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The St. Louis Rams have a winning record for the first time since 2006? Even NFL Jesus is getting involved now. This is going to be BIG, people. BIG.
With a 17-3 victory on Thursday night, the Rams gave the Cardinals their first loss of the 2012 season and got themselves over the .500 mark for the first time in six years. Fresh off a 2-14 season in 2011, the win was a showcase for the amount of progress the Rams have made in a short amount of time and the future looks bright for the young franchise.
Particularly bright was the performance of the Rams defense. While they were unable to come away with an interception for the first time in 2012, their relentless pass rush finished with nine sacks and held the Cardinals to just three points. Ryan Van Bibber of SB Nation's Rams blog, Turf Show Times, called the performance an "inspired" one by the Rams defense:
"There's only one place to start, with the defense. It was the most inspired defensive performance at the Edward Jones Dome in at least as many years. The crowd ate it up, giving the home team an advantage most of the players have never experienced, not with this team at any rate."
Robert Quinn led the Rams with three sacks, while his counterpart Chris Long as well as five other players on the St. Louis defense each added one. Quinn also registered a forced fumble on his third and final sack, stripping Kevin Kolb of the ball and turning the ball back to the Rams offense to kneel out the clock.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford came out firing, taking his team 69 yards on just five plays, completing the scoring drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Lance Kendricks. Arizona answered back with a methodical 17-play, 63-yard drive which ended in a Jay Feely 35-yard field goal.
From there, the defenses took over. The teams exchanged punts throughout disjointed second and third quarters, with the only scoring coming from a 53-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal that gave St. Louis a 10-3 halftime lead. At one point, Bradford threw 14 consecutive incompletions -- the longest streak without a completion in his career. Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb was harassed by the St. Louis defensive line throughout the night, taking eight sacks and numerous other hits. Three minutes into the fourth quarter, Rams wideout Chris Givens got free on a double move down the sideline, and Bradford was able to connect with him for a 51-yard touchdown that put the game out of reach.
The biggest story of the game may be an apparent injury to Rams leading receiver Danny Amendola, who left the game in the second quarter after diving for an incomplete pass. Amendola was favoring his shoulder as he was escorted by trainers to the locker room, and later reappeared on the sideline with his arm in a sling. Reports indicate he has broken his collarbone and will be unavailable for the foreseeable future.
Fantasy Studs/Duds: Arizona, which was playing without starting running back Beanie Wells for the second week, abandoned the running game early in favor of empty-set formations. That allowed Kevin Kolb to rack up big numbers -- 28 completions on 50 attempts for 289 yards passing -- even though the offense failed to score. On the other sideline, Sam Bradford had one of the worst games of his career, going just 7/21 for 141 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Odds/Gambling: Arizona entered tonight's game as a one-point favorite. Obviously, they were unable to cover that spread. For more information on NFL odds, check out SB Nation NFL Odds.
Injury Info: While the aforementioned Amendola injury was the biggest story of the night, it was not the only injury news. Cardinals halfback Ryan Williams left the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury, though he was able to leave the game without assistance. Rams safety Quintin Mikell was also injured in the second quarter after taking a shot to the head. There is no word on the extent of these injuries at this time.
Rams starting wide receiver Danny Amendola reportedly has a broken collarbone.
The St. Louis Rams' offense, after a fantastic first-drive touchdown run, fell apart in a hurry in the second half, but it took them a while to go to Steven Jackson. Their longtime running back, who recently tore up his 2013 contract with the Rams, was invisible most of the time, early, and ineffectual when he wasn't. As the third quarter wound down they finally went to Jackson—and the Edward Jones Dome saw, for the first time all year, the old Steven Jackson, vibrating like crazy behind the line of scrimmage and bursting through it for big gains.
The Rams' two most effective drives of the second half both featured Jackson almost self-consciously. In the first Jackson took their first four touches, going for seven, five, 11, and five more yards to get the Rams off midfield. With Daryl Richardson he proceeded to drag the Rams to the Arizona 16 before a Patrick Peterson interception ended things in the end zone.
The Rams went to Jackson again to get across midfield after finally forcing a punt. He picked up 12 and eight yards, looking faster than he has all season, before Bradford ended things early again—this time with a 51-yard touchdown pass to Chris Givens.
Jackson's seemed almost like an anachronism for most of the season, struggling to even fall forward into positive yardage and making news when he's injured, or people are too excited about Daryl Richardson, or he's opting out of his contract. Thursday, whatever the outcome—he ended the drive with 14 carries for 73 yards—he's in the news because he's Steven Jackson, and he knows how to run the ball.
