EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 19: Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams looks on in the second quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 19, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
The St. Louis Rams dug themselves a deep, dark hole in the first half of tonight's game. Bad penalties, blown coverage and stupid mistakes gave the Giants three touchdowns through two quarters of play. What those mistakes and the scoreboard concealed was a Rams team that, for the most part, outplayed the favored Giants over the same span. The Rams beat themselves, which is becoming something of a disturbing trend.
I have a tendency to parse the details of each game, but there's no need for that here. I feel like I've written this same summary enough to boil it down to the essentials.
Take your pick of which gaff was the most offensive. The rookies have a shred of an excuse after losing the spring workouts, but more experienced Rams made inexcusable errors as well. Cadillac Williams committed the most egregious error on the night, walking away from a missed lateral that the Giants converted to a touchdown for a 14-6 lead. Justin King's penalty with the Giants pinned against their own end zone on first-and-20 stunk, and that wasn't the only goof from King.
Red Zone Offense, Lack Of
Once again, the Rams' efforts in the red zone were absolutely futile. There wasn't one single culprit. Players dropped passes, Sam Bradford locked onto the missed receivers and the play calling got to be too clever by half. I don't know why Michael Hoomanwanui was never targeted in the red zone or they didn't try more of those fades to Danario Alexander. It wasn't just a red zone problem, but Bradford had several passes tipped, the result of dialing into his first read and giving the defense an opportunity to make the reach. Anyone notice Lance Kendricks was MIA in the red zone too?
Reliance on Rookies
I laughed before the game at a couple people on Twitter, some of whom should know better, for bringing out the bust card when rookie WR Austin Pettis was inactive again. It takes rookies some time to get ready. Rams fans got a little spoiled with draft picks like James Laurinaitis and Sam Bradford who made instant impacts their rookie year. That's the exception, not the rule. Unfortunately, the Rams are relying pretty heavily on rookies at key positions, rookies who clearly are not ready for prime time and sorely lacking the benefits of the spring program. The most obvious example: Greg Salas. I still think Salas has the potential to be a good player - though he probably ought not show his face in the Metro area for a few days - who just was not ready to replace a player like Danny Amendola.
If the Rams try to blame injuries for their troubles tonight, I'm having none of it. They could have won this game. That said, Steven Jackson was sorely missed. Cadillac Williams just doesn't have the power that SJ does to extend those runs after contact. Jackson may have lost some of his speed, but he makes up for that with his raw power. I mentioned Amendola above. You have to think that the Rams would have done better on third downs with him, not to mention the drops. Justin King is a replacement for Ron Bartell in name only.
Things don't get any easier for the Rams. Next, they face the Baltimore Ravens on a short week, followed by Washington (who beat these Giants), Green Bay and Dallas.
I haven't mentioned the fact that the Rams came up very, very short in prime time...again. That probably deserves its own post. The entire country, to say nothing of long suffering Rams fans, expected this team to finally rejoin the ranks of good, competitive football teams this year, and a Monday Night appearance against the head coach's old team gave the Rams a prime opportunity to announce their arrival on the world stage. It's back to being among the second tier of NFL teams for another year at least.