At this point in the season, it's hardly noticeable that the St. Louis Rams lost another game. In fact, most kind of expect it. The Rams lost by a score of 20-13 to the Cincinnati Bengals today. As far as Rams games in 2011 go, this one was subtly better than most of the others, but there was still plenty to indicate that this is a franchise in need of some major changes once the season ends.
Let's take a closer look.
Offensively, this game marked the beginning of the Kellen Clemens era, er, period for the Rams. Sam Bradford was out with his ankle injury, and may be shut down for the season. Clemens played acceptable, though standards for Rams' quarterbacks have declined precipitously since Sam Bradford's award-winning rookie season. Clemens completed 25 of 36 passes for 229 yards and a late touchdown to Danario Alexander.
Steven Jackson carried the ball 18 times for 71 yards, but it wasn't enough. Once again, the Rams offense made the curious decisions they've become famous for this season under Josh McDaniels. They even avoided running Jackson with the ball at the goal line, settling for a field goal.
The Rams defense turned in another solid effort. They got burned by A.J. Green, not uncommon, and the referees really blew it for the Rams today. Robert Quinn continued to impress, including his third blocked punt of the season. Chris Long picked up his 13th sack of the year.
Talking about Xs and Os for the Rams is pretty futile at this point. Something's rotten in Denmark, and though it looked a little better today, the same old problems brought down the Rams.
Don't be deceived. The Rams looked a little sharper than usual in the first half, but like so many games this season, they came up short and looked lost in the final two frames of the game. The team isn't necessarily quitting on their coach; the coaches seem to be unable to adjust to the game as it unfolds around them.
Josh McDaniels again defied logic. His game planning had fans scratching already bald heads, at least for the few still watching. The local beat writers never really bother to ask about those questions, and don't expect them to start. As one put it when I asked about asking on McDaniels' curious playcalling:
St. Louis did manage to put a touchdown on the board, when Clemens hit Danario Alexander for a 25-yard touchdown. Check out the video of that play.
With two games left to play, the Rams are in soul searching mode. Coaches are thinking about their future beyond this season, as are many of the players. The only ones that seem to be making the best case to stick around are the players who do have a future here, guys like Chris Long and Robert Quinn and, of course, Steven Jackson, whose inability to surrender is something the rest of the team, coaches especially, seem unable to tap into, even at the one-yard line.