QUICK NOTE: Some technical difficulties this week. It may take a while to get the videos up this week, as I'll have to use a desktop, as oppose to a labtop, but keep checking back.
The Rams have not seen a winning record since November 2006, and it looks they will have to wait a little longer. Everything seemed to be going right for the Rams in the first half, and they looked like they were going to come away with their first road victory, but the team completely gave up in the second half.
Tampa Bay actually had the lead to begin the game, as they put together a solid drive for their second offensive drive. However, a sack by DT Jermelle Cudjo, and a couple of penalties, knocked Tampa back 30 yards, and they settled for a field-goal, taking a three point lead.
St. Louis answered right back. Two first down runs by Steven Jackson, as well as a first down run by Kenneth Darby, allowed the Rams to get into field-goal position, tying the score 3-3.
On their next drive, a 20 yard reception by Danny Amendola got it started off right. Steven Jackson then had a nine yard run, followed by a two yard run, which put him past Eric Dickerson as the Rams all-time leading rusher. Amendola then took a reverse 22 yards. Shortly after that, Sam Bradford hit him in the end-zone, and it was Amendola's first touchdown reception of the season, and it made the score 10-3.
After the Rams' defense forced a three-and-out, the Rams got the ball back, and were able to do it again. TE Mike Hoomanawanui was able to score his first touchdown of the season on a pass by Bradford, this made the score a commanding 17-3.
Tampa Bay got the ball back for the last drive of the first half, and they were able to get a field-goal, making the score 17-6. That field-goal didn't seem to matter because the Rams were dominating. In fact, OJ Atogwe dropped an interception on that drive, which would've taken away the field-goal. It didn't seem to matter at the time, but it turned out to be huge.
The second half was all about Tampa Bay. Poor tackling, and a relaxed defensive approach, allowed rookie RB LaGarrette Blount to run them over. Blount was able to get yards in chunks with his "bowling ball" style of running. What was worse is that whenever the Rams defense closed in on Blount, QB Josh Freeman was able to hit WR Mike Williams, or TE Kellen Winslow with ease; or on several occasions, Freeman just kept the ball himself.
Tampa Bay was able to slowly pick away at the Rams' lead, crawling back field-goal by field-goal. After two field-goals in the second half, and four on the game, the score was 17-12, Rams lead.
The Rams had the ball for what would be their final drive of the day, had they been able to get enough first-downs to kill the clock. WR Laurent Robinson caught a first-down reception, and shortly after that, Hommanawanui caught another one, giving the team some hope after a pitiful offensive performance in the second half. However, a 3rd and 6 was turned into a 3rd and 11 after a false start penalty; and on 3rd and 11 Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur inexplicably decided to call a run play. Steven Jackson would've had the first down if it was still 3rd and 6, but he fell a couple of yards short, forcing the Rams to punt.
The outcome of the game was then put into the hands of the defense. After two first downs, one by Cadillac Williams, and one by Mike Williams, things were looking bad for the Rams. However, a personal foul against Tampa put them into 2nd and long territory, but they were able to convert for the first down. Tampa took it to the goal-line after a touchdown saving tackle by James Laurinaitis, but it didn't matter. Freeman hit C.Williams in the end-zone, and after a failed two point conversion, the score was 18-17, and that was the final score.
-RON BARTELL: Man, do I have respect for this guy after today. The guy was initially held out of the game due to a knee injury, but then entered the game anyway because of more injuries to the position. He was then pulled from the game for a shoulder injury. However, after the Rams' pitiful performance in the second half, he decided that enough was enough, and not only did he go back into the game, but he had a couple of deflected passes on that final drive. I would take three injured Ron Bartells over the three other defensive-backs that were out there for the final drive; if that were the case, then the Rams would of won the game.
-FIRST HALF: They say that the San Diego Chargers are a "second half team", so the Rams must be the polar opposite. Maybe it is poor halftime adjustments by the coaches, or a conservative second half game plan by Shurmur, or maybe even over confidence after commanding first half leads; but either way, this team needs to learn how to play all four quarters, not just the first two.
-STEVEN JACKSON: This guy is a warrior. As if becoming the all-time leading Ram rusher wasn't enough, he had to have a fantastic game as well. Did you see the look on his face as he was on the sidelines watching Tampa's game-ending touchdown drive? You could tell that it was absolutely killing him that he could not be out there doing something about it. I'm surprised he didn't check himself in at safety.
-FALSE STARTS: The Rams have 15 false start penalties on the season, leading the NFL. Isn't that the reason they sent Alex Barron packing? This unit has to do a better job at hearing the snap count.
-SAM BRADFORD: Overall Sam had a good day, and I feel bad putting him here, because you can only expect so much out of a rookie. He had two touchdown passes as well. But he made some pretty bad throws today, several of them should have been interceptions; I also get the feeling that that may be one reason why Shurmur was so conservative with the playcalling in the second half... not that I'm defending Shurmur.
-TACKLING: I was thinking about putting 'Defense' here instead of 'Tackling', but that wouldn't be accurate. The defense actually played a solid game, and their second half collapse could very well be due to the fact that they were constantly on the field in 90 degree weather, and they had almost no breaks. However, the tackling was absolutely horrid; they were unable to execute the basic fundamental tackling taught to children.
-COACHING: Terrible half time adjustments. Blount was the only player on Tampa who could move the ball, it should of been obvious that he would be getting more carries in the second half, and the Rams coaches should have prepared their players for it. But what's worse is that the conservative playcalling absolutely killed them. Remember last week against San Diego? When Shurmur called a run play on 3rd and 6? Had Jackson not got that first down, then the Chargers' offense (who was red hot at the time) would've had another shot. Shurmur's idiotic playcalling almost lost the game last week, and it DID lose the game this week. A run on 3rd and 11? With the game on the line? Are you kidding me?
Tough loss for the Rams. Next week will be the closest thing to a sure win that the Rams will see all season when the Carolina Panthers head to St. Louis. Fortunately for the Rams, no one is running away with the division. If the Rams play .500 ball all season, then they'll be in it until the end. Sometimes it's hard to remember the team was 1-15 last year, and incremental improvements are that can be expected; but it's hard to think about that when the Rams are still in the division race.