Ugly. There really is no other way to describe the St. Louis Rams blowout loss at the hands of the "Dream Team" Philadelphia Eagles to open their season. After a quick strike touchdown run from Steven Jackson, the Rams offense reverted to its usual ways, going into a shell. Even worse than the kind of losses to superior teams which have become common place for the Rams, were the injuries, a rash of injuries to key players.
The injury to Steven Jackson took most of the wind out of the sail for the Rams' offense. Cadillac Williams ran well, averaging 4.8 yards per carry on 10 carries subbing in for Jackson. However, an offense has to do much more than just run the ball against a team like the Eagles. It stood out that Bradford and his receivers were simply not ready for live action, despite a fairly sharp 4-0 run through the preseason.
When receivers could get open, hard to do when they were being covered by Philly's "Dreamy" set of cornerbacks, they proved to be the same old reliable bunch they were last season. Six drops punctuated a particularly feckless offense, most egregious among the offenders were rookie TE Lance Kendricks and WR Brandon Gibson. You may not have noticed Mike Sims-Walker, who had just one catch, because he was covered most of the day by Nnamdi Asomugha.
Perhaps no unit looked worse than the Rams offensive line, a unit featuring a recent first-round draft pick and three free agents representing some of the most expensive contracts at their respective positions. Jason Smith, mercifully, left the game early with an ankle injury, something many believed was more an excuse to give him the hook than anything else. With his receivers covered, Bradford faced pressure all day long and found little means of moving the ball outside of a running game that the Eagles were more than willing to concede.
After some early wins, the defense struggled to contain Michael Vick and the speedy array of offensive weapons the Eagles possess. LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson both topped 100 yards and each had a touchdown to go with it. Perhaps most effective of all against the Rams defense was Vick, who seemed to be able to scramble for as many yards as he wanted on third downs. Vick ended the day with 98 rushing yards and another 187 passing yards with 2 TDs.
I don't think anyone would argue that the Rams were a better team than the Eagles coming into this game. There was no argument to be made there. A loss, in and of itself, this week would not have been so hard to swallow. However, the Rams gave the Eagles more than enough help, dropping passes, missing key tackles and drawing nine penalties for sixty yards.
Ironic that so many said that this was the week to be facing the Eagles as they might still be less than optimally prepared for the season. The Eagles looked fine, even making the necessary adjustments to stop the Rams early wins on the blitz. It was the Rams that looked woefully unprepared. I shrugged off questions about whether or not the Rams would struggle with a new offense; that was a mistake. They struggled mightily and were clearly not ready to start the season.
How they respond to this, to the rash of injuries and unpardonable mistakes, will be the key to their season.