EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For all that goes into every game in the NFL on a weekly basis, there are always a few small things that can be done to greatly influence the outcome.
Those small things -- penalties and turnovers -- become amplified if a team doesn't perform up to par in those areas. The St. Louis Rams know all about the effect of failing in the small details, losing four of their first five games in part because of their continued failings there.
So it was no coincidence Sunday when the Rams pulled out a 28-26 victory against the Seattle Seahawks that they finally found a way not to make the continued critical errors that have cost them games in the first part of the season.
“Well, yeah, as long as we're not hurting ourselves and creating negative field position and things like that, we’re OK," coach Jeff Fisher said.
What the Rams offered Sunday was a surprising victory on many levels, including a closer examination of the details.
The Rams entered Sunday's game 20th in the league in penalties (43) and 28th in penalty yards (425). That trend has plagued them since Fisher's arrival in St. Louis in 2012, as they were the most penalized team in the league over the past two years.
After receiver Brian Quick appeared to throw a punch at Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon early in Sunday's game to draw a 15-yard penalty deep in Seattle territory, it appeared the Rams were on their way to another sloppy, penalty-plagued performance.
But the Rams found a way to course correct, drawing just one more penalty the rest of the day, and even that was a delay of game penalty the team took on purpose. Seattle, meanwhile, drew costly penalty after costly penalty on its way to 10 flags for 89 yards. The plus-69-yard penalty margin was the Rams' first positive margin of the season and their best margin of the Fisher era in St. Louis.
Beyond that, the Rams did not turn the ball over for the first time in a game this season and did not allow a sack for just the second time in 2014. They even added three sacks of their own on defense and consistently generated pressure on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
There's nothing fancy about any of those numbers, but they're certainly part of a recipe for success -- a recipe the Rams know they must duplicate if they're going to build on Sunday's win.
“I think that’s how you win games in the NFL," quarterback Austin Davis said. "I think it’s something that we need to watch and figure out how to repeat week to week. The turnovers and the penalties and some of those things have been what’s holding us back. We feel like we’re a good team and keep progressing, but those things have really plagued us. We found a way to play a clean game tonight, and it gave us a chance to win and we ultimately pulled it out.”