First, the good news: the St. Louis Rams were 100 percent in the red zone this week. The bad news: they never made it into the red zone, not once. The Rams offense looked exactly like the unit on the field for most of 16 games in 2011, a haunting visage for fans.
St. Louis gained a net total of 160 yards. Total yards. That was the lowest yardage output for the Rams offense since Week 13 last season, when they scratched their way to 157 yards in a loss to the 49ers. That was the only time last season the Rams finished a game with fewer than 160 yards and one of three games last season they had less than 200 yards.
More than anything, it was a reminder of just how far the Rams have to go before as they climb back from seasons of devastation, averaging three wins a year for the five years prior to this one. There was just no way that the new regime could plug every hole they had to fill in one year, not even with all the horse trading and free agent spending they did.
The draft and those free agent addition improved the defense dramatically, and the results of that are quite clear. The cornerback tandem of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins could be one of the best in the league by season's end, and they deserve a heaping helping of the credit for the fact that the Rams have taken all three of their games down to the wire, to be decided in the fourth quarter. This week's loss to the Bears was the only game this season in which the Rams never had a lead.
Those defensive improvements came at a cost. Needs along the offensive line went mostly unaddressed. Center Scott Wells was the one notable addition, and they did add some young talent to the depth chart instead of relying on street free agents.
You can go back and question those decisions, but there was no way of knowing that two starters, Rodger Saffold and Wells, would be injured this early in the season, while another potential starter, Rok Watkins, would join them on the shelf.
Snead and Fisher tried to find receiver help in free agency, expressing interest in Vincent Jackson and Pierre Garcon, who were snapped up right at the bell. They settled for a mediocre Steve Smith, whose been mostly absent this season, but the real ploy to address the need for receives came in the draft. They picked Brian Quick in the second round and Chris Givens in the third. There were more than a few distraught fans at the news Quick was benched this week, but the problem with rookie receivers is the transition time for all but the most blue chip types.
Those choices were never more obvious than they were in the loss to the Bears, as the defense kept things close and the offense struggled because of shaky line play and receivers that couldn't get open.
There are no moral victories in football, and I'm not claiming this game as anything other than a poor outing the Rams had a very good chance to win.
This will not be the last time you see a game like this from the Rams in 2012. It's just where they are as a team. But they are competitive, and you can therefore expect to see some games like this turn out the other way, a close game that the Rams win because of a mistake they force the other team to make, a fortunate bounce of the ball or a big block at just the right time.
A little more good news and bad news to finish: This is the 2012 St. Louis Rams team.