns after replacing the injured Martin. While Schiano likes to run the ball primarily, the Rams will also have to keep an eye on big-bodied receiver Vincent Jackson. Jackson, the former San Diego Charger, has almost 1,100 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches on the year.
Defensively, Tampa Bay is led by linebacker Lavonte David. David had an ill-timed personal foul call against the New York Jets that gave kicker Nick Folk an opportunity for a game-winning field goal in Week 1. Since then, David has played like a man possessed with 126 tackles and six quarterback sacks.
There were whispers last season that top draft pick Mark Barron was a bust, but Barron has proven his draft status with another solid season with 88 tackles, two quarterback sacks and two interceptions.
There can be no bigger compliment for a player than for a team to change its lineup because of him. But that’s just what Saints head coach did because of Robert Quinn. After seeing Quinn beat his left tackle Charles Brown all afternoon, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton benched Brown in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss. On the afternoon, Quinn had two quarterback sacks, raising his NFC-leading total to 15, and the Rams had four total sacks against the Saints.
The front four pressure applied on Drew Brees directly led to the two first quarter interceptions that Brees threw last week. Safety T.J. McDonald recorded his first interception of the season, while Trumaine Johnson’s third pick of the year thwarted a Saints scoring on their second offensive drive.
Rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree continued his fine play with a game-high seven unassisted tackles against the Saints. Ogletree leads the squad with 102 total tackles on the season.
Offensively, the Rams should be able to ride a similar formula to victory against the Buccaneers this Sunday as they employed last week. Quarterback Kellen Clemens was efficient, completing 70 percent of his throws with two TD passes. Having a steady dose of Zac Stacy on the ground also helped limit the number of passes that Clemens had to make to 20. Stacy had a stellar 133 yards rushing with one score. His 28 rushing attempts were a season-high, and his rushing yardage was one yard short of his season best of 134 yards against Seattle on October 28th.
Dynamic rookie Tavon Austin missed the Saints game with an ankle injury, but the team is hoping to have him back against the Buccaneers.
St. Louis holds a 10-8-0 edge in the all time series of these two teams. The teams met almost one year ago to the day as the Rams beat the Buccaneers 28-13 in Tampa on December 23, 2012.
Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano had a 68-67 record at Rutgers University that included 5-1 record in bowl games. Schiano has six former Scarlet Knights on his active roster.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.