The St. Louis Rams remain winless on the road this season, losing their 4th road game of the season...but at least they found new ways to do it.
People can, and will, try to break it down in a number of ways. The Rams defense wasn't its usual self...an injury to LT Rodger Saffold...an ugly pass interference call on Oshiomogho Atogwe in OT on a plainly uncatchable ball...for me, it still comes back to a lack of playmakers, a lack of players, besides Steven Jackson, who can make things happen with the ball in their hands.
MIssed opportunities were everywhere for the offense, four consecutive three-and-outs in the fourth quarter summed it up though.
Breakdown after the jump.
Run blocking was again sub-par. I'm anxious to hear what the justification was for leaving John Greco inactive. He's been an important to the running game for since subbing in against Washington early in the season, and the Rams desperately needed a power guy in the middle today. Renardo Foster did a good enough job for a backup against a aggressive defense, but they needed Saffold out there.
Give the Rams credit for working with the receivers they have. Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola have the ability to contribute; however, they're role players and the Rams won't get full value from them until they have someone who can make plays and commands the attention of defenses. Laurent Robinson had some big catches late in the fourth quarter, but it came after some big misses earlier in the game.
The Rams inability to convert on third downs was brutal.
I'll be anxious to go back and watch some tape for more insight, but the defense got burned badly by Troy Smith and the 49ers receivers. They have talented players like Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, and the Rams defense has had trouble matching up against legit talent like that. The big plays really burned them, especially allowing the 49ers to convert a 4th-and-18 that was essentially the turning point. You could say that the offense let them down, but winning defense CANNOT allow conversions like that to happen.
Coaching, you have to put blame on the coaching when a team fails to seal the deal again this season on the road. Very reminiscent of the Tampa Bay loss a couple week ago. Why did they start Kevin Dockery in place of Bradley Fletcher? Fletcher wasn't injured, and the only thing I could think of was maybe trying to get the speed to match up with Davis. It mirrors the Greco decision, if in fact Greco was healthy...this is a group of technocrats running the Rams right now, and sometimes I wonder if they don't outthink themselves, violating the cardinal rule of just playing the best player. Getting jobbed on the penalties didn't seem to elicit much response on the sidelines. Very frustrating to see this happen.
This was a tough loss to swallow because, once again, it shouldn't have been a loss. San Francisco lost three TDs to penalties, almost as good as turnover, winning teams don't let gimmes like that slip away.
Time to speak frankly. This probably does it, or at least makes it nearly impossible, for the Rams to legitimately make a run at the NFC West title. Next week, Atlanta comes to town, and after that it's Denver, a team that scored 49 points today thanks to 4 passing TDs. In truth, it probably was a little naive to think that this Rams team would really make a run at it. Their weaknesses are just too much to overcome, especially with a lack of playmakers on offense, or even healthy receivers. Hopefully Danario Alexander's return helps, and I'd like to see them start trying to get something out of Fendi Onobun's speed, if he's healthy. But, there's just too much ground to cover for the 2010 Rams to be a winning team.
That said, the future does indeed look bright. Imagine if Bradford had someone like Davis or Michael Crabtree to throw to. The kid is tough as nails and took hits with the best of 'em today, and that's a big deal for the Rams going forward. Adding some talent at OLB could make the Rams defense unquestionably dominant. Hats off to Chris Long for another great game today. It's too bad that it wasn't enough...which sums up the 2010 Rams pretty well: close, but not quite there yet.