DENVER - SEPTEMBER 19: A young fan of the Denver Broncos supports his team at INVESCO Field at Mile High in Denver Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Denver Broncos return home from a thrashing in San Diego for an appointment with the St. Louis Rams. The Rams occupy 2nd place in the NFC West with a 4-6 record and come to Denver reeling from a loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the Edward Jones Dome. Meanwhile, the Broncos are sitting in the cellar of the AFC West with a 3-7 record and have a greater chance of a top ten selection in the 2011 draft than they do a playoff spot. The Rams had won a total of 6 games since the beginning of the 2007 season, but haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2004. They were 1-15 last year and with the season 3/4 done, they have improved enough that they won't be selecting first in the next draft.
Weather and Conditions
Sunday's game begins at 2:15 PM MST at Invesco Field. It will be broadcast by FOX. Ron Pitts will call the play-by-play and John Lynch will be the color man.
|Precip: 0%Spectator Index: 7|
You can find the latest weather forecast here.
Injuries and external factors
The Rams, like every other team in the NFL, have had their fair share of injuries. They lost a player they were counting on right off the bat when WR Donnie Avery was lost in the third week of preseason with a Torn right ACL and was placed on Injured Reserve. WR Dominique Curry went down in September with the same injury. A third Receiver, Mark Clayton (23 rec, 306 yds, 2 TD's), made an impact before a Torn right patellar tendon landed him on IR in October. TE's Darcy Johnson, Marquis Johnson and Fendi Onobun, DT's Chris Hovan and Clifton Ryan, ILB Josh Hull, SS Mark Lewis and LB Josh Hull were lost for the year also.
St. Louis will get some of their Air force back this week.
WR Danny Amendola left the locker room after the game against Atlanta with ice packs on his right ankle and left knee, but he practiced Wednesday and didn't make the Injury Report. Rookie WR Danario Alexander is set to return against the Denver Broncos this weekend after missing a month following arthroscopic knee surgery. WR Laurent Robinson has recovered from a Toe injury and will be ready.
Punter Donnie Jones has taken it easy in this week's practice while nursing a sore left Calf and is Probable for Sunday.
Rookie LT Rodger Saffold has had nagging Ankle, Back and left Shoulder injuries this season. He re-injured his shoulder against the Falcons and left the game early. The MRI results were negative even though he heard a pop when it occurred. Still, he has been practicing and anticipates playing in Denver.
The St. Louis Offense is ranked 28th in points (17.7), 27th in Total yards (305.7), 24th in Passing yards (203.3) and 18th in Rushing with 102.4 yards per game. They are 36.3% (53/146) on 3rd down conversions and the O-Line has allowed 20 Sacks.
The starting Quarterback for the Rams is this year's 1st overall pick Sam Bradford. 10th year pro A.J. Feeley is the back-up option. Bradford's numbers are 228/376 for 2158 yards and a 60.6% Completion rate. He has thrown 14 TD's and 9 INT's and has a 79.0 QB Rating. His passing yards are a shallow 5.7 per attempt, meaning the coaching staff won't let him air it out. That could be a testament to the receivers or the protection though. Feeley hasn't thrown a pass in a game this season.
Bradford may be the QB, but the real leader of the St. Louis Rams is Running Back Steven Jackson. He has 203 carries for 811 yards, a 4.0 avg, 3 TD's and 28 rec. for 243 yds. Kenneth Darby (27 car, 86 yds, 1 TD and 7 rec, 60 yds, 1 TD) and Rookie Keith Toston (14 car, 32 yds) have been limited in back-up duties since Jackson is the workhorse. The Fullbacks are Mike Karney and Brit Miller.
Danny Amendola leads the Rams in receiving with 60 Rec, 493 yds, an 8.2 avg. and 3 TD's. Brandon Gibson (31 rec, 342 yds, 11.0 avg. and 2 TD's), Laurent Robinson (19 rec, 154 yds, 1 TD), and Rookies Danario Alexander (5 rec, 78 yds, a 15.6 avg, 1 TD) and Mardy Gilyard (6 rec, 63 yds).
