The St. Louis Rams went deep into the well, called on the memories of 2009 and laid a big egg on the field against the Raiders today for their second loss of the season and the fourth straight season with an 0-2 start.
It didn't start off ugly. The Rams looked good early with Steven Jackson chewing up the field and Sam Bradford completing 6 of 7 passes. At the end of the half, the Rams went into the locker room with a 7-3 lead. So what happened?
Poor execution once again dogged the Rams. The offense failed to finish drives, and the defense spent the majority of the second half on the field, unable to prevent Oakland and replacement QB Bruce Gradkowski from putting up another 13 points.
Like 2009, the real stinker today was the Rams offense, and you can pick almost any personnel group to blame. The offensive line got manhandled by the Raiders defensive front, limiting Jackson to less than 20 yards in the second half. Bradford was clearly pressing a little too hard with some of his throws and his receivers did absolutely nothing to help the situation. Remember last year when Laurent Robinson looked like he could be the receiver the Rams needed? Nope. He was awful today, catching one pass, allowing an INT (with a little help by Bradford) and getting owned by Raiders defenders not named Nnamdi. Clayton, despite a 2 TD game, again flashed inconsistent hands, but he did make a nice grab for the Rams second TD of the day.
Rodger Saffold left the game with a back injury, replaced by Rolando Foster. It didn't help matters, but the whole line played poorly in the second half...after playing really well in the first half.
The wide receivers and the offensive line get a F, an F minus for their effort today, as does offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur who failed to get players like Danny Amendola involved when they were needed. Inexplicable playcalling in the second half. The Raiders had their corners practically on the line of scrimmage, and the Rams still didn't throw it deep...even a medium depth. And why not bring the tight ends into the game again? Daniel Fells and Billy Bajema had key plays in the first half, but were ghosts in the second half.
And there were the penalties. Most notable among them, Fred Robbins so-called roughing the passer on the Raiders' last possession. Had that penalty not happened, the Rams would have probably been able to get the ball back one more time, down by just two points. Yes, there were some terrible calls, like the late hit credited to Atogwe, but the bottom line is that the Rams players got chippy, chippy without being smart.
I felt for the defense though. They played fairly well, given the circumstances, like not getting a breather at all until late in the fourth quarter thanks to an inept offense...very, very 2009-esque.
And why did Spagnuolo use all his time outs? Someone needs to review the standards for using those things.
There was a lot not to like. However, the one thing that stands out to me is just how lacking the Rams are at wide receiver. Why was Brandon Gibson on the sidelines, inactive for this game? The Rams need to try and make up for their lack of quality with quantity at the WR position. If I were Billy Devaney, I'd be on the phone begging San Diego to make a deal for Vincent Jackson...of course the 0-2 Vikings might be thinking the same thing. The Rams lack of an offensive weapon to pair with Steven Jackson makes their offense incredibly easy to defend. Jackson wouldn't put the Rams into contention this year, but he would make them a more competitive team...and likely a contender next year in a terrible division.
It's still early in the season, and the Rams are capable of playing better than they did today. They damn near won the game in spite of themselves. If I were coaching the Rams, I'd have them running laps tomorrow until their legs melted.
Lots more to say about this week's loss in the 48 hours ahead. Stay tuned...if you haven't given up already.