Rams vs. Texans: Takeaways from St. Louis' 38-13 Win over Houston
Following a Week 1 win over Arizona, the Rams lost three games in a row and appeared uncompetitive during that span, but with back-to-back wins over Jacksonville and Houston, St. Louis is apparently regaining control of a season that nearly got out of hand.
Arian Foster ran for 141 yards against a Rams run defense that has struggled in 2013, but it was not nearly enough to outdo a St. Louis team that was firing on all cylinders.
The Rams will travel to Carolina a week from now and attempt to regain a winning record. For now, here are my takeaways from St. Louis’ big win over the Texans.
Michael Brockers Is Waking Up
Second-year defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who was expected to be the anchor of the Rams' defense, got off to a very slow start the first three weeks of the season.
It appears the drought is over, as Brockers now has 3.5 sacks in the last three games, including a two-sack performance against the Texans.
Not only did Brockers create havoc as a pass-rusher, but he was one of the few Rams players capable of shutting down Foster and the Texans run game—he made multiple tackles for a loss in the backfield.
Brockers is a vital part of the defense and must continue to play well in order for the Rams to succeed this year.
Sam Bradford Is Cruising to a Career Year
Sam Bradford simply had an excellent performance against the Texans—a performance that will silence his critics for the time being.
Bradford made four appearances in the Houston red zone and came out with a touchdown three times, as seen in the video above.
Bradford has eight touchdowns and just one pick in his last four games and now has back-to-back games without an interception.
Bradford has 1,432 yards, 13 touchdowns and only three picks on the year. He’s on pace for 34 touchdowns and only eight interceptions this season.
Sure, Bradford has made questionable plays and has been off at times, but it’s hard to argue with that production. If Bradford keeps it up, 2013 will easily be a career year for the young quarterback.
Backup Tight Ends Are Stepping Up
The Rams signed Jared Cook in free agency to upgrade the aerial attack, but he's not the only tight end defenses need to worry about.
Cook had an admirable game with two catches and 45 yards, but it was the backup tight ends—Lance Kendricks and Cory Harkey—who came through in the red zone.
Harkey hauled in St. Louis' first touchdown of the game and the first of his career in the opening quarter, and Kendricks found the end zone shortly after.
Cook was supposed to be St. Louis' primary red-zone weapon, but St. Louis apparently has multiple weapons to utilize on the goal line.
Run Defense Still Needs Work
The Rams entered the game with the 27th-ranked run defense, surrendering 126.0 rushing yards per game on average, and that appears to still be an issue despite the victory.
The Rams surrendered 153 rushing yards to the Texans, and Foster had his best statistical game of the 2013 season.
Here's what starting running backs have been able to do against the Rams in the last four games:
- Arian Foster, Houston: 20 carries, 141 yards; four catches, 57 yards
- Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville: 17 Carries, 70 Yards; two catches, 16 yards
- Frank Gore, San Francisco: 20 carries, 153 yards, one touchdown
- DeMarco Murray, Dallas: 26 carries, 175 yards, one touchdown; three catches, 28 yards
The Rams cannot continue to allow opposing running backs to post season-high numbers on a weekly basis.
The return of Jo-Lonn Dunbar and the emergence of Brockers will help the cause, but the Rams are clearly still having issues stopping the run.
Alec Ogletree Is Very Fast
How many linebackers can run like Alec Ogletree in the video above?
Ogletree—St. Louis' No. 30 overall draft pick last spring—is slowly adapting to the speed of the game and improving each week.
He'll be a weapon for years to come.
Special Teams Finally Contributed to a Win
For the first five weeks of the season, the Rams special teams unit has done nothing but hurt the team with costly penalties and mental errors.
Rookie Tavon Austin, an electric weapon in the return game, has been sabotaged by a punt return unit that has wiped out a number of his jaw-dropping returns with blocking penalties.
This week, rather than putting the team in an impossible situation with bone-headed errors, the special teams unit actually contributed to the win.
The kickoff unit forced a fumble, and rookie linebacker Daren Bates recovered the ball for a touchdown.
Hopefully the Rams will get more of these plays in the future and less penalties.
Zac Stacy Is Officially the Starter
The Rams struggled to run the ball the first four weeks of the season, to say the least.
Daryl Richardson's 63-yard performance against Arizona was the only admirable showing. Rams backs were each held under 40 rushing yards in the other three games.
The lack of a run game was frustrating and forced the coaching staff to give rookie Zac Stacy a shot at the starting job.
Stacy made his first NFL start against Jacksonville and ran for 78 yards. Against Houston, Stacy picked up 79 rushing yards and finished with 90 yards from scrimmage.
Stacy isn't producing outrageous numbers, but he has certainly been the most productive back this season.
As long as the other Rams backs struggle to cross the line of scrimmage, Stacy will remain the starter.
This Is the Confidence Boost the Rams Needed
The Rams have finished with less than five wins four times since the 2007 season, and the team hasn't finished with a .500 record since 2006.
For this reason, Rams fans are used to seeing their team roll over and play dead at the first sign of trouble. It's in their nature.
When the Rams got off to a 1-3 start to the season, most fans automatically assumed the Rams would once again finish with less than five wins.
But this is exactly why Jeff Fisher was hired...to keep things competitive even when everything appears to be going wrong.
Fisher knew a big win in Houston could turn things around, so he got his team ready to play and led them to a key victory.
Now, despite some very sloppy moments in 2013, his team suddenly has confidence again. The Rams are competitive once again.
That's what a veteran leader can do for a team.
We've seen the Rams give up under the leadership of rookie head coaches, but Fisher will not allow that to happen.
There's a lot of time left in the season, and things could certainly take a turn for the worse. But this team will put forth an admirable effort. You can bet on that.
Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer's profile or by following him on Twitter.