After months of lawyering about with no football fans were desperate for anything. Along came preseason and temporarily quenched that thirst. As it lingered on so did the thirst. The longing for meaningful games grew and grew.
As welcomed as preseason action was, the games after a quarter or so lacked any meaning. As such, they lacked the big plays and big decisions that come with the grind of the regular season. Any plays or decisions of note at this point are made by and generally about, players who will soon be gone or will serve in completely different roles once the regular season begins.
With rosters set and the hype machine in full effect the Rams were ready to take on the NFL’s “Dream Team”. Ready…check. Willing…check. Able…not so much. Sunday highlighted the match-up between a Super Bowl contender and an improved Rams squad. That is not an apples to apples comparison.
Perhaps with so many experts picking the Rams as their surprise upset of week one we all set ourselves up for the fall. After a 4-0 preseason it seemed reasonable that an upset could happen. Expectations are high for the first time in about eight years. That is good. The Rams and the front office have performed well and worked hard to raise the expectations.
Well there are expectations and there is reality. The expectations are for the Rams to be a better team than in 2010 and contend for the NFC West crown. The reality is contending for the NFC West and a Super Bowl is not the same thing. On Sunday there were big plays and big decisions. The Rams were participants in both, (A couple of big ones were made well before the game and we’ll get into that). Unfortunately so were the Eagles.
Quarterback Michael Vick allusive for Philadelphia. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson got away from coverage. Both of which fall into the category of – well no shit. Now what wasn’t expected was a half-dozen dropped passes by St. Louis receivers, one Rams penalty after another, and more injuries in one game than the Rams suffered the entire preseason.
Regardless of expectations here are the big plays and decisions that made up the game and ultimately determined the outcome.
Both 1st round draft pick DE Robert Quinn and WR Danario were made inactive. No real explanation was given for either. But as Vick gained speed and confidence one has to wonder if Quinn could have helped. The same can be said for Alexander. As the Rams passing attack struggled to stretch the field their best deep threat sat idly by. His absence became even more apparent after the Amendola injury.
The game could not have started any better for the Rams. Forcing an Eagles punt on the Rams first play from scrimmage Jackson raced off tackle for a 47-yard touchdown, bringing the sellout crowd at the Edward Jones Dome to life.
A deep kick by Josh Brown forced the Eagles to start on their own 20. That good defensive field position did not last long. On 2nd and 10 Vick passed deep to D.Jackson to the Rams 39 for 41 yards. After a nice stop by Laurinaitis to bring up 3rd and 11 Vick again went deep. This time to J.Avant for 20 yards and after the PENALTY on Ah You for roughing the passer and the Eagles were now on the Ram 20. All of which led to McCoy walking in for a TD 3 plays later.
As the Rams tried to answer Bradford’s pass on 3rd and 8 went incomplete to Kendricks. Fortunately a PENALTY on the Eagles for Illegal Use of Hands gave St. Louis a 1st down. After a 16 yard run by Cadillac put the Rams into Field Goal range with the score tied 7-up, the Rams were threatening on second-and-7 from the Eagles 29. As Bradford dropped back to pass, he stumbled hit the ground and fumble. As the ball came loose, it was picked up Eagles defensive end Juqua Parker, who took it 56 yards for a TD and a 14-7 Eagles lead.
The Rams were once again on the side of good luck as a Bradford pass went incomplete to B.Gibson a PENALTY on the Eagles kept the drive alive. Then on a big 3rd and 10 Bradford hit Amendola for 18 yards to the Philly 31 yard line. Then of course the second biggest story line of the day reared its ugly head. Drops. On 2nd and 10 Bradford’s pass was dropped by Kendricks. This would have gone for a 1st down and possible a lot more. Then on 3rd and 10 it was Gibson’s turn as Bradford’s pass hit him in both hands and fell incomplete. As a result the Rams settled for a Josh Brown 49 yard field goal.