The St. Louis Rams maintained a seven-point lead on the Arizona Cardinals through a scoreless third quarter, as both offenses have struggled to generate any momentum. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford set a personal worst, throwing fourteen consecutive incompletions at one point. The Rams recorded just 53 yards of offense in the half, and had their one drive into Arizona territory ended on a Bradford interception.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams defensive line has dominated the line of scrimmage, leading to seven sacks of Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb and bringing the Cardinals passing game to a halt. Arizona generated just twenty yards of offense in the third quarter and failed to advance past the St. Louis 42 yard line. Kolb has taken a number of hard shots from the Rams defense, and is suffering from a cut lip and a possible jaw injury.
As the fourth quarter begins, St. Louis has the ball, 3rd and 9 at their own 28.
The St. Louis Rams' passing game, on their Thursday Night Football debut vs. the Arizona Cardinals, lay dormant for two-plus quarters after a perfect early drive, and with Sam Bradford ice-cold and Danny Amendola injured, it looked like it'd stay that way. But the Sam Bradford of 2012 differs from earlier models in at least one way: He's never afraid to throw the deep ball. One 51-yard bomb on third-down later, the Rams lead 17-3 in the fourth quarter, and rookie wide receiver Chris Givens has his first career touchdown pass.
You won't see a more beautiful pass today, and not only because they're playing football on Thursday, for some reason. Bradford had time, and Givens had separation, and the result was the kind of play you might run for your 100-rated create-a-quarterback in Madden.
After that pass, Bradford has a truly odd line: 7-for-21, 141 yards, two touchdowns, one interception. It's not a great performance, but when the defense has sacked your opposite number seven times in three quarters—and the one thing you can still do is throw 50-yard completions toward the end zone—you can afford to be less than perfect.
Patrick Peterson struck again. The Arizona Cardinals cornerback intercepted Sam Bradford last year—when he wasn't torching the St. Louis Rams' special teams—and he pulled one out of the end zone Thursday, plucking Bradford's ill-advised lob out of the air for his second interception of the season. Bradford's been terrible since the first drive saw him cover 65 yards on four attempts—overall he's 5-for-18 for just 81 yards.
Peterson still hasn't run a punt back for a touchdown this year—and rookie punter Johnny Hekker's tried his damnedest to make sure he won't—but the pick is his second of the year, matching last season's total. (It was also a bit of revenge after Danny Amendola made him look silly in the first quarter.
As for Sam Bradford, he hasn't been quite as bad as his numbers indicate—he's dealt with some drops and a number of odd miscues around the offense. But with Danny Amendola injured, he's without his most effective weapon; expect to see more of Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson as the Rams fight to extend their strikingly resilient 10-3 lead. It might not seem right for a primetime game with an undefeated team to come down to three quarters of incomplete passes from all sides, but the Rams will take a win that way if they can get it.
Rams leading receiver left game in second quarter with shoulder injury.
The St. Louis Rams' run defense and Ryan Williams, the Arizona Cardinals' starting running back, were a classic stoppable force/movable object situation going into Thursday Night Football Week 5. Fantasy football owners who bet—hopefully out of desperation—on the stoppable force were disappointed in the first half, with Ryan Williams managing just 26 yards on 10 carries against a run defense that made world-beaters of Kevin Smith and Alfred Morris earlier in the season.
Williams, a second-rounder back in 2011, ruptured a tendon in his knee in the preseason that year, costing him his entire rookie season. In 2012 he's gotten a number of opportunities—amplified by Beanie Wells's turf toe injury—but he's been unable to capitalize on them.
William Powell, the Cardinals' second-string running back, managed one carry for seven yards behind Williams, so even this lukewarm performance is unlikely to trigger major change. If Williams is unable to do anything with the ball, the next choice isn't a running back—it's even more attempts from Kevin Kolb, whose arm could probably use a break at this point.
The Rams and Cardinals have reached halftime at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, with the Rams holding a 10-3 lead. St. Louis jumped ahead on the first possession of the game, as quarterback Sam Bradford engineered a five-play, 69-yard touchdown drive highlighted by a 44-yard completion to Danny Amendola. Tight end Lance Kendricks caught the touchdown pass. The Cardinals responded with a methodical 17-play drive, punctuated by a 35-yard Jay Feely field goal.
