NFL Wire News

3 things we learned about the Rams

on

The Sports Xchange

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Rams’ blueprint for winning games came to life in the Edward Jones Dome Sunday.

St. Louis pulled away in the second half for a 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns behind running back Todd Gurley and a powerful defense.

Outrushing Cleveland 158-82, the Rams (3-3) also forced four turnovers and registered four sacks, eventually knocking out quarterback Josh McCown late in the fourth quarter with a right shoulder injury.

The Browns started nine of their 13 possessions at or inside their 20-yard line. St. Louis punter Johnny Hekker downed his first three attempts at the 8, 4 and 9, and playing a long field most of the day was too much for Cleveland to overcome.

“I think we played great,” free safety Rodney McLeod said. “Giving up six points, you can’t ask for much more than that.”

McLeod matched the Browns’ output with his first NFL touchdown, gobbling up a fumble by wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and scampering 17 yards with 11:59 left in the first quarter for the day’s first points.

Cleveland actually outgained St. Louis 364-308, but the Rams collected 17 points off turnovers.

“That’s a sure-fire formula for losing games in the NFL,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said.

St. Louis recorded seven quarterback hurries and flushed McCown on eight of his 32 passes.

McCown finished 26 of 32 for 270 yards, but lost two fumbles before departing late in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury that Pettine said would be further evaluated on Monday.

What we learned about the Rams:

1. Running back Todd Gurley is the fulcrum of this offense. With a line that is shaky at pass-blocking, St. Louis must generate a strong running game and Gurley is a back with power and the speed to go zero to 60 in seconds. He rushed for 83 of his 128 yards after halftime, scoring two TDs to put a close game away.

2. Punter Johnny Hekker is a hidden weapon for the defense. Hekker’s first three punts Sunday forced Cleveland to start from its 8, 4 and 9, a disadvantage the Browns couldn’t overcome on the road against a pass rush that was creating havoc all day. One can argue that Hekker is among the league’s best in combining distance with height, limiting opponents’ return yardage.

3. The Rams’ defensive line is one of the NFL’s deepest, and it showed Sunday. Playing without end Chris Long, St. Louis still generated consistent pressure against the Browns, notching four sacks and seven quarterback hurries of Josh McCown. The Rams’ willingness to roll eight linemen in and out helps them maintain a solid pass rush for 60 minutes.

Etc.:

–RB Tre Mason, the team’s starter for the first four games, was deactivated Sunday. With rookie Todd Gurley going over 100 yards for the third straight week, Mason’s role could be minimal at best for a while as the coaches appear more comfortable with Benny Cunningham as the backup.

–SS Mark Barron, who got the call at outside linebacker with Alec Ogletree on the shelf, was a tackling machine Sunday. Barron finished with a game-high 16 stops and also contributed a pair of quarterback hurries.

–DT Ethan Westbrooks notched his first NFL sack in the third quarter and also had a pair of QB hurries. Westbrooks doesn’t see much playing time because of the team’s excellent depth up front, but showed he’s capable of making plays when he gets on the field.


About The Sports Xchange

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business