How many times did the Rams have the chance to take the momentum in this one, only to squander that chance and see it swing back to Philadelphia? The first came with less than five minutes left in the first quarter, with the score tied at seven. The Rams had moved 50 yards in nine plays down to the Eagles’ 32-yard line. But Sam Bradford tripped and fumbled, with Philadelphia’s Juqua Parker scooping up the ball and rumbling for a 56-yard touchdown. What could have easily been a14-7, or at least a 10-7 Rams lead turned into a 14-7 Philadelphia advantage.
But the Rams were still in it. Josh Brown hit a 49-yard field goal early in the second quarter, and on the Eagles’ ensuing possession, the Rams gained a red-zone turnover when Michael Vick fumbled. Rather than take advantage of the takeaway, the Rams went three-and-out and punted away. Philly responded with a 14-play, 49-yard drive that resulted in a 34-yard Alex Henery field goal to make it 17-10 at the half.
The Rams got the opening kickoff of the second half, and moved 57 yards in 11 plays to the Eagles’ 36. With a chance to cut the deficit to 17-13, Brown missed a 47-yard field goal wide right, and once again momentum left the Rams and swung to the Eagles. Vick took advantage, moving his team 63 yards in seven plays, culminating with a six-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson that built the lead to 24-10.
The Rams came back with a field-goal drive, but early in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia ran four straight running plays for 85 yards and the touchdown that made it 31-13.
To recap, a Bradford fumble that would have made it 10-7 instead gives Philly a 14-7 lead. Rather than take advantage of a Philadelphia turnover, the Rams give up the ball and a field goal that made it 17-10. And after missing a field goal that would have made it 17-13, the Rams allowed a touchdown drive that made it 24-10.
The momentum swings were momentous, and showed that the Rams have some growing up to do in the dealing-with-adversity department.
Speaking of dealing with adversity, it’ll be interesting to see how the Rams deal with their three best offensive players in danger of missing the Giants game. Steven Jackson participated in two plays in the 2011 season before leaving with a strained quad. Back in 2008, Jackson suffered a quad injury against Dallas and missed three of the next four games. Cadillac Williams filled in admirably, but as great as he can be, he isn’t what a healthy Jackson is.
Danny Amendola suffered a dislocated elbow. He’ll probably be able to go next week, but will certainly be limited if he can play against the Giants on Monday night.
And Sam Bradford apparently couldn’t feel his right index finger after he collided with an Eagles defender’s hand in the fourth quarter. The speculation is that he has nerve damage, which would make his status iffy at best for next week.
The half-dozen dropped passes were alarming. Lance Kendricks dropped what would have been a 31-yard touchdown pass, and Brandon Gibson dropped another ball on the next play. With a Kendricks drop in each of the first two quarters, the Rams seemed to lose their nerve with attacking the middle of the field to the tight end, who caught only one ball. Danario Alexander didn’t dress, which I was fine with. I assumed they knew they couldn’t win the game on the perimeter. But they didn’t do enough to attack the vulnerable middle of the Eagles defense. This is the group of receivers this coaching staff chose, and they don’t have electric speed. If you don’t have great speed, you have to hold onto the ball, and the Rams didn’t do that.
Former second overall choice Jason Smith was consistently pushed backward, collapsing the pocket. Smith, when he gets healthy again, must become more aggressive. He isn’t likely to become dominating, but he needs to become serviceable. Each offensive lineman was victimized at some point on Sunday. That’s going to happen against Philadelphia, but the group needs to be stout.
Statistically, Philadelphia ran for 237 yards. Even though Vick had 98 of them, 237 is 237. Running backs had 139, and that’s unacceptable. The Rams committed nine penalties. After leading the league in that category last season, they hope to cut down on their total this season. Another bad start. The Eagles won the red-zone battle, scoring on two of four chances while the Rams were 0-1. And the Rams defense couldn’t get off the field, allowing Philadelphia to convert on eight of their first 10 third-down attempts before finishing 8-for-12 in that category. The Rams, conversely, were 2-for-12 on third down.
With all the bad statistics, the Rams had plenty of chances in this one, and they simply didn’t take advantage. Coach Steve Spagnuolo and his staff have a ton of work ahead this week. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond next week in Met Life Stadium for the Giants’ home opener.