As the Rams’ game at Dallas unfolded and quickly unraveled Sunday, I couldn’t help but think of Channel 2 News anchor Frank Vitchard, who, when his arm was cut off in the famous fight scene in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” said, “God, I did not see that coming.” I certainly didn’t see the ambush perpetrated by the Cowboys on the Rams coming. And the first thing coach Jeff Fisher said in his interview with Steve Savard and D’Marco Farr after the game was, “I didn’t see that coming.” I’m glad I wasn’t the only one.
Fortunately, the Rams were consistent. They were brutal in every aspect of the game. Offense, defense and special teams all stunk to a 2007-2011 level. And with that, 10 takeways from the loss to the Cowboys:
1. I said at the end of the pregame show that DeMarco Murray, who had one 100-yard game in his last 16, definitely wouldn’t equal his 253-yard output of two years ago against the Rams, and said I’d be shocked if he got 100. Of course, Murray had 100 yards by the first minute of the third quarter and rambled for 175. The Rams’ defense was helpless against the Cowboys. It’s definitely fair, after three games, to question Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton. They haven’t had many answers in the first three games.
2. Sam Bradford had a terrible game. There’s no sugarcoating this one. Even if you want to consider the pressure Dallas applied (six sacks), Bradford was indecisive, inaccurate and unable to convert on third downs. He didn’t make plays, and that’s his job.
3. Bradford was hit almost 20 times in addition to the sacks, and Jake Long was pulled from the game in the fourth quarter for Max Starks, who had three practices with the Rams and hadn’t played in a month. Long had a bad game. Hopefully that’s an aberration, and not a trend.
4. The Ram running game continues to descend. Ram running backs averaged 2.7 yards per carry in the game against Atlanta, and without Daryl Richardson against Dallas, had 39 total on 11 carries, averaging 3.5 per carry.
5. The special teams penalties continue to devastate the Rams. With 3:40 left in the first half, Tavon Austin appeared to have an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown, but it was nullified by Brandon McGee’s holding penalty. So instead of having a touchdown to make it 17-7 Cowboys, the Rams started at their own 12-yard line. Late in the game, Austin’s 10-yard return was dashed by another McGee infraction to set the Rams up at their own six. The Rams have tried to return seven punts so far this season (punts that are downed, touchbacks or fair catches left out), and of those seven, the Rams have committed a penalty on six of them. They also have a penalty on a downed punt. Jeff Fisher’s teams always commit a ton of penalties, but this season it has reached the point of being ridiculous in number and situation.
6. It’s almost as if the coaching staff heard fans and media clamoring for a no-huddle offense during the week, and decided we were wrong and never went to a no-huddle while the game was in the balance. The only offensive success the Rams have had in their last two games has been with the no-huddle against Atlanta. Why they wouldn’t to go it in this game is baffling.
7. If the performance of the Rams’ cornerbacks against Atlanta provided us a red flag, the performance against Dallas provides us with a panic button to push. They couldn’t cover anybody. Tony Romo had seven incompletions, and the Rams had one pass defensed. Romo had a 137.2 passer rating.
8. Paging Jared Cook. Mr. Cook, if you are in the building, could you please report to the white phone on the concourse area. With the game in the balance in the first half, Cook was targeted twice and had one catch. He wound up being targeted seven times and catching five balls. Yes, the same Cook that the Rams bestowed $35 million on and had seven catches and two touchdowns in the opener. Your team has lost you. Paging Jared Cook.
9. The Cowboys had an eight-play, 61-yard drive that took 4:52 on their first possession of the game. On Atlanta’s first possession the week before, they moved 80 yards in 11 plays in a drive that took 6:26. Atlanta was 2-2 two on third down, while Dallas didn’t even face a third down. Safe to say the Rams’ defense could use a lot more resistance on opening drives.
10. Coaches love to talk about third down and red zone efficiency. The Rams were 1-13 in third-down situations and allowed Dallas to go 5-11 for 45 percent. The Rams reached the red zone once and scored, but the Rams defense wasn’t very good in the “phone booth,” allowing Dallas to go 3-5 in such situations. If Sunday is where the Rams are, and it wasn’t an aberration, they have a long way to go to be good.
Fortunately, they can forget the tape, practice for San Francisco and play a home game on Thursday. This will mark the quarter pole of the season. The Rams will define themselves very quickly.