There were times this offseason where many were left unsure about just how the St. Louis Rams would fare on the ground in their first season without Steven Jackson toting the rock. The former fixture in the backfield left a serious void with no clear-cut replacement waiting in the wings. Those question marks have all been erased at this point as Jeff Fisher has forged an identity with this Rams team that screams of a previous NFL era.
Recently the trend has been a migration away from the running game and into the air for most offenses throughout the league. While this works wonders for some squads, it became apparent early that the Rams weren’t going to be one of them. It certainly didn’t help matters that their rushing attack with Daryl Richardson leading the way wasn’t very productive at all, but a more straight ahead punishing style has proven to be the cure for that issue.
Since fifth round rookie Zac Stacy took over the reigns as the lead back the ground game has been on fire. Stacy has been an absolute rock in the backfield churning out yards and bouncing off of tacklers on a regular basis. That continued against a suspect Chicago Bears run defense in Week 12, but his afternoon was cut short due to a concussion. His 12 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown were quite impressive, but the Rams showed that they have more than just Stacy to rely on as a runner.
Of course Tavon Austin does more than just run, but a 65-yard touchdown run from him helped aid the rushing numbers for the Rams on the day. Stacy’s replacement, Benny Cunningham, has emerged from the convoluted mess in the St. Louis backfield as the primary backup. His showing on Sunday was nothing short of remarkable as the undrafted rookie out of Middle Tennessee State carried the ball 13 times for an astounding 109 yards and a touchdown of his own. He has come on of late and showed just what good fortune the Rams have had in recent rookie classes.
It’s hard to call the Rams’ 42 to 21 victory over the Bears anything but a page of the history books in the way they dominated on the ground. Games of over 200 yards rushing from teams are a thing of the past in today’s wide open league, but the Rams’ 258 yards on the ground really took the game back to a different era. Whether this tactic has staying power or not is still up for debate, but what’s not in question is the fact that the Rams are right back in the thick of the muddled NFC wild card race with this critical win.