It’s been a long time since the St. Louis Rams could credit their defense and the running game for being the cause of anything other than losing, but that totally changed in Week 6. On the road at the Houston Texans, this game between squads with 2-3 records was essentially a must-win to maintain status as a playoff contender moving forward. Now it seems obvious the Rams aren’t ready to give up on their lofty preseason expectations so early in the season.
The constant throughout the day was the threat of the running game for the Rams that had been absent for the majority of the season thus far. There’s no doubt the team has its starter for the foreseeable future in the backfield, and the guy carrying the load is quite the unexpected presence. Rookie Zac Stacy has taken the opportunity and run with it since getting the nod a week ago. His punishing running style at 5-foot-8 216-pounds is exactly what an offense with speedy perimeter threats needs to open up the outside.
Exactly what the defense needed was clearly an impact from rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree who was a man possessed on Sunday. His strip of fellow rookie DeAndre Hopkins caused a big turnover to change momentum into the Rams’ favor as the Texans were driving late in the first quarter, but the real dagger came later. Late in the third quarter, the Texans were again knocking on the door inside of the St. Louis 10-yard line, but Ogletree’s outstanding instincts allowed him to jump a route to the tight end and take it back the other way a staggering 98 yards for the score.
What this game highlighted time and time again is exactly what the Rams need on both sides of the football to be successful. This team is not designed to be a shutdown defense or a high-flying offense just yet. That may come in time, but right now the Rams are a bend but don’t break defense with an offense that can be successful with a measured, methodical approach.
Quarterback Sam Bradford wasn’t amazing in this one, but he managed game effectively, made no mistakes, and had a trio of short touchdown tosses to show for it. Even the stat geeks can be appreciative of a performance like that. The defense allowed the Texans to march into the red zone five times on the day, but between forcing them to eventually settle for field goals and some timely turnovers, the only touchdown they gave up occurred with just a little over three minutes left on the clock in the 38-13 thumping.
Much was made about Matt Schaub’s struggles coming into this game, but it’s hard to think Texans fans would rather see T.J. Yates after the turnover-laden performance he put up in relief in Week 6. This game was supposed to separate a contender from a pretender, but the contender and the pretender may be the opposite sides many were expecting to see.