Here is a drive-by-drive look at how the Rams beat the by a score of 17-10 on Sunday.
- The Lions got the ball first and immediately established the run. The first four plays of the game were handoffs to Kevin Smith, and they were effective. Smith picked up 5, 4, 3, and 5 yards on the carries, and Maurice Morris came in and ran for 7 yards, picking up right where Smith left off. The drive was going great and was very promising until Brandon Pettigrew was flagged for holding. This was the beginning of the end and when the drive started to stall. Smith picked up 12 yards on a pass from Matthew Stafford on the very next play, but he was dropped for a loss of 1 on second down. A Will Heller false start made third and long even longer, and an incompletion led to the first punt of the game.
- Everyone's nightmare was that despite how poorly the Rams have looked this season, the Lions would be the team that made them look good. On St. Louis' first drive of the game, that is exactly what happened. The Rams absolutely shredded the Lions' defense and didn't even face a third down until the 8th play of the possession. A false start, unlike in the Lions' case, turned third and short into third and long. Marc Bulger threw an incompletion that would have ended the drive, but Julian Peterson was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty. I still haven't seen a replay of the call, but going off of what some of you have said, it was a weak one. Either way, the Rams picked up a holding penalty on the next play and their drive went absolutely nowhere. Josh Brown did connect on a 41-yard field goal, giving the Rams an early 3-0 lead.
- The Lions had another promising drive going thanks mainly to their ground game but also because of a 15-yard screen pass to Kevin Smith. That play moved the Lions into St. Louis territory as the opening quarter came to an end.
- The Lions continued to move the ball and made it down to the 12-yard line before this drive came to an interesting end. It was 3rd and 10 for the Lions, and Matthew Stafford had Aaron Brown open in the middle of the field on a crossing route. The ball went right through Brown's hands, though, and was picked off by a Rams player. The disappointment over the turnover quickly faded thanks to a mental error by the Rams player. He made the interception in the end zone and ran out a few yards before heading back across the goal line. Kevin Smith brought him down right as he went back into the end zone for a safety, meaning the Lions actually scored 2 points on the play. It was an odd way to score points, but hey, the Lions now only trailed the Rams by a score of 3-2.
- Kevin Smith continued his good start by picking up 19 yards on another short pass, moving the Lions close to midfield. Stafford found Aaron Brown for a gain of 5 on third down to move the Lions into Rams territory. It looked like they were going to score some points in a more traditional way, but an incompletion on 3rd and 4 led to a Nick Harris punt.
- The Rams' offense finally got back on the field for the first time in about 11 minutes of game action. The wait wasn't worth it for St. Louis fans, because the Rams were forced to punt after picking up a couple first downs.
- Following a Lions three and out, St. Louis had the ball on its 9-yard line with 3:01 left in the half. Steven Jackson quickly improved that field position with a 26-yard run, giving the Rams a chance to do something before halftime. Marc Bulger completed his next 4 passes, moving the Rams into Lions territory. A false start penalty prior to his 4th completion backed St. Louis up a bit, making for what appeared to be a 53-yard field goal attempt after a couple incompletions. St. Louis originally sent its offense out on 4th and 8 to go for it, but the Rams took a timeout to think about the decision. In reality, this was all probably an act, with St. Louis trying to make the Lions think that there was actually a decision to think about. When the field goal unit came onto the field instead of the offense following the timeout, conventional thinking was that they decided to settle for the field goal. Well, not so much. The ball was flipped to Josh Brown from the holder, and Brown threw it to a wide-open Daniel Fells, who ran down the field, broke a tackle attempt by Cliff Avril, and went into the end zone for a stunning 36-yard touchdown.
- The Lions had 54 seconds to put something together before halftime, but they failed to move the ball past their 43-yard line and went into the locker room down 10-2. It would have been one thing to simply be trailing to St. Louis, but for it to happen the way it did was just completely disheartening.
- There was absolutely no action in the third quarter until about midway through. Before the Rams started moving the ball, it was nothing but three and outs and punts.
- The Rams did finally appear to put together a good drive after starting near midfield, and it looked like they were about to essentially put this game out of reach. That is when Dewayne White stepped it up and made a big play. On 3rd and 10 at the 17, White deflected Marc Bulger's pass into the air and intercepted it. Not only did the pick keep St. Louis from adding to its lead, but suddenly the Lions had a wave of momentum.
- As the third quarter winded down, the Lions moved the ball again mainly on the ground but also with a Matthew Stafford pass every so often. One of those passes, a 13-yarder to Brandon Pettigrew, closed out the third quarter by moving the Lions down to the St. Louis 41-yard line.
