I had this nagging sense all week that the Rams would upset the Broncos—I remembered Miami's trouncing of Denver in week one last year—but this game was much more of a nail-biter than it needed to be. All in all, I was happy with the results, and I think there are far more positives than negatives, especially considering they beat a team that finished 13-3 last year and was the runner-up in the powerful AFC.
Well, duh! Did anyone believe that with their personnel upgrades and leadership from defensive maniac Jim Haslett that they wouldn't be better? Well, maybe not this much better. I loved their blitz schemes; they never showed the same look twice, and Jake Plummer never knew where the next rusher was coming from. Leonard Little was like Nicholson in "The Shining"--relentless and unstoppable. The secondary made some HUGE picks when they had to, and they did a much better job stopping the run than anyone expected them to against Denver.
Too many interference penalties on the secondary, for starters. I hate giving away first downs. They also gave up too many big runs from scrimmage; it's clear they miss having run-stopping strong safety Adam Archuleta as the last-resort in the middle. I'm sure Haslett will address that problem this week. The team was also visibly tired at the end of each half, although the offense was partly to blame for that.
They moved the ball up the field well for several drives, even though they did not score a TD. Ball control is the most important factor. Steven Jackson showed how strong a runner he is, moving a whole pile of defenders forward on several runs. The line protected Bulger reasonably well, and the receivers did their usual outstanding job--when they actually had a chance to catch the ball.
Lack of red zone TD's was their biggest problem, obviously. Why is this? Lousy timing between Bulger and his receivers, lousy blocking by the o-line inside the ten, unimaginative play-calling by Scott Linehan--pick your poison. The good news? Offenses always look shaky in the first four weeks of the NFL season. It takes time for a precision offense to gel, and it also takes time for an o-line to develop a tough, run-blocking attitude. Look at Notre Dame's first week offense compared to how they played this past weekend against Penn State. I expect the same difference next week from the Rams offense.
Jeff Wilkins is so money, he knows he's money. Other than Adam Vinitieri (I still can't believe the Pats let him go, and to Indy, no less; watch and see how much they regret that), I wouldn't pick anyone other than Wilkins to kick. As far as kick coverage, they didn't give up the big play, which is all you ask of the coverage units.
Other than a holding penalty that negated a good punt return, I have nothing bad to say about special teams, which is reason enough to be grateful that Mike Martz is languishing in the coaches' box in Detroit.