If nothing else, the game was very exciting, and entertaining. Arizona was ahead 17-13 when they got the ball back, with less than two minutes left in the game. It seemed as though the outcome was sealed; but running-back Tim Hightower fumbled the ball, when all they had to do was run out the clock, and the Rams recovered.
A moment like that made it seem as though rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, and the Rams, were destined to win their home-opener. But they were unable to take advantage of the dramatic turn of events. Some may argue that coach Steve Spagnuolo displayed poor clock-management; but it doesn't matter, because there was more to this loss than just the final drive.
Several key mistakes were the difference in this close game- Dropped passes, a critical fumble, a blocked field goal, more dropped passes, and an interception (I only mention one, because the other two picks were understandable, as Bradford had no other choice but to force the pass).
It was a very close game, but still... "If this would've happened, if that would've happened, if only..." Rams fans are tired of that. We've heard that 15 times last season, and now the team is 6-43 (dating back to 2007). That is why any loss is devastating for this team, especially when it could have been won so easily.
Here is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...
THE GOOD: Fans that didn't actually watch the game might be discouraged by the fact Bradford had three picks. But the truth is, as mentioned earlier, two of them were the result of Bradford airing the ball out on a 4th down, as a last chance, and only out of desperation. Bradford actually had a phenomenal game for his NFL debut. Has anyone ever heard of a rookie QB (in their first game) throwing the ball 52 times, completing 32 of those passes, for 253 yards and a TD? Has anyone ever seen a rookie QB change so many doubters into believers, and look like a poised veteran this early in their career? It is clear that the Rams have a potentially great quarterback on their hands.
Other than Bradford, star RB Steven Jackson had a solid game. The line didn't give him lot of room, at least not consistently, but he pounded away for 81 yards on 22 carries. Also obtaining good stats, was the newly acquired receiver Mark Clayton. Clayton had 10 catches for 117 yards, but he wasn't as helpful as the stats indicate. He made some good plays, and got great separation, but he had some key drops that hurt the offense.
The defense played with some intensity, and put some hits on QB Derek Anderson. Anderson was actually banged up at one point, and started to favor his ribs; he will likely be hurting tomorrow. The intensity also ignited a couple small scuffles, but nothing major enough to draw penalty flags.
THE BAD: The special teams allowed Arizona to block a field-goal in the first-quarter of the game, and that turned out to be huge. Arizona still won by four points, but during the Rams' last two drives of the game, things could have gone differently if the play-calling was aiming for field-goal range, rather than a touchdown.
As briefly mentioned, when discussing Clayton, drops from the receiving core were devastating. One of Clayton's drops came in the first-half, and had he caught the ball, he likely would've made it into the end-zone. Another key drop in the game, one that really stood out, was a drop by Laurent Robinson on the final drive, which lost them a 1st down.
The pass-defense really slipped up towards the end of the game, which resulted in Arizona scoring the touchdown that took the lead. It seemed as though the defense just completely ignored Steve Breaston. And CB Ron Bartell, though he was very solid against Larry Fitzgerald for most of the game, screwed up his coverage on Fitzgerald in the end-zone, which allowed Arizona to take the lead.
THE UGLY: Clifton Ryan, you have got the be kidding me. Many Rams fans believe that DT Clifton Ryan is an underrated player in this league, but I disagree. I've always thought he was average, and he proved me right by losing the starting job to journeyman Gary Gibson. Ryan made the biggest play of his mediocre career by picking up a fumble, and heading to the end-zone. However, Breaston was able to catch up to him, and knock the ball loose. It was the biggest play Ryan has, or ever will make, and he managed to screw it up.
OVERALL: It's hard to watch a team, that has lost so many games the past few seasons, lose again in a close game. Arizona kept on handing the Rams opportunities on a silver platter, but they just couldn't capitalize, and made a lot of bone-headed mistakes; the same kind of mistakes that have haunted this team in the past. It was a lack of focus that lost the Rams this game... a game they should have run away with.
But despite the fact they lost, it was a good game, and they still looked much better than the Rams of the past three seasons. They made a lot of stupid mistakes, but played some very good football at times. For example; Bradford's TD pass at the end of the first half... it was a very gutsy call by Spagnuolo to throw the ball on 4th down, on the one-yard line, at the end of the half; but the team was able to execute and get the TD. Is there any doubt that Marc Bulger would've screwed up that play?
The point is- this team did enough to have fans encouraged for the future. There are a lot of sub-par teams that the Rams will face this season, and Arizona wasn't even one of those teams (almost though). The Rams take on the troubled Oakland Raiders next week, for their first "easy" game of an easy schedule. Most fans realize that the Rams aren't making the playoffs this year, but if they can exit the season encouraged, then it should go a long ways.