Both offenses were sloppy and disjointed in the second quarter, with the only scoring coming on a 53-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal. Bradford completed just one of seven pass attempts in the quarter, finishing the half 5/13 for 81 yards. Arizona signal-caller Kevin Kolb has not been much better, completing 14/27 for 133 and nearly throwing an interception for a touchdown on the half's final attempt. Kolb took a hit late in the half, and was being examined on the sideline as the half ended.
Both teams have struggled to run the ball tonight. Rams halfback Steven Jackson has five carries for 19 yards. Cardinals back Ryan Williams recorded 30 yards rushing on nine attempts.
Arizona will get the ball to start the second half.
The veteran Rams wideout went down with an apparent shoulder injury.
The St. Louis Rams have a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter of their Thursday Night Football matchup with the Arizona Cardinals, but that lead could look mighty pyrrhic if Danny Amendola's injury turns out to be serious. The Rams' leading receiver injured his shoulder on a 22-yard reception that was eventually reversed on a challenge; he stayed on the field to watch the replay but was taken back to the locker room immediately after the announcement was made.
Amendola landed hard on his shoulders trying to make the play, and didn't look seriously injured at first. But he appeared to have trouble moving it on the sidelines while he was still on the field, and he was clearly concerned right away.
Early word is that Amendola's return is questionable, which is bad news in the near-term for the St. Louis Rams' inconsistent but increasingly exciting passing game. After Sam Bradford's brilliant start Thursday—with Amendola's spectacular catch at its center—the Rams' offense has been completely invisible against the Cardinals, with Steven Jackson limited and Bradford unable to quite find his receivers. The 2011 Rams' problems extended far wider than their Week 1 loss of Danny Amendola, but there's no doubt that's on fans' mind as Bradford's favorite receiver gets checked out again.
Quintin Mikell, one of the St. Louis Rams' few defensive stalwarts in 2011, left their Thursday Night Football meeting with the Arizona Cardinals with a very scary-looking injury, taking a knee to the back of the helmet in the middle of the second quarter. Mikell was down on the field for several minutes, and surrounded by trainers, before he left the field under his own power.
Mikell's almost certainly out for the rest of the game, but things looked much worse than that before he started moving again. The Edward Jones Dome was silent, players were praying off to the side, and Mikell was invisible behind the Rams' staff. It was impossible to tell quite what was going on until the dome crowd, able to see Mikell moving better than the NFL Network cameras, erupted all at once.
There' was no immediate update on Quintin Mikell's condition, but in the moment seeing him walk off the field was just about enough. Given the NFL's continued work on preventing and minimizing the impact of head injuries, though, it seems reasonable to guess that Mikell will be unavailable Thursday.
Greg Zuerlein might, against all odds, be the most famous St. Louis Rams player in the country right now. He's certainly a national figure after his 60-yarder against the Seahawks, and in the Rams' Thursday Night Football matchup with the Arizona Cardinals the national broadcasters were already old hands at Zuerlein-mania. The Rams, looking to put some second-quarter points on the board after Danny Amendola dropped a third-down bullet from Sam Bradford, sent Greg the Leg out for his first attempt of the night from 53 yards away.
"A chip shot," the broadcasters said. At this point the national media seems to have deemed it a foregone conclusion that Zuerlein will go for the all-time distance record at least once this year—which would feel like added pressure, I guess, if Rams fans hadn't felt that way since sometime early in the preseason.
As it turned out, it was a chip shot—Zuerlein unleashed a booming kick through the middle of the uprights, and the Rams were up 10-3. In general it's never a good thing if a special teams guy is the face of your offense. But for Greg Zuerlein, the Rams might have to make an exception.
St. Louis takes a 7-3 lead into the second quarter at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis after sharp passing from quarterback Sam Bradford.
Bradford was 3-for-4 on the opening drive, hitting wide receiver Danny Amendola on a 44-yard pass on the game's second play. Amendola adjusted well to the underthrown pass, coming back for it, making the catch with just his left arm and drawing pass interference from Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson in the process.
Two snaps later, he hit WR Lance Kendricks on a seven-yard touchdown pass. Bradford also rushed for four yards on the drive.
Arizona's Kevin Kolb responded with a well-executed drive that stalled in the red zone. Kolb was 3-for-4 on third downs on the drive before Jay Feely hit a 35-yard field goal to pull the score to 7-3.
The Rams punted on their second drive, and the Cardinals have the ball just short of midfield starting the second quarter.
