If I told you at the beginning of the game that the St. Louis Rams would get doubled in total yardage and time of possession and the offense wouldn't see the field for most of the second half, you'd expect a blowout, right? You'd be right, but not like you think.
The St. Louis Rams, with a lot of help from the Houston Texans, blew out the Texans in Houston on Sunday, 34-13.
The Rams started in a strange spot, actually outside their own 20 yard line. Two Zac Stacy runs netted only a couple of yards, and even a Texans offsides penalty couldn't prevent the Rams from punting after just three plays.
An excellent Johnny Hekker punt pinned the Rams inside their 20, but Arian Foster quickly changed that with two runs that got the ball out near mid-field. The Rams sniffed out a screen and a Houston facemask put the Texans in a third and 27. The Texans kicked away from Tavon Austin and, with the ball at their own 34, started their second drive in equally good field position.
The field flipped got flipped when the Rams got some good fortune when Kareem Jackson was flagged for a pass interference penalty on a deep ball intended for Brian Quick. A bubble screen to Chris Givens netted a first down to the Texans 12 yard line. Two strong runs by Zac Stacy set up a bootleg play action touchdown pass to FB Mike Harkey, and the Rams led 7-0.
Danieal Manning helped the Rams out on the ensuing kickoff when he decided to bring out a deep Greg Zuerlein kickoff and bobbled it on his way out. He gamely made it out to the 12, but the Texans had poor field position again. Matt Schaub got them out of it when he hooked up to Deandre Hopkins creased the Rams zone defense. A Texans holding penalty pushed them back. The Rams gave it back, however, with a personal foul, putting the Texans in Rams territory for the first time.
The Rams defense stepped up and forced a turnover, when Trumaine Johnson stripped Deandre Hopkins. James Laurinaitis scooped it up and returned it to the Texans 43 yard line. The first quarter expired with the Rams holding a 7-0 lead and driving for more.
Facing a third and one, Chris Williams jumped early, pushing the Rams back five yards. A swing pass to Zac Stacy came up a yard short and Greg Zuerlein booted it in to put the Rams up 10-0.
It didn't take long for Arian Foster to completely gut the Rams run defense all the way down to the eight yard line. The Rams defense stiffened, however, aided by a Texans' false start and held them to a field goal, maintaining their touchdown lead at 10-3.
Sam Bradford placed a picture perfect deep ball on Chris Givens' fingertips on first down. The only problem is Givens' short-armed it and dropped what might have been a back breaking 80 yard score. Still, the Rams picked up the first down when Daryl Richardson took a screen pass past the sticks to keep the drive alive.
Zac Stacy picked up another first down into Texans territory. A Texans personal foul on a Sam Bradford slide put the Rams into scoring territory at the Texans 26. Zac Stacy then eluded a tackle in the backfield and powered the ball inside the Texans 10 with the most impressive run of the season.
Stacy continued bowling over Texans defenders on second down, again setting up a Bradford play action touchdown pass, this time to Lance Kendricks. The Rams now led 14-3.
Matt Schaub passed the Texans to midfield as the two minute warning came down. A screen pass to Arian Foster put the Texans into the red zone as several Rams defenders flailed instead of tackling. The Rams defense held in the red zone once again though, forcing another Houston field goal.
Despite yielding huge chunks of yardage to Arian Foster, the Rams took a 17-6 lead into the locker room. With the Texans opening the second half with the ball, the Rams' defense faced a big moment.
It didn't start well as Greg Zuerlein kicked off out of bounds, giving the Texans great starting field position at their own 40. A quick stop route by Andre Johnson netted a first down and got the ball into Rams territory. The Rams defense held though and forced the first Houston punt of the day. Shane Lechler's punt bounced into the end zone and the Rams took over at their 20.
Bradford made two critical plays to pick up a first down. First he stepped up in the pocket and found Zac Stacy for a six yard gain. Then on third down, Bradford placed a pinpoint laser on the hands of Jared Cook for the first down. Another bruising Stacy run and a completion to Austin Pettis had the Rams threatening again at the Texans 40.
When it looked like Sam Bradford was about to get whacked from the backside, he released it in the nick of time and found an open Jared Cook who took the ball inside the Texans 10. A four yard slant to Brian Quick made the Rams three for three in the red zone and opened up a 24-6 lead.
The Rams put a nail in the Texans' coffin on the ensuing kickoff when Rodney McLeod stripped the Houston return man. Darren Bates scooped it up and did a Fosbury Flop into the end zone. The Rams led 31-6, all but eliminating the Texans reliance on Arian Foster.
Gary Kubiak didn't turn away from Foster as the Texans methodically pushed the ball into Rams territory, all the while eating up clock. Matt Schaub went down on a first down sack by Chris Long with an apparent leg injury, bringing Tyler Yates into the game. The Rams had Houston stopped on fourth down when Chris Long was called for encroachment.
Alec Ogletree then put the final nail in the Texans' coffin when he picked off Yates and returned it 98 yards for the score, putting the Rams up 38-6. Yates mounted another drive to begin the fourth quarter, but Janoris Jenkins ended it with a pick in the end zone.
The Texans finally converted a fourth down with just over four minutes remaining in the game. With 3:15 left, Ben Tate finally broke through on third and short for the Texans' first touchdown of the game.
The Texans may have owned the action between the 20's, but the Rams controlled the red zone. The importance of this road victory can't be overstated. If the Rams are able to capitalize, it could be the turning point in the 2013 season. Next weekend at Carolina will tell the tale.
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