The Tight Ends for St. Louis are Billy Bajema (8 rec, 74 yds), Daniel Fells (23 rec, 210 yds, 2 TD's), Rookie Michael Hoomanawanui (12 rec, 110 yds, 2 TD's) and Derek Schouman.
On the Offensive Line, Rookie Rodger Saffold plays at LT and the LG is Jacob Bell. Snapping the ball is C Jason Brown. The right side has Guard Adam Goldberg and Tackle Jason Smith starting. Hank Fraley, John Greco and Renardo Foster fill out the unit.
Defensively, the Rams rank 9th in points against (19.8), 15th in Total points against (332.3), 19th in Pass Defense (230.5) and 10th against the run (101.8). They are +2 in the Turnover department, have 28 Sacks and are allowing opponents a 35.0% conversion rate on 3rd down (48/137).
St. Louis employs a 4-3 Base Defense. The front four starters are LE Chris Long (18 TKL, 3 AST, 5.5 SK, 2 FF, 1 PD), LT Fred Robbins (16 TKL, 2 AST, 2.0 SK, 6 PD), RT Gary Gibson (9 TKL, 3 AST, 2 PD) and RE James Hall (31 TKL, 2 AST, 7.5 SK, 4 FF, 1 PD). Rookie George Selvie (12 TKL, 5 AST, 1.5 SK) backs up Chris Long. Darell Scott (3 TKL, 3 AST) and Rookie Jermelle Cudjo (9 TKL, 4 AST, 0.5 SK, 1 PD) are the back-ups at Tackle. C.J. Ah You (10 TKL, 4 AST, 3.0 SK, 1 FF, 2 PD) and Rookie Eugene Sims (2 TKL, 1 PD) back-up James Hall.
On the Linebacking Unit, Na'il Diggs (22 TKL, 7 AST, 1 FF, 2 PD) is the starter on the left side and David Vobora (10 TKL, 2 AST, 1.0 SK) plays behind him. In the middle, leading tackler James Laurinaitis (58 TKL, 12 AST, 3.0 SK, 1 INT, 3 PD) swallows up everything in the vicinity. Bryan Kehl (15 TKL, 3 AST) starts on the right while Larry Grant (16 TKL, 2 AST, 2.0 SK, 2 FF) and Chris Chamberlain (8 TKL, 3 AST) scramble for playing time.
In the backfield, Ron Bartell (32 TKL, 6 AST, 8 PD) plays at the left Cornerback position and Bradley Fletcher (43 TKL, 5 AST, 2 INT, 8 PD) is settled on the right side. Justin King (14 TKL, 1 AST, 2 PD), Rookie Jerome Murphy (20 TKL, 5 AST, 1 INT, 3 PD), Kevin Dockery (6 TKL, 3 AST, 2 PD) and Quincy Butler (1 TKL) back them up.
The Strong Safeties for the Rams are starter Craig Dahl (46 TKL, 9 AST, 1 FF, 2 INT, 2 PD) and back-ups James Butler (18 TKL, 2 AST, 1 FF, 2 INT, 3 PD) and Michael Lewis (3 TKL, 1.0 SK). At Free Safety, Oshiomogho Atogwe (39 TKL, 4 AST, 1.0 SK, 1 FF, 6 PD) patrols center field and Rookie Darian Stewart (5 TKL) is his understudy.
Josh Brown handles the kicking duties for the Rams. On field goals, Josh is 17 for 21 for 81%, with a Long of 53 and 1 blocked field Goal on the year. He has made all 18 Extra Point attempts. He is the 6th ranked kickoff man in the league with a 67.6 avg. (meaning they land at the 3.5 yd line). In 42 KO's, Brown has 2 touch backs. 38 of his KO's have been returned an average of 26.3 yards and 1 has been taken back for a Touchdown.