The St. Louis Rams got off to a startlingly fast start on Thursday Night Football, with Sam Bradford needing just four pass attempts (and a four-yard scramble) to get 69 yards and the game's first touchdown. Lance Kendricks got the touchdown, but the Rams' most impressive play came when Danny Amendola beat Patrick Peterson for a 44-yard reception that got them deep into Arizona Cardinals territory. Here's an animated GIF that you'll probably want to watch over and over.
One hand and a bicep, just like they teach you in pee-wee football. On the season Amendola has 32 receptions for 395 yards and two touchdowns. That's a significant improvement on the security-blanket Amendola we saw back in 2010—it took him 85 receptions to pick up three touchdowns and 689 yards.
In 2010, Sam Bradford's lock on Danny Amendola seemed more pathological than effective—he went to Amendola and the tight ends because he couldn't go, or wasn't trusted to go, anywhere else. In 2012, it's gone from illustrating a team liability to showing off both Rams' strengths.
Sam Bradford, Danny Amendola, and the St. Louis Rams haven't been on in primetime and a while—from the way they kicked off Thursday Night Football, though, it's clear that they'd like to be back. The Rams blew the doors off the Edward Jones Dome in the game's first two plays, with Bradford finding Brandon Gibson for 14 yards and then Danny Amendola for 44 more. A few plays later and Bradford had his fifth touchdown of the season, on a seven-yarder to tight end Lance Kendricks.
Kendricks had the touchdown, but Sam Bradford and Danny Amendola continue to be the story. Amendola, who blocked out Patrick Peterson and made a one-handed, falling-over grab for the reception, has left Rams fans wondering whether he might be more than a No. 1-by-default after all. Meanwhile, Bradford has stopped Rams fans from wondering about what might have been if they'd just kept the pick and taken Robert Griffin III.
Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer might have conservative reputations, but something—whether it was the prime time occasion or Steven Jackson's health—had them ready to gamble on their opening drive. So far they're in the money.
Patrick Peterson is a cornerback—and a very good one. But after going No. 5 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Arizona Cardinals' rookie did most of his game-changing in the return game. Peterson made 44 punt returns for 699 yards and four touchdowns, both of which led football. Sam Bradford's St. Louis Rams were his most frequent victims; altogether he returned eight punts for 222 yards and two of those touchdowns against the Rams, including his 99-yard touchdown return in Week 8.
Of course, while he was at it, Peterson also picked Bradford off.
In 2012, as the Cardinals get off to their best start in years, he's yet to take a punt to the end zone. And now Patrick Peterson's favorite targets are back, but they're no longer sitting ducks. This year's Sam Bradford looks much more assured than last year's model, and on special teams the Rams now have rookie punter Johnny Hekker, who threw a game-winning touchdown pass on a fake field goal in last week's win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Don't get me wrong: Peterson is still a major part of the Rams and Cardinals' Thursday Night Football matchup. But this year the Rams might be able to fight back.
It came pretty close to a game-time decision, but Rams running back Steven Jackson will start when St. Louis hosts Arizona on Thursday Night Football.
Jackson has been hampered by a groin injury, and his participation wasn't a sure thing heading into the game. Wide receiver Danny Amendola missed some time this week but is active.
Inactive for St. Louis are defensive tackle Matt Conrath, safety Matt Daniels, running back Terrance Ganaway, offensive tackle Rodger Saffold, defensive end Eugene Sims, wide receiver Steve Smith and quarterback Austin Davis.
Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett will give it a shot Thursday after being limited in practice this week. Quarterback John Skelton was not as fortunate and will not participate in the game. Kevin Kolb will get the start for the Cardinals.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. CT.
St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson is on track to play Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals. Will he be able to help put the first blemish on the Cardinals' record?
Ryan Williams has not had a great sophomore year. It's been better than the Arizona Cardinals running back's rookie year, which he spent on crutches, and he's starting, so it could certainly be worse. But against the Miami Dolphins, in Week 4, Williams ran the ball 13 times for 26 yards. And, going into Thursday Night Football against the St. Louis Rams, that was his second-best yards-per-carry number of the season.
With Beanie Wells gone for the foreseeable future, Williams is going to have a few chances to turn things around before the Gridbirds cut his carries even further. But St. Louis could be his best bet. The Rams, even as their defense has made massive gains under Jeff Fisher, have stopped a single running back in four tries this season. Kevin Smith? 13 for 62 and a touchdown. Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris? 27 for 171 and two touchdowns. Michael Bush? 18 for just 55, but a touchdown for his troubles.