- The fourth quarter got off to an amazing start. On the first play, Matthew Stafford faked a handoff and calmly threw the ball downfield to Bryant Johnson, who made the catch at the 5 in spite of a defensive pass interference penalty. Two plays later, Stafford stepped up, started scrambling to the right, quickly cut upfield, and leapt into the end zone for a touchdown. Needing a 2-point conversion to tie the game, the Lions' offense stayed out there and Stafford made another big play. Dennis Northcutt went in motion and Stafford faked a handoff to him. Stafford then threw a bullet to Maurice Morris, who made the catch in the end zone to tie the game at 10.
- I didn't think the Lions could gain any more momentum after what had just happened, but Zack Follett gave them even more by absolutely destroying Danny Amendola on the proceeding kick return. I mean, he absolutely ran him over and flattened him, sending everyone in Ford Field into a frenzy. The defense didn't ride that enormous wave of momentum and make a stop immediately, but it did eventually force a punt right after the Rams crossed into Lions territory.
- The Lions now had a chance to go down the field and take the lead, and with the way Maurice Morris was running the ball, it seemed like that was going to happen. Morris started the drive with runs of 3, 13, and 15 yards, and life was good for the Lions, or so it seemed. The next play was really deflating and started to turn the tide of this game a bit. Morris was dropped for a loss of 7 yards, and the Lions were unable to move the chains as a result. Nick Harris' punt went out of bounds at the 4-yard line, though, and a penalty on St. Louis backed them up to the 2.
- The Rams again put together a decent drive before it stalled in Lions territory. This time their punt was downed at the Detroit 6.
- It looked like the Rams were going to be starting their next drive in Detroit territory after the Lions went three and out, but Harris boomed a punt 52 yards.
- The Lions forced St. Louis to go three and out, but a Louis Delmas pass interference penalty gave the Rams a second chance at scoring the go-ahead points. It only took two plays for that to happen. Steven Jackson ran for 17 yards on the first play after the penalty, and he followed that up with a 25-yard touchdown run one play later. Just like that the Rams took a 17-10 lead, leaving the Lions with only 1:38 to put together a touchdown drive of their own.
- There not only would be no touchdown drive, but the Lions' last shot at tying the game was a complete failure on every single play. Stafford threw an incompletion on first down, and a 7-yard pass to Dennis Northcutt was wiped away by offsetting penalties on second down. A holding penalty on Jon Jansen made it 2nd and 20, and a pair of incompletions made it 4th and 20 from the 10-yard line. Stafford heaved the ball downfield, but it went nowhere near any Lions receivers and sailed out of bounds to essentially end the game, giving the Rams a 17-10 victory, their first in over a year.
I can't say a whole lot about how certain players or units performed simply because I didn't actually get to watch most of the game, but based on what I heard and simply based on the stats, the following conclusions can be made:
- The rushing game was solid. Maurice Morris ran for 63 yards on 14 carries and had some big carries during the game. Kevin Smith ran for 45 yards on 16 carries, and the reason Morris got so much playing time was because Smith suffered an injury in this game.
- Calvin Johnson can't return soon enough. The passing game is lacking because Calvin isn't out there and because other receivers apparently can't catch the ball. I can't even remember how many times I heard or read the word "drop" on Sunday; it was that bad.
- The defense did a good job of containing Steven Jackson until the end of the game. He had a solid day even without those last two runs, but until Jackson's touchdown, the defense had really only given up a field goal.
- The other touchdown obviously came on a fake field goal, which is just a really crappy way to get scored on. Not that most didn't already wonder this before Sunday, but what's it going to take for Stan Kwan to get canned? (Required Seinfeld reference: Is he going to have to run on the field during a game in a body suit?) Fake field goals are going to catch most teams off guard, but even so, there should always be one player ready to combat a fake. (And don't feed me the crap about how well the Lions' punt coverage was as something Kwan did. Nick Harris played great and two of his punts bounced out inside the 5. Unless Kwan ran out there without anyone seeing and knocked those balls out of bounds, explain to me how he had anything to do with a couple lucky bounces.)
- In general, it's clear that this team has a lot of work to do. Rather than worry about what teams the Lions could upset the rest of the season, it's obvious that we should first be concerned with the Lions beating the teams they're supposed to. Of course, the only time they will be favored again is when Cleveland comes to Detroit in a few weeks, but after what happened on Sunday, I honestly don't think this team will win more than 2 or 3 games this year. Maybe I'm reacting a bit too hard to one bad game, but it was the Rams for crying out loud. Like many of you have said, if you can't beat St. Louis, who can you beat?