St. Louis Rams Have Game To Forget Against Minnesota


The Rams opened the 2014 season with a humiliating 34-6 home defeat to the Minnesota Vikings. After months of anticipation, Rams fans dreaming of glory were brought back to earth with a huge crash on Sunday afternoon. Here are some of the points that stood out in the Rams opening fixture.
The Rams poor discipline was evident again against the Vikings. As one of the NFL’s most heavily flagged teams in recent seasons, the team once again kept the officials busy, racking up 13 penalties for 121 yards. Granted, some of these penalties were questionable at best, such as Robert Quinn’s first quarter flag for Roughing the Passer with really minimal contact on Matt Cassel. Some, however, such as the Taunting penalty on Cordarrelle Patterson’s kick return in third quarter or the False Start on Joe Barksdale later in the third on a critical 3rd & 6 are really hard to forgive. The Rams will have to be far tighter on the road in Tampa Bay next week if the team is not to hit the self-destruct button again.
With a team that has always has great pride in its running game, there was little to cheer about on Sunday. Zac Stacy failed to live up to pre-game expectations, accumulating only 43 yards. In fairness, some terrible play from the offensive line (minus number two overall pick, Greg Robinson) did not help the running backs, but in an offense that lost its starting quarterback Sam Bradford for the season, and backup Shaun Hill for the second half of this one, an effective running game was always going to be essential for St Louis to have any chance of getting anywhere near the 7 wins they achieved last year. 72 total team rushing yards is just not going to get it done.
Much has been made during the off-season of the Rams front seven as one of, if not the best in the league. In the dome on Sunday, it did not show. Robert Quinn was kept quiet with only two tackles all game, and Chris Long went to the locker room in the second half with after a lower leg injury. The lack of pressure on Matt Cassel allowed him to finish with figures of 17/25 passes for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns, with a quarterback rating of 113.8. Given Cassel’s career rating is a modest 80.5, this shows how easy a day he had. Again, St Louis will have to bring far more heat against the Buccaneers’ Josh McCown next week to restrict scoring and give the Rams offense a fighting chance.
As easy as it is in the immediate aftermath of a performance like the Rams put in to be wholly negative, it is only fair that credit is given to the few highlights we did see. With 7 receptions for 99 yards, Brian Quick at long last began to show what he is capable of. Despite achieving little in yards after the catch, the big third year receiver looked like a real mismatch against the Vikings defensive backs. Rookie cornerback EJ Gaines also looked extremely good value for a sixth round draft pick, making three tackles, defending a further two passes, and looking generally very sharp. Johnny Hekker averaging 46.5 yards per punt, picking up from where he left off in a 2013 season that saw him voted to the Pro Bowl is also a good to see.
While there were a few crumbs of comfort, generally this was a very bad night for St Louis, outscored and totally outplayed in a home opener against a Minnesota side that, in all honesty, will not be troubling the league’s top tier teams. If the Rams fare this poorly against a team like that, fans will shudder to think what will happen when St Louis face Seattle, San Francisco, Denver to name a few later on in the season. The coaching staff need to get this team playing much better, very quickly, if the Rams are not to be selecting within the top three or four picks in the 2015 draft.