Donnie Jones is the Punter and Holder. He has 57 punts with a 45.4 average (8th) and a 4th ranked 40.8 net average. Donnie has placed 22 punts Inside the 20 yard line with 3 touchbacks and 14 Fair catches. His longest punt is 63 yards. 22 Jones punts have been returned for an average of 10.9 yards.
The Long Snapper is 9th year man Chris Massey.
The Returners are Danny Amendola and Rookie Mardy Gilyard. Amendola has returned 23 kickoffs an average of 19.7 yards with a long of 36. Gilyard has 16 Kick returns for a 22.3 average and a long of 34 yards. Keith Toston has had a turn as well, returning 4 kickoffs an average of 18.8 yards and a long of 20.
Danny Amendola has 26 punt returns, with an average of 10.5 yards. He has made 9 Fair Catches and his longest punt return was 42 yards.
Other key Special Teams players are David Vobora, who has 7 ST Tackles and has downed a punt. Jerome Murphy has 6.5 tackles and 2 downed punts. Kenneth Darby (6.5), Craig Dahl (5.5),
Brit Miller (4.5), Larry Grant and Chris Chamberlain have 4 each. Bryan Kehl and Bradley Fletcher have 3 ST Tackles apiece.
The Rams started the season with 2 losses, a 17-13 loss to the Cardinals at home and a 16-14 upset to Oakland at the Black Hole. In WEEK 3 their fortunes changed as Rookie QB Sam Bradford put up 3 TD passes enabling a 30-16 victory over the Washington Redskins at home. The Rams stayed in St. Louis for WEEK 4 and they evened up their record, beating the Seattle Seahawks 20-3 to double their 2009 season win total.
A visit to Ford Field in WEEK 5 brought about loss number 3 as the Lions tore apart St. Louis, 44-6. Stefan Logan's KR touchdown and Alphonso Smith's Pick Six helped put away the Rams. In WEEK 6, St. Louis did something the Broncos couldn't do. They beat the San Diego Chargers. The Rams prevailed by a score of 20-17, but the game wasn't as close as the numbers suggest. WEEK 7 took the Rams down to Florida for a match with Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers won this squeaker 18-17 on a 4th quarter Josh Freeman to Cadillac Williams TD pass. The Rams achieved another gold star during WEEK 8 by scaring a 20-10 win out of the Carolina Panthers on Halloween at home.
The Rams went into their Bye week at 4–4.
After the Bye week the Rams flew to San Francisco to butt heads with the 49ers in WEEK 10. The teams battled in a penalty filled contest that the 49ers won 23-20 in overtime. The Rams struck first on Josh Brown's 42-yard FG. San Francisco scored on Frank Gore's 1-yard TD run, followed by Joe Nedney hitting a 26-yard FG. The Rams took the lead back with Sam Bradford throwing to Danny Amendola for a 5-yard TD. In the 3rd quarter, Steven Jackson ran for a 13-yard TD. The 49ers fought back with Nedney's 47-yard FG and Troy Smith throwing Michael Crabtree a 16-yard TD pass with 2:10 left in regulation. St. Louis just couldn't stop the Niners 76-yard march for the lead.
Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson rallied the Rams back to tie the game with Josh Brown’s 33-yard FG on the last snap in regulation. St. Louis won the toss in OT, but couldn't get a first down. Troy Smith promptly moved his team down the field, converting their first 3rd down in the game when Oshiomogho Atogwe was called for a 22-yard pass interference penalty.
Joe Nedney then kicked a 29-yard FG with 9:38 left in overtime to hand the Rams their fifth loss.
Sam Bradford completed 30 of 42 passes for 251 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, but 2 dropped passes by Daniel Fells and Steven Jackson were costly. Steven Jackson ran for 81 yards on 20 carries and WR Danny Amendola added 12 yards on two end-arounds. The Rams held the 49ers under 100 yards rushing.
