Rookie Running Backs Lead Rams to Second Straight Win

Posted Nov 24, 2013

Behind a first-quarter scoring flurry unseen in more than five years, the Rams rode their ground game to a 42-21 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

The Rams’ first 21-point opening quarter—the team’s first since 2008—was fueled by a running game that finished the afternoon with a season-best 258 rushing yards, the most by a Rams team since 2001.

The early start was a key area of emphasis for the Rams on Sunday, in the team’s first game following the bye week.

“We talked about starting fast, and we needed to do that,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. “Coming off the bye week, to get your focus on the start—then you have a tendency to avoid the timing issues that often times happen. That was our focus, and we couldn’t have started it off better with Tavon’s big play and then special teams again, forcing a turnover and coming back and getting the fumble and going up 14. They (Chicago) just played from behind the rest of the game.”

All of the Rams’ positive rushing yards on Sunday were contributed by rookies. WR Tavon Austin opened the scoring by contributing a 65-yard rushing touchdown, the longest scoring run by the Rams since 2001. It was the Rams’ longest running play of the season, and marked the fourth straight touchdown of 57 yards or more for Austin.

The Rams’ ground attack was led by rookie RB Bennie Cunningham, who piled up a career-high 109 yards on 13 carries. In what was as much a credit to the afternoon enjoyed by the Rams’ offensive line as the contributions of the Rams’ running back tandem, the majority of Cunningham’s work came in the second half, after fellow rookie Zac Stacy ran for 87 yards on 12 carries before leaving with an apparent head injury.

“We’ve just been playing great all-around,” T Jake Long said. “Having great team wins, finishing games, really working hard in practice, and that’s been carrying over into games.”

In the wake of the Rams’ banner day in the running game, lost in the shuffle was a standout day by the Rams’ front seven defensively, who were challenged on the goal line throughout Sunday’s game. The unit’s first challenge was perhaps its most pivotal. With the Bears facing a 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line and poised to narrow the Rams’ lead to one score, LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar tackled the Bears’ Michael Bush for a four-yard loss to retain the 24-14 lead.

“Jo-Lonn made a great play,” Fisher said. He sniffed it out. It was a huge momentum play for us, because we went down and got a field goal. It was a big turnaround for us.”

Sunday’s win was played before a sellout crowd of 66,024, the largest at the Edward Jones Dome since 2006. Three weeks removed from a pair of one-possession losses to Seattle and Tennessee, the Rams now sit just one game below .500 after a pair of convincing wins against teams leading their respective divisions.

“We’ve got a bunch of tough dudes in this locker room,” DE Chris Long said. “We know what we’ve got in this locker room. There’s a lot of grit…we’re a tough team and we kept saying, ‘let’s do something great,’ and we did.”

Game notes: Rams vs. Bears

-Rookie S T.J. McDonald was activated and made his first start since Week 4 against San Francisco.

-Cunningham finished the afternoon with his first career 100-yard rushing game, with 109 yards on 13 carries.

-Austin’s 65-yard TD run was the longest run of the season for the Rams, and marked the team’s longest rushing touchdown since Marshall Faulk’s 70-yard TD run on Dec. 23, 2001.

- CB Trumaine Johnson forced a fumble on Bears’ first play from scrimmage, setting up the Rams’ second score of the day.

-Stacy’s one-yard touchdown run in first quarter was his fourth of the season.

-The Rams’ 123 rushing yards in the first quarter ties for the second-most in franchise history.

-K Greg Zuerlein connected on both of his field-goal attempts, from 29 and 40 yards, respectively.

-DE Robert Quinn collected a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and his first career touchdown on the same play to cap the Rams’ scoring. Quinn’s sack was his NFC-leading 13th of the season.

-The Rams’ 42 points were the team’s most since they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 48-17 on Nov. 30, 2003.