The Rams had a third straight chance to beat a team that they should be better than, and a third straight game in which an inept offense kept them from coming away with a victory.
At 4-6, football fans in St. Louis…if they aren’t talking about the possible relocation of the team…are now looking toward the draft. Here are ten takeaways from the 16-13 loss in Baltimore to the Ravens…
1) Obviously, Case Keenum wasn’t a spark for the offense. Granted, the line didn’t offer much protection and the running game didn’t work to his advantage, but Keenum looked rattled and without poise for much of the game. The hope that he’d be able to put the offense on his shoulders for an afternoon was hollow. His underthrow of Kenny Britt on what should have been a pass interference call early in the third quarter kind of summed up the day. Pretty far short of what you would ordinarily expect from an NFL quarterback.
2) Once again, the lack of attention to the offensive line in the 2014 draft is haunting the Rams. I’ve written about it before, but when the Rams decided to “have fun” as General Manager Les Snead called it, on the final day of that draft (and the second day, for that matter), the franchise failed to have developed players to replace Jake Long, Scott Wells, and Joe Barksdale.
If the Rams had drafted the equivalents of Andrew Donnal and Cody Wichmann LAST year, Sunday could have been a much better experience in Baltimore.
3) The Rams had four possessions in the fourth quarter. They ended in a fumble, a punt, a missed field goal and another fumble. The resulting Baltimore possessions were a touchdown, a field goal, a missed field goal and the game winning field goal. Sure, the Rams are the youngest team in the NFL. But how often do you see a COLLEGE team turn the ball over with fumbles twice in the fourth quarter? A fumble by Todd Gurley set up Baltimore for a 42 yard touchdown drive and a fumble by a scrambled Keenum set up Justin Tucker’s game winning field goal.
4) Speaking of a scrambled Keenum, how was he on the field after being popped down by Courtney Upshaw with just over a minute to go? The NFL has a concussion spotter upstairs, and the Rams have coaches and others watching the game on TV in the booth, with easy access to the sideline. Once again, this is inexcusable. If we can see it on TV, they can see it on TV and report to the sidelines. Nick Foles put his helmet on. The Rams had a time out left. Keenum should have at the very least been talked to and checked.
No reasonable person would believe a fumble on the next play wasn’t related to Keenum being shaken up. Video below.
5) Greg Zuerlein has now missed a league-high eight field goals, going 15-23 this season. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about most of those being 50-plus yard attempts (five of the eight misses are from beyond 50), but the coach that hired him and places his confidence in Zuerlein thinks he can make those kicks, otherwise Jeff Fisher wouldn’t send him out there to try, right? So with that being the case, Zuerlein should be on thin ice after the missed extra point and a potential 52-yard game winner.
6) Without Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree and a diminished Chris Long, the defense allowed one touchdown and three field goals. Granted, the Ravens piled up 388 yards…but only 16 points. In four of the Rams six losses (Pittsburgh, 12 points, at Green Bay, whose offense scored 17, at Minnesota, 18 in regulation; and at Baltimore, 16) the defense has performed well enough to win, but has been held hostage by an inept offense. In those four games, the offense has averaged 11.75 points per game.
7) The quarterback position is extremely difficult to scout, and the Rams aren’t immune from that difficulty. This year is a perfect example. They took a long look at Foles before making the trade for him. They knew Keenum from his time on the team last season. And even though they were able to watch those players at the NFL level, Rams quarterbacks have completed a league-worst 55.4% of their passes for a league-worst 173.9 yards per game, a league worst eight touchdown passes and a 31st ranked passer rating of 75.7. With Foles guaranteed $6 million next year, the Rams will have to keep him and shop for competition during the off-season. At some point, they’re bound to get it right. Right? I guess Browns fans have said that for more than twenty years. By the way, Foles should be named as the starter for the rest of the season ASAP by Fisher.
8) The Rams had two interceptions of Joe Flacco, but uncharacteristically lost four fumbles to finish minus-2 in the all-important turnover ratio. Coming into the game, the Rams had lost just six fumbles all season long. Obviously, Gurley is going to get hit, and like any young player must concentrate on ball security. Keenum is a fumble machine. In ten career starts he has ten fumbles and has lost five.
9) At 4-6, the Rams are two games behind Atlanta…the final wildcard team in the NFC…and a game behind Seattle. They’re also behind 5-5 Tampa and, because of tiebreakers, Washington and Chicago. The lack of ability to put together a successful streak makes a Rams run seem unlikely. It’s interesting to note that the Falcons and Bears are succeeding under first year coaches with their teams, and the Buccaneers have rebounded in Lovie Smith’s second year at the helm. This isn’t a league of methodical turnarounds now. If it’s going to happen, it generally happens quickly.
10) The Rams have knocked out opposing quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater, and hit Aaron Rodgers so much that he went into a month long funk. Now Baltimore’s Joe Flacco is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL while playing the Rams. If you’re an opposing quarterback, you know it’s going to be a tough, physical day when you face Gregg Williams’ crew.
Next week the Rams are at Cincinnati, where the Bengals have rebounded from years of ineptness to make the playoffs in three straight seasons, and will go back again this year. So a turnaround CAN happen. Our question is…when.