In the St. Louis Rams‘ first game without Sam Bradford running the offense Zac Stacy took over. The defense did everything they could to keep the Rams in the game, but a few mistakes by career backup Kellen Clemens proved costly. Head Coach Jeff Fisher said that he didn’t blame Clemens for the two interceptions. I love his attempt to stand up for his QB of the moment, but players have to be held accountable for their mistakes.
Clemens was intercepted by Richard Sherman and Sherman quickly returned the ball back into Rams territory setting up the Seattle Seahawks for a touchdown. Austin Pettis was his intended target against zone coverage when he overthrew an open Pettis. It was a huge turnover that provided Seattle’s struggling offense with an easy chance to score. Jared Cook was the target on Clemens’ other interception. Clemens was set on getting him the ball, but the area he was throwing to was covered by four Seahawks defenders. The underneath route was open for Stacy to pick up yards after the catch, but Clemens chose to force the throw deep instead. The thing that Bradford has done the best this year is not turn the ball over. St. Louis had managed to take care of the ball all year long, and if they had done that on Monday night then they could have escaped with a real win instead of the typical we felt like we had a chance to win and that’s good. At some point the moral victories become unacceptable.
There were some positives in Clemens’ first start of the season. He showed the ability to extend plays by stepping up in the pocket and also moving out of the pocket when a play broke down. Clemens was rarely rewarded by his receivers for this effort, though. They have to be able to see their QB buying time and break off of their route to give him a chance. Too often when he broke out of the pocket was he left still searching up field for a target. Clemens connected with seven different receivers for 158 yards on Monday night, but he only connected on 15-of-31 pass attempts. A completion percentage of 48.4 with two interceptions isn’t going to cut it.
Clemens also lost a fumble when he was caught from behind while scrambling out of the pocket when the ball was hit out of his hand right before his arm started moving forward. Had two Seattle defenders not collided it would have been an easy pick. After the Rams seemingly got lucky and it was ruled an incompletion on the field, Seahawks HC Pete Carroll took a chance that paid off resulting in the ruling of a fumble.
Clemens was not asked to carry the Rams offense. That was placed on Zac Stacy who proved himself to be the number one option at RB for St. Louis. He punished the Seahawks defense to the tune of 134 yards but was unable to run the ball on the last drive due to an injured ankle. That put the ball in Daryl Richardson‘s hands in the last minute. Richardson is not the kind of RB you want running the ball on the goal line as he was stuffed by the Seahawks short of the end zone. On the last two plays St. Louis ran an open set, no running backs with no threat of a run. This was probably the worst display of play-calling of this year. At the goal line St. Louis has ran multiple tight end sets to set up play action and hit one of the tight ends after they pretend to block and slip out. It has worked so well for them all year long and they just abandoned it when they needed the threat of a run so badly.
Clemens was inaccurate most of the night and they put the game in his hands. You have to put the player in a position to succeed and that was not done on the last play of the night. Fisher will probably stick with Clemens for another week as he has shown loyalty to his players before. That’s why it took so long for St. Louis to give Stacy a chance to start. Clemens is not the quarterback of the future or someone whose skills will develop. Hopefully St. Louis makes a change sooner rather than later.