Zuerlein Boots Way into Record Books

Posted Sep 30, 2012

For a season only four games old, it’s probably too early to declare any team Most Valuable Players but for a Rams team that would have a number of solid candidates right now, the guy who has seemingly owned that team award in recent years, thinks there’s one candidate that stands above the rest.

“Our kicker is the MVP of the season right now,” running back Steven Jackson said. ‘He’s doing a great job. Pretty much all we have to do is get across the 50-yard line and we’re within his range.”

Under normal circumstances, having a kicker who is your MVP is probably not a good sign. Then, there aren’t many kickers made like the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein and he proved once again on Sunday why that is.

Providing 13 of the team’s 19 points in the Rams’ 19-13 victory against Seattle at the Edward Jones Dome, Zuerlein proved why he’s already one of the league’s most dangerous special teams weapons.

Yet again, it wasn’t just the accuracy of Zuerlein’s kicks but the distance. Late in the first quarter, Zuerlein boomed a 58-yard field goal to set a new franchise record for longest successful attempt.

In game time, that record stood for all of 19 minutes and 29 seconds before Zuerlein knocked in a 60-yarder. That kick made Zuerlein the first rookie in league history to make a field goal from 60 yards or longer.

“I was on the headsets and I said, ‘Field goal,’ and somebody said ‘Field goal?’” coach Jeff Fisher said. “I said, ‘Yeah, it’s only 60. It’s well within his range.’”

Fisher said it with a smile but there’s little question that he meant every word of that statement. And with good reason, considering the impressive albeit short, body of work Zuerlein has put together.

In making the 58-yarder and the 60-yarder, Zuerlein became the first player in league history to make kicks from 50-plus and 60-plus in the same game.

As is always the case with the humble rookie, everyone seemed to be impressed by his Herculean feats except Zuerlein himself.

“It was a good game,” Zuerlein said. “Anytime you can make all your field goals and PATs, it’s a good day. I need to work on the kickoffs still but not too bad.”

If Zuerlein refuses to shower himself with praise, don’t worry, there are plenty of others waiting in the wings to do it for him.

On the possession after the 60-yard make, the Rams had a fourth-and-10 at Seattle’s 47 with 11:33 to go in the third quarter. A field goal attempt from there would be a 64 or 65-yard attempt, either of which would have been a NFL record.

In playing for field position, Fisher opted to have punter Johnny Hekker boot it away but the more than 50,000 Rams fans in attendance vociferously declared their disapproval.

“Fans just want to see what they want to see,” Zuerlein said. “You love them but in my opinion the coaches know what they’re doing. They get paid a lot of money to make the decisions that they do and every time they make a decision, it’s the right decision.”

Zuerlein also booted in a 48-yarder and a 24-yarder that were comparative chip shots though he seems to make everything look like one.

Through four games, Zuerlein is now a perfect 12-for-12 on field goal attempts and is showing no signs of slowing down. His flawless start is the longest such streak for a rookie in franchise history.

Franchise records will almost certainly continue to crumble under the weight of Zuerlein’s prolific leg but it seems just a matter of if, not when, he starts booting league records through the uprights.

“He’s just so mentally stable,” Hekker said. “You can’t shake the guy at all. He’s really even keel. He made that 60-yarder, ran to the sideline after he had his kickoff and it wasn’t the best kickoff he liked so he was actually pretty upset about that coming to the sideline. After the 58-yarder he flushed that too and was like ‘OK, I can’t think about that anymore.’ I would be on cloud 9 but he’s a really mentally stable kid and he does a great job for us.”

QUICK TURNAROUND: The Rams now have to begin preparing for a short week with Arizona coming to call at the Edward Jones Dome on Thursday night.

Mere moments after his team wrapped up the win against Seattle, Fisher was telling his team to move on and focus on the Cardinals.

“It’s Wednesday right now,” Fisher said. “How’s that? It’s Wednesday, so the players know that. So, we’ve got to rest up and get the plan together. The coaches have been working over the weekend and we’re going back to the office this afternoon.”

Normally, a coach gives his team 24 hours to enjoy the spoils of a victory but Fisher didn’t allow for much of that on Sunday.

“This one was like the 20 minute rule,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “So I think I’ve enjoyed it enough now that once I go home it’s on to Arizona.”

THIRD AND LONG: The Rams discussed all week the importance of getting into manageable third down situations. Last week in Chicago they had repeatedly found themselves in third and long and were unable to convert to keep drives going.

That was a directive the Rams failed to follow on Sunday but this time, they found a way to keep the chains moving. For the game, the Rams were five-of-13 on third-down conversions, a fairly mediocre rate of 38 percent.

But every one of those five conversions came from a distance of 10 yards or more, with successful attempts from distances of 13, 14, 10, 10 and 13 yards.

While the offense was unable to manufacture a touchdown, those conversions all came on Rams’ scoring drives.

“Well, we felt like third down was going to be huge for us,” Fisher said. “We don’t like the third-and-longs, but Sam did a great job, we got protection and the guys made the catches. Danny (Amendola) made some huge conversions.”

Likewise, on the other side, the Rams defense continued to find ways to get off the field. Seattle was just two-of-nine on third downs, a conversion rate of 22 percent. More important, the Rams found ways to get stops on third-and-short.

Seattle was unable to convert from third down distances of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 2 yards.

“Defensively, they were 0-for-3 in the first half and we didn’t get them in third-down on the first drive, so getting them to third down, it looked like we had a chance,” Fisher said.

INJURY REPORT: The Rams seemed to again make it through the game relatively healthy for the second week in a row with one exception.

Defensive end Eugene Sims suffered a head injury and did not return to the game. Sims had played well before the injury, posting a sack and a tackle for loss.

“We didn’t have any injuries, per se,” Fisher said. “Eugene left with a mild concussion. We’ll evaluate him.”

Defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who made his first start in returning from a high ankle sprain, left the game briefly when he appeared to tweak the ankle. But he returned to the game and finished. 

“‘Brocks’ left the game, came back and finished,” Fisher said. “He’s fine.”