There’s a certain familiar feeling for the St. Louis Rams following their Week 14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, and it isn’t a good one. This will be officially the tenth consecutive season of losing for the Rams and will extend their playoff drought back to 2004 – or in other words, a full decade. But that’s not what’s most concerning following the defeat on Sunday; no, the most troubling aspect is that the Rams appeared to regress in many different facets.
It’s hard to call the first issue regression really, but penalties are just adding up to absurd levels at this point. For the second straight the Rams garnered 11 flags from the officials as they just continue to make the same mental errors. This type of play is quite concerning for a young team trying to move forward rather than going in the wrong direction, and defensive end Chris Long spoke to that point with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as he said:
“I thought today as a team, we took a step back. It’s nothing we can’t fix. But we took a step back as a team in our performance, and that’s not okay with us. Hats off to the Cardinals. They did a good job today and we didn’t make enough plays.”
Although the defense is still the biggest problem area, the Cardinals exposed some additional weaknesses that St. Louis must address heading into next season. The offensive line got off to a great start this season in terms of pass blocking and had really come into its own paving the way for Zac Stacy and the ground game of late, but even that took a serious step backward on Sunday. Head coach Jeff Fisher commented on that point saying:
“We knew when we came in that their (defensive) front was outstanding — fourth against the run. I thought we’d do a better job than we did, but we couldn’t run the football, and that’s disappointing.”
A 56-yard reverse by Tavon Austin made the rushing statistics look much better than they actually were for the team. On the team’s other 18 rushing attempts on the day they gained just 44 yards between both Stacy and Benny Cunningham. With Kellen Clemens under center and the offense in game management mode that type of production just isn’t going to cut it.
So after lofty expectations in the preseason, a combination of injuries and lack of progress have really pigeon-holed this team into a regression mold. It’s hard not to think the final three weeks will get even messier as the Rams face the New Orleans Saints, a recently game Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad, and the Seattle Seahawks. At least they have the draft to look forward to once again, right?