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Rams dominant early, escape Denver with win

November 28, 2010

The first quarter was a letdown. The second quarter was enthralling. The third quarter was fairly dull. And the fourth quarter was one the St. Louis Rams hope to forget – or learn from.

The Denver Broncos jumped out to a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter, but the Rams went on a 33-3 run over the next two-plus quarters before the Broncos scored 20 fourth-quarter points to pull within three at the 2:35 mark.

The Rams went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and the Broncos had a chance to drive for the game-winning touchdown or game-tying field goal, but a Chris Long sack and three straight Kyle Orton incompletions gave the Rams their first road win on the season and moved the squad from St. Louis into first place in the NFC West.

The Broncos scored on their first three possessions, which covered 187 yards. But the Rams countered, scoring touchdowns on three straight 71+ yard trips down the field to take a 20-13 lead with just under three minutes left in the first half.

A Denver punt and fumble led to two Josh Brown field goals, and the Rams went up 26-13 going into halftime.

A Knownshon Moreno fumble gave the Rams the ball on the Denver 31-yard line, and three straight Steven Jackson rushes gave the Rams a first-and-goal on the Broncos 1. Kenneth Darby rushed in to give the Rams their biggest lead of the day, 33-13.

The Broncos’ first play of the fourth quarter was a 41-yard touchdown pass from Orton to Brandon Lloyd. Three minutes later the Rams gained their only points of the fourth quarter on a Josh Brown 26-yard field goal. The Broncos scored on back-to-back 50+ yard drives to pull within three points.

A quick Rams’ three-and-out, capped by a blocked Donnie Jones punt, set up the Broncos at their own 33-yard line with a chance to win the game. But Long, who’s had a breakout year in his third year, wouldn’t let Orton and the Broncos get close to the endzone.

The good:

  • Sam Bradford and his career-high 308 yards and three touchdown passes.
  • Danario Alexander returned from knee surgery, and in his first game since Week 7, put up 95 yards on four catches, providing the big-play threat the Rams have sorely lacked since Mark Clayton’s knee injury sidelined him in week 5.
  • The Rams rebounded from being down early and reeled off 26 unanswered points in the middle quarters
  • The Rams’ six 50+ yard drives resulting in 26 points (Josh Brown missed a field goal on one of them).

The bad:

  • Steven Jackson only ran for 72 yards on 29 carries, which ties his season-high for carries in a game. But if you take away Jackson’s third-quarter 20-yard run, his 52 yards on 28 carries is very, very bad, especially when he was running against the second-worst rush defense in the NFL.
  • The Rams gave up 20 points in the fourth quarter, including 150 yards on three scoring plays/drives.
  • St. Louis gave up 119 rushing yards and 6.6 yards per carry – to a team that averages 75 yards a game and 3.3 yards per carry.

The ugly:

  • The Rams’ second-half playcalling. In at least the third game this year the Rams played so conservatively in the second half Rush Limbaugh would be proud. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur called a great game in the first half, but didn’t let Bradford carry the team with his arm in the second half. On three straight fourth-quarter possessions the Rams rushed on first and second down and gained only 13 yards. All three drives ended in punts and only took 3:11 off the clock. Shurmur needs to trust his rookie QB more in the second half of games. The previous two conservative second halves resulted in losses that should’ve been wins, and this win was almost a loss due to Shurmur’s conservative playcalling.
  • Josh Brown’s kicking. Brown missed a PAT. Seriously. And, thanks to the wind, hooked an eight iron around the right goalpost for a field goal – one that would’ve missed in a dome. Then he missed a 45-yard field goal. Thankfully, the Broncos didn’t score a game-tying field goal and force overtime.
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