Spagnuolo’s Decisions Under Fire As Rams Drop Another To Arizona

Steve Spagnuolo hears no evil. AP Photo, Tom Gannam

The Rams’ run defense gave up 223 yards to Beanie Wells, making this the second time this season that the Rams have allowed an opponent to set a new franchise rushing record. Wells’ performance joins Demarco Murray’s atop the NFL leaderboard, and there is now little to look forward to but the draft. And open season on the men who might be running it. 

Our men in gold pants did little noteworthy in the first half, but were able to ferret out a rare punt return TD from newly-resigned Nick Miller, and a hell of a throw and catch from Sam Bradford to Brandon Lloyd that set the Rams up at the two yard line. (Naturally, because these are the 2011 Rams, a 35-yard field goal try ensued.)

However, Steve Spagnuolo did his best to lose his last remaining supporters in the stands with a horrendous series of second half decisions, making the job of second-guessing him all too easy. Recapping:

  • Lance Kendricks fumbles the ball on a poorly conceived and executed screen pass, but the recovering member of the Cardinals appears to be out of bounds. No challenge flag thrown. Arizona ball at the Rams’ 28.
  • On the ensuing drive, John Skelton scrambles and dives, stretching the ball toward the sticks on 3rd and 13. Replays clearly show Skelton falling at least half a yard short, but again Spags keeps the red flag in his sock. Both of these plays happened on the Rams’ sideline, right in front of the coaches.
  • Down 13-10 now, Spagnuolo refuses to go for the first on 4th and 1 from his own 30.
  • Instead, the Rams punt directly to Patrick Peterson, who scores a return touchdown. 20-10 Cardinals.

At this point, the #FireSpags hashtag is trending wildly among the twittering herd. But Spags’ faith in his defense is rewarded by a series of stops, as the Rams get an interception, a 3-and-out, and a fumble on three successive Cardinals’ drives, fueling a mild burst of comeback energy. Josh Brown gets a couple of long field goal attempts, going 1 for 2, and Sam Bradford flashes some of his rookie form (that’s a good thing) on a pair of beautiful passes to Kendricks and Lloyd to tie the game.

However, yet another breakdown in the run game lets Beanie Wells get loose for yet another 50+ yard gainer. The Rams’ defense stiffens and holds Arizona to a field goal, giving Bradford the ball and a chance to win with just under 5 minutes to play in the game. 

Josh McDaniels set a tone early in this game with a series of curious calls designed to keep Bradford out of harm’s way. Of the Rams’ first ten plays, only three were throws, and one of those was by Brandon Lloyd. Now, though, there was no sheltering Bradford.

But with the clock and any remaining chance of salvaging this game — and his hold on the coaching job — ticking away, Spagnuolo stepped in and took the ball out of Bradford’s hands on a fourth and one, this time from his own 36.

St. Louis would never touch the ball again. And with a remainder of the schedule against teams with a combined 35-17 record, they may not win another game in Spagnuolo’s tenure.