NFL Wire News

Rams can’t find consistency from week to week

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EARTH CITY, Mo. — One step forward, one step back. That’s the seemingly endless story of the St. Louis Rams now in the fourth season with Jeff Fisher as head coach.

The Rams followed a 34-31 overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks on opening day, a win that vaulted them to ninth in USA Today’s power rankings and 14th on ESPN, with a desultory 24-10 loss on the road to the Washington Redskins.

It was a day in which the offense didn’t hold the ball for more than four plays on seven first-half possessions and the defense gave up too many chunk plays in falling behind 17-0 at halftime.

The Rams sliced into the lead with 10 unanswered points in the third quarter, but then went nowhere when they had the ball twice with the chance to tie the game.

Guard Rodger Saffold said, “As you know, our biggest problem has always been being consistent. We win one, lose one. Lose two, come back win two. Lose the third. You know what I mean?”

Rams fans certainly do.

Said Fisher, “I’m very disappointed. We had a lot of respect for our opponent and knew that in order for us to win the game we were going to have to run it, stop the run and get off the field on third down and we didn’t do any one of those with any consistency. That was the difference in the ball game.”

Offered quarterback Nick Foles, “They out-executed us on third down, and that’s a big play during the game, just keeping those drives alive. We didn’t do a good job of that today.”

Especially in the first half. The Rams punted six times and, of course, failed on third down on each of those possessions. Emblematic of the offensive futility was a third-and-10 play from the Redskins 45-yard line with 11 seconds remaining in the half. Foles hit tight end Jared Cook for a 14-yard gain for a first down. But the Rams had no timeouts remaining, and the play was to the center of the field, so the clock ran out before the ball could be spiked.

Defensively, the Rams fell behind after a three-play, 72-yard drive in which running back Alfred Morris gained 35 yards on first down and then rookie back Matt Jones scored from 39 yards out on second-and-12. Those 74 yards rushing were more than the Rams gained on the ground during the entire game (67).

A 46-yard field by Dustin Hopkins was set up by a 35-yard pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver Ryan Grant, who simply ran by cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Washington’s final touchdown of the half came as the result of a 12-play, 82-yard drive in which the Redskins actually gained 87 yards. Cousins was 5-for-5 for 41 yards, including a 4-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon. Morris had just 13 yards on four runs, but Jones gashed the Rams again with three carries for 33 yards, including a 25-yard scamper.

“He surprised a few guys who didn’t realize how big and fast he was all at once,” defensive end Robert Quinn said of Jones. “But at the same time, I don’t think an NFL player can catch another guy off guard. They’re here for a reason. He found some holes in our defense and he ran through ’em.”

In Washington’s season-opening 17-10 loss to Miami, Jones had just six rushes for 28 yards. On this day, he ended up with 123 yards on 19 attempts, and sealed the victory with a 3-yard touchdown run with 2:38 left in the game.

As safety T.J. McDonald concluded, “We wanted to go 2-0 bad. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t. We didn’t play good enough to get it.”

REPORT CARD VS. REDSKINS

PASSING OFFENSE: D – The only thing that kept this from being a failing grade was a 40-yard touchdown pass from QB Nick Foles to WR Kenny Britt that pulled the Rams to within 17-10 in the third quarter. Aside from that play, the next longest pass play was 15 yards, and that came in the first quarter. That followed a week where the Rams had eight plays of 20 or more yards passing against Seattle. Foles completed just 17 of 32 passes for 150 yards and had a passer rating of 76.3.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D – The only thing that kept this from being a failing grade were the 40 yards gained by WR Tavon Austin on four plays. With little room to run, Mason gained 26 yards on seven attempts, and Benny Cunningham had just one rush for no yards. That came on a third-and-2 play in the second quarter.

PASS DEFENSE: D – QB Kirk Cousins picked the Rams apart, completing 23-of-27 passes for 203 yards and a passer rating of 110.3. The ground game kept the Redskins from too many difficult passing situations, and Cousins wasn’t under a lot of pressure. His completions averaged just 8.8 yards, but it was good enough to keep the Rams’ defense off balance.

RUSH DEFENSE: D – Simply too many big plays that allowed the Redskins to race to their 17-0 halftime lead. An Alfred Morris run of 35 yards and two Matt Jones totaling 64 accounted for 99 yards, more than half of the 182 they totaled for the game. On one hand, allowing 83 yards on 34 attempts shows good discipline and tackling in the running game. However, the big plays made the difference and negates the positives of those other attempts.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A – Good punting by Johnny Hekker, a 52-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein and good coverage at least resulted in all-around good play by this phase of the team. Hekker punted eight times and was consistent, averaging 47.6 yards with a 46.1-yard net. The five punts returned by Jamison Crowder totaled just 12 yards, and four of Hekker’s punts were inside the 20.

COACHING: C – The temptation is to blame the poor result on coaching, but coaches can’t tackle or block. The Rams’ offensive line remains a work in progress, and in two games, the Rams have had just 101 offensive plays, the fewest in the league. The inconsistent play remains a concern, and up next is a three-game stretch that begins with Pittsburgh at home Sunday followed by road games at Arizona and Green Bay.


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