Another week, another loss. In fairness to this young St. Louis Rams squad, they are battling their hearts out, and their losses continue to come against (for the most part) playoff-caliber competition. However, defensive inconsistency and untimely turnovers were, again, the Achilles’ heel of the Rams on Sunday. Like always, there is plenty to take away from the loss, so we’ll jump right in…
1. For the second game in a row, the officiating crew had a significant negative effect on the outcome of the game for the St. Louis Rams. Last week, much more subtly, the one-sided flags on the Rams’ secondary forced Tim Walton on his young defensive backfield to play more passively, leading to easier completions later in the game that likely would not have been there otherwise. In a similar fashion, the referees on Sunday were all over Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, handing the Arizona Cardinals and Carson Palmer massive chunks of yards and easy first down throughout the opening half of the game.
Worse, their “early whistle” on an Arizona touchdown negated what would have been a 100-ish yard scoop-and-score by Janoris Jenkins, instead bringing the Rams back to their own 10 yard line after enforcing a penalty for “blocking the quarterback.” Much like last week, the second half was much more even, but at that point in the game, it was too late…
2. How Robert Quinn can manage to keep his cool when being held on every single snap is utterly baffling to me…
3. While the officiating certainly helped the Cardinals in their quest for victory, the St. Louis Rams lost the game with their inability to effectively execute the basic fundamentals of defense: tackling and covering. As a result, Larry Fitzgerald looked like a receiver in his mid-20s and the typically stagnant Arizona backfield (i.e. pretty much Andre Ellington) rumbled for 100+ yards on the ground, including six first downs. If there are two “notes” to take away from this season, it is that 1) the safeties in our secondary cannot cover and 2) our secondary, and half of our linebacking corps, cannot tackle. That will need to be addressed soon, rather than later, and will likely involve either a high pick in the 2014 NFL Draft or a notable free agent signing in the offseason… or both!
4. It is a travesty that there was no helmet-to-helmet call on that booming Kellen Clemens sack, but that was not the most egregious mistake that was made during that period of time. Clemens should not have been sent back on the field after that hit, both for the safety of the player and the good of the football team. The interception on his next pass attempt should be chalked up to karma…
5. Enough whining, time for some silver linings!
While ESPN doesn’t appear to have counted it on their statistics chart, Alec Ogletree did force Carson Palmer to fumble on his lone sack of the day. With that in mind, Ogletree’s unofficial stat line would look something like: 9 tackles (8 solo), 1 sack, 2 tackles for a loss, and 1 forced fumble. He still leads all rookies in solo tackles and forced fumbles… but, sadly, will still likely receive no attention for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
6. Kendall Langford has quietly strung together three consecutive solid performances from the interior of the defensive line. He ended Sunday’s game as the fourth-leading tackler on the team, and was relatively effective pushing the pocket from the interior. Langford appears to be one of the primary targets for some form of “restructuring” at the end of the season. However, if his play continues, the St. Louis Rams may be more apt to “work with,” rather than “insist,” when it comes to those negotiations.
7. Cudos to the Arizona Cardinals for being the team that finally forced the Rams to win with the arm of Kellen Clemens. The Cardinals stacked the box and bombarded St. Louis with run blitzes for a majority of the game. As a result, Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham easily had their worst combined game of the season, managing only 34 total yards on 16 carries against the extremely stout Arizona front-seven.
However, on a positive note, Zac Stacy did manage to rush for his sixth touchdown of the season, which is as many, or more, than Steven Jackson managed in each of his last four seasons in St. Louis!
8. Tavon Austin continued to shine this week, taking a quick pitch from Kellen Clemens and rocketing 56 yards down the field to set up the Rams lone touchdown of the game. Austin became one of only two player in league history to gain 100+ yards rushing, receiving, and punt returning in the same season, joining Darren Sproles on that dynamic list. Austin would not finish the game after suffering an ankle injury on that long run, but that appeared to be more of a precautionary move than anything else. Keenan Allen already has the Offensive Rookie of the Year award signed, sealed, and delivered. However, it’s doubtful anyone in Rams Nation would swap their rookie with San Diego’s rookie!
9. To preface this, Tyrann Mathieu was one of my least favorite player to come out of the draft last season. However, it was utterly heartbreaking to watch the young, potential-star get twisted and beaten on his lone punt return attempt. Mathieu would try to leave the field under his own power, but collapsed halfway to the sideline, eventually leading to him being taken off the field on the cart. Preliminary indication point to a torn ACL, which would obviously end his season. Personal distaste and team favoritism aside, no one wants to watch any young player sustain a significant injury like that on the football field. Mathieu has a good story and, by all accounts, a good heart and passion for the game. Everyone in Rams Nation wishes him a full and speedy recovery!
10. The silver lining with every Rams loss for the remainder of the season will be their place in the 2014 NFL Draft. Currently, the St. Louis Rams are sitting at 13th overall, marred by their nearly league-leading strength of schedule pushing them to the bottom of the 5-8 record grouping. Only one win separates the No. 13 and No. 5 overall slots, so there is no telling how the remainder of the season will play out in the Top 15.
More importantly, the Washington Redskins continue to lose, all while teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars continue to win their way out of the running for the No. 1 overall pick. The Redskins play the Atlanta Falcons next week, in what could be the “biggest” game left on the schedule, in terms of the top of the 2014 draft order. Another loss by Washington could cement their spot in the Top 3, while a win would drop them below the Falcons; who are likely in the same boat as St. Louis, in terms of trying to shop their first rounder. Time for Steven Jackson to do the Rams one last favor!