If you came here looking for answers about the St. Louis Rams 34-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons there's an easy one for you:
The Falcons are a much better team than the Rams. Really, that's it.
Their offense is patient and doesn't make many mistakes, thanks in large part to the unflappable Matt Ryan, who has more than enough talent around him to make things happen.
For their part, the Rams played at the same level that's allowed them to win four game this season and compete in all but other. Really, considering the lack of talent at some spots on the roster, it's no small accomplishment that Spagnuolo has this team where they are. But at the end of the day, they just don't have the kind of talent to matchup against a team like Atlanta, who I'm standing by as my pick to win the NFC.
A little more breakdown after the jump.
Again, there were lots of little things here and there that could have made a difference for the Rams. To keep this recap appropriate for Sunday night audiences, let's run through the big three, the three factors that made the biggest difference.
The offense - Probably there are a few things happening here to contribute, once again, to the inability of the Rams offense to move the ball. Nobody does much for yards after the catch, a prerequisite for the West Coast offense and the easiest way to make the dink and dump passing game look as futile and annoying as it does. It also makes it hard to convert third downs, especially when they're completing 18-yard plays...with 20-yards to go.
I liked the play calling early on, or at least I thought I did. Why no run? Really, just 11 touches for Steven Jackson, sometimes it seems like the Rams just don't even want to try. Yes, the Falcons have a good run defense, but that hasn't stopped the Rams from using him successfully against other tough run defenses in the past. When the Rams don't run, it's easy for teams to bottle up the passing game. Now, this week they did much better with some longer passes, but they just don't have the ability to do it very often.
Atlanta dominated the time of possession. Give the defense credit they played well despite being overmatched. But the Rams have to score points AND control the ball.
That said, it's pretty impressive just how effective Sam Bradford can be in the two minute offense. Why aren't they doing more of that?
Coverage - We've said it before and we'll say it again, the Rams need better OLBs. Hard to believe it's an upgrade over last year, but it's way off the mark. You can also factor in depth at safety, where they lack for coverage guys too.
Fletcher was a much better corner than Dockery was last week, but still had some wildly inconsistent moments. He is young...as are the other guys that were asked to step into the game after Bartell left and Atogwe left for awhile. Jerome Murphy, a rookie, matched up with Roddy White...
Pass rush - or lack thereof. The league's sack leaders didn't get a single sack today, and Matt Ryan was coldly efficient with that kind of time. They tried, but Atlanta's offensive line played very, very well.
The lack of pass rush left the secondary exposed. And that's just too much against a team like this.
- The Rams offensive line is a great pass blocking group, but they need to be better as run blocking. Again, they left OG John Greco on the inactive list. Why? Greco has been a solid run blocker this year, and the Rams were effective when they were using him in the mix. Plus, Hank Fraley if one of the guards gets injured?
- Really Mike Smith, you needed two points with two minutes left? Boo.
- Can't blame Bradford for that INT too much. The play was pretty poorly executed all around. Three points would have done nothing for the Rams either, but he threw the INT, after setting the rookie record for most attempts without one, on third down and had one more chance to put it in the end zone. Probably shouldn't have thrown it blindly.
- On Turf Show Radio, 3k mentioned how the Rams could use a receiver that gets the jump balls, a guy who can nail those post routes in the end zone. That would have been nice today.
- One for ten on third downs. Yikes.