While the St. Louis Rams came together as a team against the New Orleans Saints with a big beat down, they struggled to put back-to-back victories together and were defeated by the Arizona Cardinals, who have struggled for most of the 2011 season to get out of its own way, losing several games by a small margin.
Arizona is a team that started its second-string quarterback in John Skelton, an immature movie in 2010 that the Cardinals’ brass thought needed more time, direction and development. They rushed out and traded their Pro-Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie plus a second-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Kevin Kolb.
Kolb missed Sunday’s game because of turf toe, while Sam Bradford returned to the field of action after suffering a high ankle sprain a few weeks prior. Bradford and the Rams’ offense struggled early and often to sustain drives and finish with points on the board. Meanwhile, the defense was playing exceptionally well, shutting down Arizona running back Beanie Wells and not allowing Larry Fitzgerald to make his customary big plays. The defense kept the Rams in the game.
There are always two halves to a football game. The Rams allowed the Cardinals to hang around, as they struggled to take advantage of solid Rams defensive play. The Cardinals slowly worked their way back into the game closing the gap, despite their offense allowing not one safety but two.
The Rams found themselves in another game that was slipping through their fingers, despite being competitive in all three phases of the game, but lacking the production to produce points. No matter how much they fought, they struggled to maintain the lead, as the Cardinals tied the game 13-13.
With the clock running down quickly in the fourth quarter, momentum had changed to the Arizona sideline. Bradford worked the offense into field position with throws to his receivers and the power running from Steven Jackson.
The Rams battled and were in a two-minute drill situation, found themselves in a third-and1 situation with 1:54 remaining on the clock. The play called was a run to Steven Jackson off the left side for no gain leaving the ball on the 33-yard line, as the Cardinals rose to the occasion stuffing the Rams. The Rams decided to go for it on fourth down and ran the same play, to the same side for no gain.
This is the NFL. When the lights come on, you must stand up and defend your territory, by any means necessary. While the game of football is commonly known as the game of inches, it was truly displayed on Sunday in the desert.
Yes, the creativity of the play-calling in that situation was not well thought out, with several other options (play-action pass, right-side run to the wide side of the field, etc). However, regardless of the play call, the players must dig deep inside themselves, grab every inner fiber of their being and find a way to get one yard! Where is the toughness, and butt-kicking mentality that says we won’t be denied in any situation? Where is it?
I split the NFL season into four quarters (four games per quarter). The season is now at the halfway point with two quarters remaining until the end of the season. The Rams are running out of time for respectability. It’s like rising flood water taking over the plains; soon there will be no more land available, unless they do something about it and for everyone involved, its more than just survival, it’s about pride.