DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 09: Cortland Finnegan #31 of the St. Louis Rams celebrates with his teammates after intercepting a pass from Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions and running 31 yards for a touchdown during the season opener at Ford Field on September 9, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
That was a heartbreaker. Anyway you look at it. Losing a game with 15 seconds left to go rips your heart out, stomps on it and then makes you clean up the mess. On the other hand, when was the last time you saw the St. Louis Rams take a game down to the final minute of play, against an opponent favored by a full touchdown?
As much as that loss hurt, it is clear that this is an entirely different team, worlds beyond the one that averaged three wins a season over the last five years.
Some quick thoughts after the jump.
Up And Down
The Rams would have never been in the game without an incredible first half from the defense. They picked off Matthew Stafford three times, including a pick six from Cortland Finnegan. They struggled in the second half, most notably on Detroit's winning drive. Detroit put together two drives of 160 yards and two touchdowns, totaling 4 minutes and 11 seconds, to end the game.
Sam Bradford and the offense struggled in the first half, but played much better in the second half. When was the last time you could say that about a Rams team? The problem with that is, that it left things so close. Getting just six points on the first two Stafford interceptions was inexcusable.
The Rams got hurt exactly where could least afford to, on the offensive line. Scott Wells left with a foot injury that didn't look especially serious. Rodger Saffold left with a head/neck injury that looked very, very serious. Replacement LT Wayne Hunter played a solid game in relief.
It was a tale of two halves for Bradford as well. He was out of sync with his offense through the first two quarters. Worse, he panicked with Ndamukong Suh honing in on him and got sacked. Two of his sacks were on him. In the second half, he was making three step drops quickly and decisively. He was pressured way too often early on, and the Saffold injury is a huge concern.
We really didn't see much from the Rams front four. Robert Quinn had the only sack. Chris Long got back there on the first interception, but it was not a strong showing from the front four who could really have used Michael Brockers in the middle. The inability to bring pressure from the outside, with Quinn and Long, played a key role in those last two scoring drives by the Lions.
Hard to overlook the seven penalties from the Rams in this game. In a game decided by four point, ever little bit matters. I suspect Jeff Fisher will not let that one slide.
Disappointment aside, fans should walk away from this one secure in the knowledge that this is finally a competitive team. With 17 rookies on the roster, the ups and downs are going to be regular part of the season and the Rams still lack the roster for a realistic shot at double-digit wins.
But this is progress, disappointing, heartbreaking, gutwrenching progress.