And Marshawn Lynch, on Sunday? The Rams knew he was coming, particularly as Russell Wilson was phased out following a hot start, but they couldn't do anything about Beast Mode; he ran the ball 20 times for 118 yards.
Ryan Williams's success rate is the same this year: he's had one good game in four. If he can't break through the Rams' soft run defense, the Cardinals might want to start looking elsewhere.
The St. Louis Rams are better than they've been in—well, at least a year—and Steven Jackson is dealing with a lingering groin injury and struggling mightily. The Rams are even playing Thursday night, meaning Jackson has less time than usual to recover from his heavy usage. And I'm sorry, sleeper mavens, but Daryl Richardson still isn't going to pick up consistent fantasy football points.
Richardson is an interesting prospect, in both the fantasy and real worlds. He's not as fast as he looks like he should be, but he has the kind of snap-decision-making quickness that allows a rookie running back to deal with a disintegrating offensive line, and he had to be impressive in camp for the Rams to push him so far ahead of Isaiah Pead, a guy they loved going into the draft.
But his season-to-date numbers are skewed by one big run, and for the Rams, waiting for a return to form from Steven Jackson is simply a higher-upside move than hoping Richardson or Pead can learn on the job. They'll keep doing that until Steven Jackson is so bad, or so unhealthy, that it becomes impossible. And until then, you're going to be carrying Daryl Richardson on your roster for nothing.
This week: The Arizona Cardinals' Week 1 starting quarterback, John Skelton, returns to practice as a full participant after losing a month to injury 28 passes into the season. Next week: John Skelton gets on Wikipedia to read up about Wally Pipp.
The good news, if you're John Skelton, is that you didn't exactly get Pipped by Lou Gehrig. Kevin Kolb hasn't been outstanding in Skelton's stead—he was 29-for-48 in their narrow win over the Miami Dolphins, with a lukewarm 324 yards and two interceptions to go with his three touchdowns—but Skelton wasn't outstanding to win the job. And the Cardinals, for all their narrow victories and offensive problems, are 4-0, which is the kind of fragile thing in which few coaches are going to feel comfortable changing horses. (Skelton himself earned his starting cred under similar circumstances, game-managing for a team on a winning streak.)
And Kolb, who arrived as a free agent with more-than-a-little fanfare only to become a punchline, still has the whiff of a possible starter about him. Beneath the concussions and the subpar first season in town and the bizarre quarterback competition there's the memory that people were once excited about Kevin Kolb. They aren't right now, but nobody's ever been excited about John Skelton.
As the St. Louis Rams and the Arizona Cardinals meet for Thursday Night Football, Sam Bradford finds himself at a surprisingly pleasant turning point. He's certainly had worse: At the end of 2010 he missed the chance to get himself declared a Permanent Winner by pushing the Rams into the NFC West's playoffs-by-default vacuum, and in 2011 seemingly every game was a turning point, the upside getting lower and lower as the season went on until A.J. Feeley showed up and we all stopped paying attention. This is better: This time, the question is whether Sam Bradford's going to keep being average.
After a huge Week 2 and an awful Week 3, Sam Bradford turned in a Week 4 performance against the Seattle Seahawks that Football Outsiders ranked... 17th of 31, between Alex Smith and Philip Rivers. Perfectly respectable territory, and a strangely coherent mix of his two prior performances, combining an inability to get to the end zone with an ability to at least get across midfield.
That, I think, is about where Sam Bradford is in total this year—with some help from his running backs he could be basking in the glory of being faint-praised as a consummate game-manager. Week 5 is another chance for Bradford to answer the question of whether he can be more than that.
Despite being undefeated, the Arizona Cardinals are not considerable favorites over the St. Louis Rams.
Rookie kicker already making difference for Rams
The St. Louis Rams have gone 2-2 in their first four games of the season and have looked up and down while doing so. Their division leader, the Arizona Cardinals, have shocked the world with a 4-0 start, putting up wins against the Patriots and Eagles along the way.
Now, the two teams meet in an NFC West showdown on Thursday night on NFL Network. In other division action, the Seahawks will take on the Panthers and the 49ers will face the Bills on Sunday afternoon.
Here's the full NFL Schedule for Week 5 action, all times are central:
Make sure to check out SI.com for the full 2012 NFL schedule.
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