When you really think about the loss that the St. Louis Rams suffered in Week 14 at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, the game was just a microcosm of the team’s season as a whole. It’s not like the Rams have really played that terribly in every game they have lost this year, but it’s the little mistakes throughout the course of a contest that add up and ultimately cost them the result. Once again a combination of some critical mistakes and a little bad luck added up to a loss for St. Louis in this particular NFC West battle.
Perhaps the best place to start with this latest dropped contest is with the costly penalties which remain an issue on both sides of the ball. 10 flags against the Rams for a total of 85 yards really cost the team in what is becoming a recurring issue. Head coach Jeff Fisher’s inability to instill a sense of discipline in this young team will keep coming up until they can stop shooting themselves in the foot with unnecessary infractions.
Issues along the offensive line are really beginning to create some serious concern looking forward to 2014. The Rams have to have some excitement with the growth of their young talent and the potential return of Sam Bradford under center, but if the line continues to be putrid his return to the field will be short-lived. It could be argued that the terrible offensive line performance facilitated a pick-six from Kellen Clemens, and there’s no debate that the safety was a direct result of awful pass protection.
More horrific play in the secondary certainly didn’t help matters for the Rams as Larry Fitzgerald went off for 96 yards on 12 catches and one score. Carson Palmer went 16-for-17 passing in the first half which is absolutely unacceptable for any secondary in the NFL, regardless of experience level. Although this team is young and still coming into its own, until they can stick with receivers a little better than this game they will continue to yield frustration and disappointment for fans.
As for the tough luck the Rams experienced, a potentially game-changing play was negated on a turnover forced at the goal line on an apparent fumble by Cardinals tight end Rob Housler. Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins returned the fumble and appeared destined for the end zone only to be whistled dead near midfield with only one player (an offensive lineman to boot) left to beat. The play was ultimately overturned giving the Rams possession on their own 20 since recovery happened in end zone, but that bad break added an unnecessary impediment for a team that doesn’t need any extra obstacles.
In the end this game was just another example of how the Rams always find a way to lose games rather than win them in the critical moments. Cleaning up these mistakes will be crucial for the league’s youngest team heading into what is expected to be their breakthrough season in year three under the new regime.