Note to Rams players and coaches: stop trying to kill the general manager with poor play (and banned substance issues).
Let's all wish Jay Zygmunt a speedy recovery.
Obviously, the soul crushing moment of the game happened when Pace came out, but the real momentum shifting moment for this game was Steven Jackson's first fumble in the third quarter. At that moment, the Rams led 13-7. After recovering the ball, Carolina scored on just two plays, a deep 68-yard throw to Steve Smith. At first, I wondered if maybe the defense was winded from play, but they had only been on the field for two minutes and seven seconds during Carolina's first drive of the second half (that ended in a fumble, making viewers suspicious that they may indeed be watching a couple of 8-8 teams here). Bernie Miklasz' latest column points to the lack of passion the Rams displayed in week 1, and I think he's hit the nail on the head here. There's certainly precedent for this; remember how lifeless the team looked last season until Bulger called them out publicly?
Blame the big play. On paper, a touch down's a touch down, but when an opponent recovers a fumble and then scores on two quick plays, one of which is a 68-yard pass, those kind of touch downs come with an extra punch in the gut. When Carolina scored on their first possession of the game, the Rams came right back out and put up 7 of their own points - and continued to drive the ball downfield after that. Even with Pace already out of the game, the Rams had played a decent enough not to let it all slip away. Maybe they got the news about Pace's season in the locker room at half time, and that combined with the SJ fumble and the resulting Carolina BIG PLAY touch down to completely suck all the life and spirit out of the Rams. That fumble changed everything.
The good news is that Steven Jackson probably won't fumble too many more times this season, speaking as a fan and from precedent. There's also hope in last season's morale shift; although, they certainly won't be able to wait as long to make that happen.
Vacation has made my fingers a little slow on the keyboard today, certainly not fast enough to keep up with all stuff going on with the Rams this week.
Being a St. Louis sports fan, the Claude Wroten thing stings that much more in the wake of the news that Rick Ankiel's been using HGH. In reality though, he'll serve his suspension, come back, and life will go on. At least the NFL deals with this issue in a much, much better way than baseball. A banned substance violation certainly didn't hurt Shawne Merriman's career, so there's no reason to get too hung up on Wroten's screw up over the long term. The worst part about it is that it's a selfish move that hurts the team by leaving them in a lurch for four important games of the season.
Despite a defense that forgot about the run, Carriker looked good, real good. He handled the Carolina O-line and made one hell of a tackle on DeShaun Foster. Carolina ran the hell out of the ball, but they didn't have too many runs up the middle. Yes, the Rams run defense still looked lackluster, but taking away the middle is a huge improvement over last season.
More on the O-line later, but two thoughts for now. Alex Barron now has the kind of opportunity most young pro athletes wait for. If he steps up on the left side in Pace's absence, he's a superstar...or as close as you get to that level as an offensive lineman. The line for week 2 doesn't sound set to me. McCollum almost earned a starting job as the center this season, should he get some consideration then to start at right guard now with Incognito out? He's played guard before, and is familiar enough with the Rams offense.