After two knock-down, drag-out overtime games a year ago, Thursday night’s NFC West tussle between the Rams and San Francisco was billed as a slugfest. Trouble was only one team showed up with its boxing gloves. And it wasn’t the Rams.
Taking another step backward in coach Jeff Fisher’s second season in St. Louis, the Rams were bludgeoned 35-11 by the 49ers in an ugly prime-time loss Thursday at the Edward Jones Dome. A national television audience saw a Rams team that couldn’t stop the run for the second week in a row, and couldn’t run the football to save their lives. The latter has been a season-long occurrence.
When all was said and done, the Rams were outgained 219 yards to 18 on the ground.
When asked about the difficulties in the running game, Fisher snarled: “We’re going to get it fixed, OK. That’s all I’m going to tell you. We’ll get it fixed.”
Playing the role of the sore loser to the hilt, Fisher made a brief opening statement, took two questions, and then abruptly walked away from the podium. End of press conference.
REPORT CARD: RAMS FLUNK AGAIN
Now at the quarter pole of the 2013 season, the Rams are 1-3 and look anything but a team on the rise. Any buzz generated by a busy offseason of player acquisition has turned into a dull pain. You know, like the kind experienced at the dentist, or the kind experienced by watching a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 2003.
What a difference five days makes. Since defeating Arizona and nearly catching Atlanta with a second-half rally in their opening two games, the Rams have been outscored 66-18 in lopsided losses to Dallas and San Francisco.
“Obviously as a football team we have a lot to work out considering what’s happened in the last five days, and we’re going to have to take advantage of some opportunities here through the weekend and early next week and try to get some of these issues fixed,” Fisher said. “Namely our inability to run the football.
“I thought there were some decent things that happened in the game. We had some opportunities, but we just couldn’t capitalize on them.”
The largest cheers of the night came in the second half when several greats from the Greatest Show on Turf team were introduced to the fans. The smiling group included Orlando Pace, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Kurt Warner and Marhall Faulk.
Unfortunately, the current squad’s performance resembled more the pre-Greatest Show teams in St. Louis, you know the teams that got routinely routed by San Francisco. All that was missing Thursday was Ken Norton Jr. punching the goal posts and Dana Stubblefield chortling: “Same old sorry-(bleep) Rams.”
A San Francisco team that had been outscored 56-10 in its last two outings and had several of its top players either out or slowed by injury, simply manhandled the Rams. After losing two in a row for the first time since Jim Harbaugh became head coach, the 49ers are now 2-2.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a pretty tough day in the film room,” said quarterback Sam Bradford, who completed only 19 of 41 passes for 202 yards, with a touchdown, an interception, and a passer rating of 59.2.
“We just failed to do a lot of things that are necessary to be efficient on offense. The good news is we have 10 days, 11 days until we play again, and there’s gonna be ample time to get that corrected. ... I feel like we should be playing at a much higher level than we have.”
Things started out decently enough for the Rams, before gradually deteriorating into another embarrassing defeat. For the first time all season, the Rams scored in the first quarter on a 40-yard field goal by Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein midway through the quarter. The kick actually hit the top of the right upright, but bounced through for three points.
For a while it looked like it might be that type of night for St. Louis. Early in the second quarter, a Bradford pass intended for Jared Cook over the middle went into the hands of 49ers safety Donte Whitner. Interception? Nope, the ball bounced out of Whitner’s hands into Cook’s for a 19-yard gain and a first down.
But as was the case for most of the half, the Rams couldn’t get much going and were forced to punt.
It took awhile for the 49ers to get going as well. The Rams took that 3-0 lead into the second quarter, but the 49ers mounted a pair of 80-yard drives over the rest of the quarter to take a 14-3 halftime lead.
On the first touchdown drive, Anquan Boldin got behind Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan for a 42-yard gain to the St. Louis 11. Thanks in large part to a 15-yard personal foul penalty on 49ers offensive guard Alex Boone, the 49ers found themselves with a third-and-19 dilemma at the 20.
But quarterback Colin Kaepernick found Boldin on a crossing pattern. Finnegan, who subsequently left with a thigh injury, couldn’t get Boldin out of bounds and he ended up scoring on a 20-yard TD with 6:22 to go in the half.
The 49ers gained yards in big chunks on their second TD drive with Frank Gore rushing for 17 yards off left tackle, and then Gore racing 34 yards to the right for a touchdown on fourth-and-1. That TD came with just 37 seconds to play in the first half. With the score 14-3 at the half, it meant that the Rams had been outscored 55-6 in the first half of their last three games.
The Rams had a golden opportunity to get back in the game at the start of the third quarter when Gore was stripped from behind by linebacker Alec Ogletree. Safety Rodney McLeod recovered giving the Rams possession at the San Francisco 44.
But for the second week in a row, the Rams could do nothing with the takeaway, and the downhill slide for the team continued in the second half.