Given the ball back with plenty of time and momentum on their side the defense made its biggest play of the day. Starting on their own 13 yard line the Eagle marched down the field to the Rams 12. That is when Mikell sacked Vick causing a fumble which was recovered by Laurinaitis
After a quick three-and-out St. Louis gave Philly the ball back with not much time left in the half. No problem apparently as a Vick 19-yard scramble on third-and-10 with less than a minute to go in the first half set up an Alex Henery field goal on the next to last play of the half. 17-10 Eagles.
Down only seven and with the ball to start the 2nd half the game was still well within reach for St. Louis. As the Rams put together a 5 minute 68 yard drive it appeared to start well. On the return Norwood took it 49 yards near mid-field to the 46 yard line. But…a PENALTY on Curry during the return for holding brought it back to the St. Louis 14 yard line. A loss of 35 yards. After a 3rd and 8 pass went incomplete to Amendola a PENALTY on Philly for Roughing the Passer tacked on 15 yards and moved the Rams forward.
Three good runs by Williams and Norwood took the Rams to the Eagles 32 yard line. Then following a 2nd and 7 sacked of Bradford moved them back to the 36 yard Norwood put them back into field goal range with a strong 7 yard run. Bringing in Josh Brown for a 47 yard attempt, well within his range. Guess Spagnuolo forgot to tell him as his attempt went wide right.
the Eagles’ first possession of the second half, A Vick scramble of 18 yards on second-and-16 followed by him hitting Jackson downfield for 26 yards jump started a Philadelphia touchdown drive that gave the Eagles a 24-10 lead in the third quarterback. On the TD, Vick seemed to toy with St. Louis as his ran to his left and threw to Jackson for a 6-yard TD.
Still just a two score game in the 3rd quarter Sam Bradford would get the chance to bring the Rams to within one score. Cadillac would do his part; rushing for 17 yards on three carries, one of them another 4th down conversion, and catching two passes for 26 yards.
The Eagles did their part as well. A defensive pass interference penalty on Asomugha gave Bradford and the Rams the ball on the 1 yard line. From here the Rams set out to make it the most difficult 1 yard score ever.
After a run for no gain on 1st down false start penalty on Bajema moved the Rams back to the 6 yard line. After Bradford’s pass to Kendricks on 2nd and goal was incomplete he badly missed Amendola in the corner of the end zone on 3rd and goal. An impressive 80 yard drive would end in disappointment as Josh Brown was good on a 23 yard field goal.
As the 4th quarter started it was still a two possession game with the Rams down 24-13. Starting with decent field position at their own 29 the drive got off to a great start. Bradford hit Kendricks for an 18 yard gain to start it off. Then on the very next play Bradford found Amendola for 6 yards and a dislocated elbow.
After the next two passes fell incomplete on 4th and 3 Bradford and Williams connected for a quick 4 yarder and a 1st down. One of the lone bright spots on the day was their success converting 4th downs. Of course another drop, this time by the rookie Salas, and a sack led to yet another Donnie Jones appearance.
A great punt pinned Philly inside of their own 20…for less than 2 minutes. On three of the next four plays McCoy tallied 77 rushing yards. Capping it off with a run up the middle for a 49 touchdown.
The next Rams drive is one that will live in imphamy (pending today’s MRI results) so I will spare you the narrative and just give you the details.
- Bradford pass short left to B.Gibson for 13 yards.
- Bradford pass incomplete deep right to Salas, Bradford was injured during the play.
- Enter AJ Feeley whose first pass went to Williams for 3 yards but was brought back due to a PENALTY on Dahl for an Illegal Block above the Waist, 10 yards, enforced at PHI 36.
- 2 and 20 Feeley sacked for -6 yards.
- 3rd and 26 Feeley pass Salas to for 21 yards.
- 4th and 5 before the snap PENALTY on Gibson for a False Start, 5 yards. Yes, a False Start on a WR.
- 4th and 10 Feeley’s pass incomplete to Kendricks.
As this drive effectively ended the game I can think of no better way to end this post.