Where did the St Louis Rams’ 2014 season go wrong?


Though the St Louis Rams still have a mathematical chance of making the playoffs, Sunday’s defeat at San Diego was realistically the final nail in the coffin of what could have been a productive season after the false hope provided by the Denver victory the previous weekend. 2014 is, for many reasons, the “season that could have been” for the Rams. So just where did it go wrong? The Rams have had many things go against them at key times. Some were self-inflicted, some were just unlucky and some were downright unfair. It is possible to pinpoint one key event when the balance tipped irretrievably against St Louis? In reverse chronological order, here are just some of those defining moments which could arguably have killed the season.

November 23rd – THAT pass.

It’s the fourth quarter on the road against the Chargers. The Rams, who find themselves only three points behind, have driven up the field despite the flag-happy officiating crew bringing back a 73-yard Tavon Austin punt return three snaps earlier. After a 27-yard pass to Kenny Britt, the Rams find themselves with a 1st and goal at the San Diego 6-yard line. Tre Mason has had a weaker second half than first, however with Shaun Hill’s quarterback rating in the low 50’s the rookie running back would still be favoured to get over the line with three, maybe four attempts. A Benny Cunningham run gets the Rams a couple of yards closer, then on 2nd down the ball is passed – yes, PASSED – and intercepted, thereby giving the ball back to Philip Rivers who is able to take a couple of knees and run out the few remaining seconds. Instead of St Louis electing to grind over the line for a game-winning touchdown, or at least have a shot at a fieldgoal to take the game into overtime, the game is over and the season with it.

October 26th – Quick lost for season

St Louis are tied 7-7 on the road in Kansas City after an early Lance Kendricks touchdown pass caught from Austin Davis. Davis is performing well, and looks to Brian Quick on a drive-opening pass from the Rams’ own 20-yard line. The third-year receiver is having a breakout season with 375 yards and three touchdowns to his name already, and looks to have overtaken preseason favourite Kenny Britt to become the first wide receiver to reach 1000 yards for St Louis in over a decade. Quick makes the catch and hits the ground, giving the Rams another first down, but it is to be his last contribution to the game and the season. The first pick of the second round in the 2012 draft will require shoulder surgery and is placed on injured reserve. Without his newly-found number one receiver Austin Davis looks lost, the Rams offence stalls and fails to register another point all game. With the defence unable to contain Jamaal Charles who finishes with two touchdowns, Jeff Fisher’s men fall to a humiliating 34-7 defeat.

September 21st –   The Cook drop

After a great start with a three-touchdown lead including a pick-6 from Janoris Jenkins, the Rams started on top at home against the Cowboys. The momentum has swung away from the home team after the softest of soft flags for Roughing the Passer is thrown on Eugene Sims in the 2nd quarter (later acknowledged by the league to have been an incorrect call), turning what would have been a 3rd and impossibly long into a 1st and 10. This keeps the Dallas drive alive and stuns St Louis, allowing Tony Romo to bring his team back to within a single point with a minute and a half gone in the final quarter. Austin Davis is driving the Rams towards the goal line, looking for a crucial score to grab the initiative back from the visitors. On 3rd and 3 from the Cowboys’ ten yard line, Davis has time to pass and picks out Jared Cook who has broken a couple of yards clear of the defensive back. Cook only needs to hold on the ball and the Rams have another touchdown from which they can likely go on to win – only Cook doesn’t make the catch. The ball inexplicably goes straight through the tight end’s hands and onto the turf and St Louis are held to a Greg Zuerlein fieldgoal. The belief seems to completely evaporate from the Rams, and the Cowboys go on to complete a famous comeback victory.

August 23rd – Bradford down again

Having completed 4 of 9 passes for 77 yards in only the first 6 and a half minutes, Sam Bradford is looking strong, leading the Rams downfield in the third preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. Fans are daring to dream that the quarterback is about to embark on a career year, having had a good 2013 cut short by the ACL tear suffered against the Panthers. Bradford takes the snap, fires a pass towards Jared Cook and is immediately hit by the Browns’ Amonty Bryant who has beaten Jake Long’s protection. Bradford goes down – and stays down. Despite initial hopes he has just tweaked the knee, it is not long before Rams medical staff confirm the coaching staff’s worst fear. Bradford has re-torn the ACL and will miss the entire 2014 regular season. With the franchise quarterback gone, St Louis face a season led by veteran backup, Shaun Hill. Despite highly optimistic comparisons with the circumstances under which Kurt Warner took up the reigns in 1999, many argue that the Rams chances of making the playoffs ended with the Bradford injury before the season has even begun.