The Rams start the season off 0-2 after another close heart-breaker, this time against the Oakland Raiders, losing the game 16-14. The buzz from the preseason seems to have completely evaporated, and the Rams are looking more and more like their former selves.
The first blow to the Rams came off of a missed 36-yard field goal by kicker Josh Brown. The missed kick was ultimately the difference in the game. Missed field-goals, from very make-able distances, has been a reoccurring theme for Josh Brown ever since he arrived in St.Louis. This team now has a record of 6-44 dating back to 2007; this troubled franchise, and this fan-base, can not stomach another loss due to a missed field-goal. In this blogger's opinion, it would be nothing short of outrageous if Brown is still on the roster come Monday.
But Brown's missed field-goal was not the only blooper from this unfocused team. Bradley Fletcher, Ron Bartell, and Larry Grant all dropped would-be interceptions. That makes the total of 'dropped interceptions' on the season somewhere around six; which is completely unacceptable, given there have only been two games so far this season.
It doesn't end there. In the 4th-quarter, with about three minutes left in the game, the score was 16-14, and the Raiders were about the punt the ball, to give the Rams a shot at one final drive (a field-goal would've won the game); but on 3rd down, DT Fred Robbins gave Raiders' QB Bruce Grodkowski a shove, which drew a penalty. The shove was completely unnecessary, since Grodkowski no longer had the ball (he threw an incompletion), and all Robbins had to do was back off. The penalty resulted in a first-down, and Oakland was then able to run out the clock.
Same story, different day with the Rams. Here's the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:
THE GOOD: Steven Jackson had 125 total yards in the game. He was absolutely bull-dozing the Raider defense in the first half, but his spree came to a sudden stop at the beginning of the second-half. Not that it was his fault, he needs a hole to run through in order to gain yards, and it is up to the offensive-line to make that happen. But regardless, Jackson was definitely an asset for the Rams.
Sam Bradford might be losing some of the buzz surrounding his preseason performance, but he still had another solid outing. He was 14-25 with 167 yards, 2 TD passes, and 1 INT. Not a breathtaking performance, but he is still playing at a level that no one could have possibly predicted. Other than Steven Jackson, Bradford remains the only other clear asset for the Rams offense.
The defense had a good game overall, even though they made some mistakes. They held the opposing offense to only 16 points, and did a good enough job putting their team in a position to win the game, but it just didn't happen. They won the turnover battle, and even got a couple of sacks, but it was just not enough. Although, Oakland's offense did the majority of the damage during the 3rd-quarter, and there was no way that the Rams' defense was not completely gassed at that point. The Rams offense had one "3-and-out" after another in the 3rd-quarter, forcing the defense to stay on the field practically the entire quarter.
THE BAD: All though the defense was not completely at fault, since they got little help from the offense, it doesn't mean they didn't have some problems. The pressure was just not enough. Other than the two sacks, and a couple of select drives, the pressure was non-existent, and the Oakland quarterbacks had all the time in the world to throw. Unless the Rams call for an all-out blitz, their defense is incapable of getting any pressure.
However, the defensive-line wasn't getting much help. The defensive-backs were dropping potential interceptions, and leaving receivers wide-open. There were also some plays that exposed poor tackling on the Rams' part.
Outside of the defense, the offensive-line did not get it done. Bradford was getting hit, and feeling pressure all day. With that kind of protection, I fully expect Bradford to get injured at some point this season. Left-tackle Roger Saffold was even removed from the game at one point, due to a missed blocking assignment. And right-tackle Jason Smith has been nothing short of nauseating since getting drafted #2 overall in 2009.
A trade for Vincent Jackson is sounding better everyday, as Bradford got little help from his receivers. The receivers were completely over-powered. Don't let Mark Clayton's 2 TD catches (his only catches of the game) fool you, he was not able to get separation, and was shut down for the most part. Danny Amendola seems to be the only receiver on the team that is worth anything; but lets face it, he is nothing more than a slot receiver. He is not big, or talented enough to carry the load, or provide a sure target for Bradford.
THE UGLY: You don't have to look far to find something ugly about this game. It could be Robbins' penalty, Brown's missed field-goal, or the fact that the team is now 6-44 since the 2007 season opener. Or you could get a little more cynical about it, and point out the fact that head-coach Steve Spagnuolo is 1-17 as a head-coach; or that General Manager Billy Devaney, in his third season with the team, has yet to bring in one pro-bowl caliber player.
Call me foolish, but didn't the clock run-out for former head-coach Scott Linehan after losing eight games in a row? You could make an argument stating that Linehan didn't have to feel pressure until his third season, but Linehan also went 8-8 during his first year (Spagnuolo went 1-15). As much as I admire the intensity that Spagnuolo has ignited in the team, it just isn't enough. And the truth is, with a new owner, and a 1-17 start, Spagnuolo might not have the luxury of a third season, like Linehan had.
OVERALL: It was a very tough loss, and with a 6-44 record since 2007, every loss is a tough one. But when a loss is this close, it is flat out unacceptable. I would not be the least bit surprised if the next home game (vs. Washington) is blacked out, due to a lack of ticket sales. And it will be interesting to see if Devaney and Spagnuolo make any roster moves, possibly as a result of feeling pressure from owner Stan Kroenke. If they do feel the need to make a move, they are certainly in a position to make a blockbuster move, as Vincent Jackson is available for trade, and will likely be traded by Wednesday (due to a dead-line stating he will be suspended for six weeks, as oppose to four weeks, if he is not traded by Wednesday at 4 PM). It is clear that wide-receiver is a huge need for the Rams, and at the very least, a move for Jackson would be a sign that Spagnuolo and Devaney are committed to winning NOW, and not next season.