This week’s five questions features Nathan Kearns of Ramblin’ Fan…
1. Nobody’s been able to stop Adrian Peterson this year. Tell me why the Rams can do it.
A: Since Michael Brockers has “fully” returned to the defensive line for the Rams, St. Louis has allowed only one 100+ yard rusher, if you include the disgusting showing in London against the Patriots as a “game.” They have held Reggie Bush (17 yards), Frank Gore (58 yards in WK 13), Shonn Greene (64 yards), and C.J. Spiller (37 yards) to below average games in that same time frame.
With Percy Harvin out, the St. Louis Rams will stack the box and bring 5+ on a majority of snaps, just like they did against Fitzpatrick and Kaepernick. The difference is, Ponder is not as good as either of those players, and the Vikings do not have any healthy receivers that are anywhere close to Stevie Johnson, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis… the list goes on. St. Louis has the secondary to match up man-to-man on the outside, which will allow them to pull the safeties up in run support. Laurinaitis will be spying Peterson for a majority of the game, and the rest of the front seven will likely be playing with a run-first mentality, maintaining their gaps and playing their zones, as opposing to pinning their ears back and rushing the passer.
I also hear the Rams will all be wearing lucky rabbit’s feet and are working with a witch doctor in the bayous to make an AP voodoo doll, which they will be poking throughout the game.
2. What’s your review of QB Sam Bradford.
A: Sam Bradford is the perfect quarterback for the St. Louis Rams, and has played a lot better than his numbers would indicate. According to Pro Football Reference, Bradford has four 4th quarter comeback wins this season, and put the Rams in position to win against the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, and San Francisco 49ers (Round 1). Bradford is still a young quarterback, but has clearly progressed throughout, what is essentially, his second year in the league.
It isn’t all sugar and rainbows though… Bradford still occasionally holds the ball too long in the pocket, and eats the ball a little early sometime to avoid hits. This season, he is the second ranked quarterback in the 4th quarter, but has regularly gone M.I.A. after the opening drive of the game, forcing the defense to keep the team in the game until late in final quarter. Bradford is still inconsistent on the deep ball, although that is likely due to lack of familiarity with his receivers’ not necessarily a rip on his accuracy. With consistency out wide and up front on the offensive line, Bradford will slowly creep into the upper tier of quarterbacks in the league within the next one to two years.
3. Talk about what coach Jeff Fisher has brought to the team. Besides awesome facial hair.
Between him and Les Snead, the hair in St. Louis has improved ten-fold. Jeff Fisher has truly brought a completely new mindset to the organization, although that is a pretty cliché answer to the question. He brings confidence and experience to this young Rams squad , as well as a toughness and resiliency that the team has been lacking for nearly a decade. This style and mentality have show in recent weeks, winning all three of their previous games with a strong, consistent rushing attack, and unrelenting defense that is finally starting for get some of the lucky bounces in the turnover game.
4. A three game winning streak for the Rams and they’re in the playoff hunt (though only barely). Has this franchise turned some kind of corner?
I think that the franchise began turning the corner the moment they selected Sam Bradford with the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. That season, the Rams went 7-9, one game out the playoffs after losing in Week 17 to the Seattle Seahawks. Last year, St. Louis lost a historically large number of players to injury, including placing the starting fullback, the three top wide receivers, both starting tackles and left guard, and the top four cornerbacks on IR, most within the first quarter of the year. That doesn’t even include the injury that Steven Jackson sustained on the opening play of the regular season, after a touchdown run against Philadelphia’s “Dream Team,” or the high ankle sprain that Bradford suffered in WK 8 against the Dallas Cowboys that should have ended his sophomore season.
This season, Fisher and Snead wiped out the garbage from the previous regimes, filling the roster with supremely talented draftees and UDFA (Richardson, Jenkins, Brockers, Zuerlein, Hekker, and Givens), “big name” free agents at key positions (CB Finnegan, OLB Dunbar, C Wells, and DT Langford), and extending both James Laurinaitis and Chris Long into the foreseeable future. The Rams haven’t turned the corner just yet, but they are definitely peeking around it with one foot outstretched.
5. Prediction for the game?
The only way the Vikings will beat the Rams is if the Minnesota defense can somehow cause Sam Bradford and the Rams offense to hand them the game with costly turnovers; in the same way they forced the Bears to hand them the game last week with interceptions and ineptitude on offense in the first half. Aside from the game against Chicago, when the Bears’ defense was in it’s prime, Bradford has not made many costly errors this season. With Danny Amendola returning, the Rams should have more than enough to rip through the weak Viking secondary, especially with both of Minnesota’s starting cornerbacks, Winfield and Jefferson, and their starting middle linebacker, Brinkley, nursing injuries. Peterson will have a sub-110 yard day, at best, with a single rushing touchdown, assuming he plays, after not participating in practice on Thursday. That should be more than enough for a Rams 24 – Vikings 14 win.
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