Sunday’s 37-7 loss to Baltimore was the worst I’ve ever felt leaving a Rams game since they came to St. Louis. Sure, there have been worse losses, and there have been other futile efforts. But Sunday was a continuation of non-competitive play from a team for which I had relatively high expectations. I thought with their offseason additions and the addition of Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator that the Rams would keep ascending.
Instead, the Rams have scored three touchdowns in three games. Only three teams have scored fewer points (Seattle, Jacksonville and Kansas City), and only the Chiefs have allowed more points. As Howard Balzer pointed out on 101 ESPN, the Rams offense has allowed as many touchdowns, three, as they’ve scored.
The Rams didn’t give this one away. Sam Bradford had an interception that led to a Ravens field goal, but otherwise while there was still a slim chance to win, the Rams didn’t give away points by turning the ball over. As the Ravens built a 21-0 lead, the Rams committed only one penalty during the three drives, for five yards. Granted, the Rams continued a troubling trend of committing numerous penalties – eight for 117 – but the game was out of hand before the penalties got out of hand.
The Rams were simply outclassed. While we could have made a muted argument about how they had a chance against Philadelphia and New York because of turnovers and their own mistakes, they had no chance against the Ravens. And at the end of the day, the final scores of the three games they’ve played have been 31-13, 28-16 and 37-7. They’ve been outscored by an average of 20 points a game. And there doesn’t appear to be a break on the horizon.
The Rams have allowed Sam Bradford to be hammered. Five more sacks make it 12 allowed in three games, on pace for more than 60 this season. Beyond the sacks, Bradford has been hit double-digit times in each game. With Steven Jackson out, the Rams still don’t command respect in their play-action game. And ultimately, this group of offensive linemen was highly regarded and is highly paid. Someone at Rams Park identified Jason Smith as the second best player in the 2009 draft, Rodger Saffold as the 33rd-best player in the 2010 draft, and Jacob Bell and Jason Brown as $30 million-plus worthy additions. Harvey Dahl was an expensive acquisition, too. Something is wrong, whether it’s the evaluation of the players, or the coaching of the group; they aren’t getting the job done.
This administration has had three years to get a playmaking receiver. We can make all the excuses we want (and I have), but the fact of the matter is that Lance Kendricks, the 47th pick in the 2011 draft, has yet to show he can catch the ball. Kendricks has been targeted 10 times and has only four catches. For the third straight game, he had at least one key drop. Meanwhile, Baltimore took wide receiver Torrey Smith of Maryland with the 58th pick. Smith was targeted three times in the first quarter Sunday … and made three grabs for 133 yards and three touchdowns. Joe Flacco has a gamebreaking target that Bradford doesn’t enjoy.
The combination of poor blocking up front, a non-explosive running game and receivers who can’t get open have caused Bradford to start to become skittish – a bad sign for a first pick in the draft. Bradford is starting to have the look of David Carr, the quarterback taken first by Houston in 2001 who never lived up to expectations because the Texans failed to address their offensive line woes.
Defensively, the Rams went down the road with cornerback Justin King against Smith in the first quarter, and paid dearly for it. King isn’t a starter. He isn’t even a nickel corner in a good defense. With Ron Bartell and Jerome Murphy injured and out for the year, the Rams should have learned enough about King. They might as well give more time to recent addition Josh Gordy, who came off the practice squad and did some good things Sunday. In the final cutdown to 53 players, the Eagles released cornerback Joselio Hanson, who statistically was the second best nickel corner in the league last year. He eventually re-signed with Philadelphia. Where were the Rams? Could Hanson possibly be worse than what we’re seeing?
Chris Long and Chris Chamberlain were the Rams with sacks of Flacco. But he had plenty of time to find his receivers in this one, completing 27 of 48 passes for 389 yards.
Ray Rice and his mates rushed for 168 yards, which will surely keep the Rams ranked last in the league in rush defense. To connect the dots, the Rams couldn’t stop the pass and couldn’t stop the run in this one.
They have more penalty yards than anyone else. They allow big plays but don’t have any of their own. They allow touchdowns and don’t score them. In fact, opposing defenses score as many touchdowns as the Rams offense.
This is year three of the Billy Devaney-Steve Spagnuolo partnership. They’re nice guys and do great things in the community. But I see 2-1 Tampa beating Atlanta, 3-0 Buffalo beating New England, 2-1 Cleveland knocking off Denver and 3-0 Detroit rallying for a win at Minnesota. Each of those administrations has had the same amount of time or less to build as the Rams have. Sure, the Rams have had a tough schedule. But if you make the playoffs, isn’t every game going to be tough?
The Rams need to start competing, if not winning, soon. Otherwise, the cycle of change that has marked their history in St. Louis will start again.