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The Rams fought hard yet came up short in Miami. Is this the beginning of a downfall, or will they rebound?
Prior to the start of the season, there seemed to be no way fans could be disappointed with a .500 overall record. Following week 6's loss against the Miami Dolphins, that all changed.
Now the (red zone offense) hits the fan and the Rams set into the toughest three game stretch of their 2012 schedule. Next up are the rejuvenated Green Bay Packers at home, then an angry New England Patriots squad 3,000 miles overseas and, finally, the first of two matchups with an even angrier San Francisco 49ers team on the road. Jump for joy with me, won't you?
Nonetheless, let's not look ahead just yet. How about some links to relive your disappointing Sunday?
Post-game report card - Despite huge vacancies on the scoreboard, the offense actually played fairly well. In fact, from a yardage standpoint, it was the Rams' best performance in six seasons. Sam Bradford continues to improve every week, but taking a comeback-drive-killing sack on the second-to-last play of the game, along with a few other mistakes, puts a damper on what was otherwise a strong outing.
This was easily the running back tandem's (I can't believe I have to say that) finest performance, gashing what was the league's best rush defense for 128 yards on 23 carries. Brandon Gibson looked like a No. 1 receiver, catching seven passes for 91 yards, including an outstanding one-handed grab that NFL Network ranked No. 1 of Sunday's top 5. The offensive line, well, kept Sam alive.
The defense played as usual. They cut down big plays, all but eliminated the opposition from the stat sheet and held the Dolphins to what should be a beatable 17 points. Miami's heralded ground game was nonexistent, failing to reach even 20 yards on the day. The NFL's leading receiver heading into the week, Brian Hartline, was held without a catch.
On the other hand, breakdowns in coverage led to both of Ryan Tannehill's touchdown throws. Janoris Jenkins either completely blew his assignment or entrusted Craig Dahl to take the deep route on Miami's first score to Marlon Moore. Regardless, Jenkins had a lapse in judgment.
The special teams unit, which has been a staple of the Rams' success in 2012, emphatically failed in Miami. Following the Dolphins' first score, Dan Carpenter squib kicked into the waiting arms of Brit Miller, who fumbled the ball right back, allowing Miami to take a 10 - 9 lead before halftime. A fake punt with merely 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter allowed the Dolphins to all but destroy any hope for a comeback.
Had they actually punted, the way the Rams drove all day, I - and I think ‘Phins' head coach Joe Philbin - believe St. Louis would have capitalized.
I've never condoned blaming a loss on a kicker, and I won't start now, but Greg Zuerlein was needed as much as ever in this game - a field goal game. Young GZ, who was previously perfect in his rookie year, missed 3 of 5 attempts. Albeit one was kicked from 66 yards, each sailed wide left in nearly the exact same spot. I'll repeat, though, for obvious, astonishing sake: Zuerlein's 66-yard attempt was wide, not short.
Sando's wrap-up - ESPN's NFC West aficionado, Mike Sando starts out by stating what many Ram fans understandably doubted and may still have a tough time accepting: the offense can work without "Blankie" Danny Amendola. While an inability to score points largely lost the game, penalties and turnovers contributed to the struggles just as well. Danny's presence wouldn't have prevented that.
Rams remain own worst enemy - More on the loss from the fellows at Rams Herd. How does one simply sum up the game from the Rams' perspective? Mistakes. Lots of mistakes. The plays, the stats, the signs of hope - they were all present. Unfortunately, though, not enough to make up for a team that is evidently the youngest and most inexperienced in the league. Jeff Fisher doesn't take moral victories, and neither will this organization under his watch.
Offensive snap totals through first five games - Other than Sam Bradford, three players on offense have played every snap. Each (Robert Turner, Harvey Dahl and Barry Richardson) resides on the line. After totaling only 52 snaps through the first three games, Chris Givens played 45 and 44 in week 4 and 5, respectively. Isaiah Pead had seen the field on offense seven times -- a fraction of Daryl Richardson's 98 -- before yesterday.
Defensive snap totals - Obviously, James Laurinaitis boasts the most playing time (349 snaps) on defense, with Cortland Finnegan coming up just one play shy. Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar more than double Rocky McIntosh's snaps. Surprisingly to me, Robert Quinn has played more than Chris Long in every contest. In week 4, rookie Trumaine Johnson made his snaps count. Although he appeared in only five plays, he forced a pivotal, unexplainable interception.
49ers get pummeled by Giants - If it's any consolation, Ram fans, the race for the NFC West title remains as hot as ever. Every team but the San Francisco 49ers, who suffered a drubbing at the hands of the New York Giants, has scored 110 points on the year. Along with the Cardinals, who suffered their second loss in a row, the Niners and Rams came up short; however, the division did not get shutout in week 6 because...
Seahawks stun Patriots - Yeah, Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson and the gargantuan corner back duo did it again, shocking another Super Bowl caliber team in the closing moments of the game. The Patriots had this contest wrapped up, leading 23-10 with only minutes left to play; that is, until Wilson Magic took effect. Seriously, is this the next Tebow? Unfortunately, no, because Seattle's rookie quarterback can really sling a good football, and he is the next Brett Favre. Good for the Seahawks, though, I guess...