They sacked Troy Smith five times, but let him have too many big plays. His passer rating was 116.7, and he didn't throw an interception.
Danny Amendola had 22 yards on two punt returns, but averaged just 15.2 yards on five kickoff returns. The Coverage Unit's were strong, allowing zero yards on punt-returns and a 14.0 yard average on three kick returns. Bryan Kehl partially blocked a punt, but the Rams couldn't capitalize. Punter Donnie Jones had the same 43.7-yard average for gross and net.
Hoping for a reversal of fortune from their overtime loss to the 49ers, the Rams came home for a WEEK 11 match with the Falcons. Matt Ryan proved to be too hot for St. Louis to handle. He threw for two touchdowns and conducted an adept Atlanta offense to a 34-17 romp over the Rams.
The Rams defense forced the Falcons to settle for short field goals three times, but Atlanta had a pair of drives that lasted 6:39 and 7:06 and held the ball for nearly 36 minutes. Matt Ryan ran the no-huddle for most of the game and it had several Rams players sucking wind and cramping.
Sam Bradford had a big start with 99 yards passing and a touchdown in the first quarter. The Rams took the lead on his 25-yard TD pass to Michael Hoomanawanui.
Matt Bryant and Josh Brown traded FG's and the Rams were ahead 10-3. That lead didn't last long as Eric Weems took the next kickoff 55 yards, setting up Matt Ryan's 12-yard TD pass to Brian Finneran. Bryant converted two chip shot Field Goals to make the score 16-10 before halftime.
In the 3rd quarter, Bradford and Brandon Gibson hooked up on a 13-yard fade pass in the end zone and Ryan threw a 2-yard TD pass to Justin Peelle pulling the Falcons ahead 23-17.
This was followed in the 4th quarter by Matt Bryant's 21-yard field goal. Then, with 3:31 left in the game, the Rams were sitting at 3rd down on the Atlanta 2 yard line with a chance to punch it in and make things interesting. Sam Bradford threw a blind shovel pass that William Moore picked off. The pass was intended for Michael Hoomanawanui, but he collided with guard Adam Goldberg on the play and wasn't in position to make the catch.
Michael Turner ran a 39-yard TD right after the two-minute warning and Roddy White caught a 2-point conversion pass. Turner had 131 yards on 28 carries for the game. That iced the game for Atlanta and ended the Rams' four-game home winning streak.
The interception ended a streak of 169 consecutive attempts without a pick, which is a new rookie record. It was also the game’s lone turnover in a battle of teams that pride themselves on taking care of the ball and winning the time of possession battle.
Danny Amendola had a 33-yard punt return for St. Louis, but also fumbled a kickoff return in the end zone, recovering but leaving St. Louis starting at its 6. The Falcons were 5 for 5 in the Red Zone, scoring two touchdowns and three field goals.
The Broncos are 5-6 against the Rams. The last meeting between the two teams was in Week 1 of the 2006 season. St.Louis prevailed 18-10 that day and Running back Steven Jackson had 121 yards rushing. The Rams lost 23-16 on their last visit to the Mile High City in 2002. Denver is 3-0 at home against NFC teams under coach Josh McDaniels.
The Line in Vegas favors the Broncos by 4 points.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Rams have to find a way to stop Brandon Lloyd and the Broncos will have to worry about Steven Jackson and keep Chris Long off of Kyle Orton. Having WR Danario Alexander back on the field will help the Rams passing game, just like having Robert Ayers back will help the Broncos Run Defense.
Four of the Rams 6 losses have been by four points or less. They have scored 111 first-half points this season, but only 66 in the second half. In fact, they have been outscored 64-35 in the fourth quarter. The Rams are also one of five teams in the League that haven't scored a touchdown by their defense or special teams. The Broncos will have to start well to play from in front and then finish strong. If they can control the clock as Atlanta did last week, a strong finish shouldn't be a problem. The Rams have been dealing with hydration issues for the past two games and if they haven't solved that dilemma, they could find themselves fading at the end.