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3 things we learned about the Rams

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ST. LOUIS — For reasons relating mostly to a potential move to Los Angeles, the St. Louis Rams have been newsworthy all year.

But if they are on their way out of town, the Rams are getting in position to give their remaining fans a nice farewell present.

With a 27-6 defeat of the short-handed San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis finds itself with a 4-3 record, the first time it’s been over .500 this late in a season since Oct. 29, 2006.

“We still have nine games left and anything can happen,” defensive end Robert Quinn said about playoff talk. “But this is nice to hear. You can’t look too far into the future.”

The Rams’ present and immediate past has looked pretty nice the last couple of weeks, albeit against outmatched foes. But in beating Cleveland and San Francisco by a combined 51-12, St. Louis strung together consecutive wins for the first time this year and shown the kind of positive consistency it’s often lacked for the last decade.

Big plays lifted an offense that struggled at times against an NFC West rival. Running back Todd Gurley’s 71-yard touchdown run with 10:25 left in the second quarter gave the Rams the lead for good at 10-3.

A 49-yard pass from quarterback Nick Foles to tight end Jared Cook in the last minute of the first half led to a 2-yard scoring jaunt by wide receiver Tavon Austin with 18 seconds remaining for a 20-6 halftime lead.

And St. Louis’ lone pass play in its last 18 snaps — a screen to Austin — became a 66-yard touchdown with 8:34 left in the game to essentially wrap up its competitive phase.

“You get those guys in open space, anything can happen,” said Foles of Gurley and Austin.

What we learned about the Rams:

1. St. Louis continues to make an honest effort to involve wide receiver Tavon Austin in the offense for more than gimmick and misdirection plays. Austin’s 66-yard run with a screen pass in the fourth quarter wrapped up this game and was his team-high 24th reception of the year. The Rams also tried to hit him on three other deep balls downfield while letting him run the ball three times, consistently making the defense account for him.

2. Once St. Louis owned a 20-6 halftime lead, the offense got very conservative in the second half, running on 17 of its last 18 plays. The one pass was Austin’s catch-and-run TD. While some might have ripped coordinator Frank Cignetti for a lack of creativity, the Rams had no need to display any other wrinkles for future opponents, given that San Francisco wasn’t going to rally from a two-TD hole.

3. Tackling has been much improved for St. Louis the past two games. Granted, the 49ers and Cleveland Browns aren’t exactly top-shelf foes, but the Rams played sound fundamentally, not giving either opponent much yardage after contact. Safety-turned-linebacker Mark Barron said the team worked hard on proper tackling during its bye week, and the results are clear.

Etc.

–RB Todd Gurley’s 133 yards on 20 carries marked the fourth consecutive game in which he surpassed 125 yards, making him the first rookie since 2005 to accomplish that feat. Gurley has nine runs of more than 20 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown run in the second quarter Sunday.

–QB Nick Foles isn’t posting gaudy stats, but he also isn’t making mistakes, making him the kind of passer that coach Jeff Fisher has searched for since taking the St. Louis job four years ago. Foles was 14-for-23 for 191 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Other than a four-pick debacle at Green Bay on Oct. 11, Foles has just one pick this year.

–LB Mark Barron led the team in tackles for the second consecutive week with nine, adding a pass defensed. Moved from strong safety after Alec Ogletree went down with an injury, Barron is light for a linebacker at 213 pounds but has the quickness to penetrate the backfield and make plays.


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