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Rams recap: Three things in the post-mortem

Quarterback Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams hands the ball off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on October 24 2010 in Tampa Florida.
Quarterback Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams hands the ball off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on October 24 2010 in Tampa Florida.

Had the St. Louis Rams played the second half of their road loss to Tampa Bay like they did the first half, it would have been a blowout, one-sided win. Instead, they started the third quarter with an ominous three-and-out that burned up less than half of the four minutes of possession they had in the third quarter. 

The Rams' second half play hasn't alway been like this. In fact, they got a lead back in the third quarter against Washington, holding on to win that game. For three straight games now, the Rams have been terrible in the second half, narrowly escaping last week against San Diego. But at least the offense managed to control the ball a little bit in that game, when they had to at least. 

There's plenty to say...or maybe there isn't, depends on your perspective I guess or how much you can stomach talking about a game that slipped away like this one did. 

Bullet points after the jump.

Okay, three things I took away from the game.

 

  1. Little things add up. And to some extent, in the case of death by a thousand cuts, the coaches get the blame. Start with the clock management as the first half wound down. This area is an obvious issue with Spagnuolo, continues to be. It doesn't end there. Visions of easy, missed interceptions haunt this team...not just against Tampa Bay either. The centerfield bobble with Atogwe and Kehl was simply inexcusable. If the Rams were actually catching these INTs this would be a much different season. Both the clock and lost turnovers are just part of the story. Don't forget the penalties. The Rams are not good enough to make those kind of mistakes and hang on to a lead. When the every unit fails to execute like this, the blame goes to the coaches, and Rams fans certainly are within their right to wonder if the coaching isn't letting this team down too.
  2. Second half offense. No need to belabor the point as to just how piss poor the offense was in the second half. The problem here is that it's a trend. The biggest difference between the halves was the run game. Steven Jackson didn't get much running room in the third and fourth quarters, and Tampa Bay gets some credit for that. They clamped down on the plays that were killing them through the first half, forcing the Rams to move it through the air. Unfortunately, that put the burden on a Rams passing game that stunk for four quarters. Two touchdowns and no picks aside, Sam Bradford did not have a good game today. Funny thing about it, the Rams did well in the red zone and on third downs...they just had trouble moving the ball and that impotency is reflected in a passing game that was a non-starter. Bradford was 6 for 14 in the first half. Deep passes were a problem, but nothing was working well. The receivers did their part too. Rarely did any of them get the kind of separation needed to catch a pass clean and run with it. My biggest problem with the play calling in the second half wasn't that it was too conservative, it was that the coaches failed to find ways to shake it up...like the reverse to Amendola, the lateral on the last play, etc. Tampa had trouble with misdirection, though they got sharper on outside runs and fakes in the second half, but still would have been susceptible. 
  3. Grit. It wasn't all bad. You have to Ron Bartell lots of credit for playing with a bruised thigh. And playing well. Tampa knew that and picked on him when he was in the game, but Bartell played as well as he has all season. Other players who gritted their way through it were Chris Long and Steven Jackson, most notably. Really and truly, I wouldn't say that any of the players lacked toughness; execution was just sorely missing and all the grit in the world can't make up for that. 
Fans have been watching (if they have actually been watching) the Rams lose for a long time now and are understandably sick of it. When a team like this version of the Rams starts to show a little life, it makes losing that much tougher because you know they can win unlike year past.

This was a tough loss, and one we'll struggle to explain. The simplest answer - not meant as an excuse - is that this is a team that has had and will continue to have some wild ups and downs. Lacking talent and leaning on rookies to play like grizzled veterans makes a smooth ride next to impossible. Talk of division titles, though still not out of the picture in a putrid NFC West, smacks of just a little too much optimism.