Rams go nowhere against Seahawks

2011-11-21T00:20:00Z 2011-11-21T11:15:33Z Rams go nowhere against SeahawksBY JIM THOMAS • jthomas@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8197 stltoday.com

Coach Steve Spagnuolo stepped to the podium late Sunday afternoon and banged hard on the countertop three times.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

"You don't mind if I beat up this podium a little bit, do you?" he said, only half-joking. "Nobody would mind if they saw that? If I took a temper tantrum and threw it all over the place?"

Well, why not? It couldn't make things any worse for the Rams, particularly on offense. After a promising start in which the Rams scored a first-quarter touchdown for the first time since opening day, the offense spent the rest of the day stuck in neutral.

If the Arizona loss two weeks ago was sudden death - a dramatic knockout delivered in the form of Patrick Peterson's 99-yard punt return in overtime - Sunday's 24-7 loss to Seattle took the form of a slow, painful strangulation.

For the third time in their last four games, the Rams' defense held an opponent under 300 yards. The Rams intercepted Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson twice and sacked him four times. But one of the season's best defensive efforts went for naught because the Rams simply couldn't move the football.

First downs were a rarity. The red zone just a rumor. Following Sam Bradford's 30-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd with 9 minutes, 15 seconds left in the opening quarter, the Rams ran only five plays in Seattle territory the rest of the day.

"I'm beyond frustrated right now," said Bradford, who lost two fumbles on sacks and threw an interception.

Seattle (4-6) scored a TD following the first fumble to take a 17-7 lead in the third quarter, and scored a fourth-quarter TD for the game's final points following the interception.

"I've never been a part of a team that's been in this situation," Bradford said. "I don't like it. I hope this is only time in my career that I'm ever in a situation like this. I do know this: I know that with six games left, I'm going to continue to work as hard as I can to do everything I can to help this team win.

"I'm not going to quit. I'm going to push our guys to continue to work. And I think that's all we can do right now. Obviously, it's not what we had envisioned at the beginning of the year, but that doesn't mean because we're 2-8 right now that we can give up. There's no excuses. We've got to continue to fight, and we've got to figure out a way to win games."

For starters, it would help to gain more than 185 yards. That was their offensive output Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome, the 12th-lowest total since the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995.

The 11th-worst offensive showing, 184 yards, was in the 2010 season finale in Seattle, a 16-6 Rams loss that cost them the NFC West title. So perhaps Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has the Rams' number.

"The defense just played a great game," Carroll said. "We gave up a 27-yard drive (for the Rams' touchdown), and the rest of the plays we just shut them down."

But strategically, the Rams made it easy on the Seattle defense with a game plan that not only took much of the guesswork out of when the Rams were going to pass or run, but also limited Steven Jackson's opportunities in the running game.

Jackson had been on fire lately, with 417 yards rushing over his last three games. But St. Louis came out in an empty backfield, with Jackson lined up as a wide receiver, and went with the empty look much of the game. Along with that, the Rams used four-wide receiver sets much more than they had all season.

"We knew we had a (Seattle defensive) front there that was pretty stout," Spagnuolo said. "We knew what the challenge there was, so we took a little bit of a different approach and felt pretty good about it."

Jackson carried only 15 times for 42 yards, his lightest workload since Game 3 (Baltimore) when he was still slowed by a quadriceps injury.

When there's no running back in the backfield, the defense knows a forward pass is coming. So the empty-backfield didn't do Bradford any favors, particularly since he was operating behind an injury-riddled offensive line.

"We felt like we could spread 'em out," Bradford said. "The teams that we had seen earlier in the year put them in ‘empty' had had a very high success rate."

It may have looked good on paper; but on artificial turf it was another matter. Compounding matters was the fact that left tackle Mark LeVoir - starting in place of the injured Rodger Saffold - suffered a pectoral muscle injury in the first half and was replaced by undrafted rookie Kevin Hughes, who was promoted from the practice squad Saturday.

Seattle led by only 10-7 until a key sequence midway through the third quarter. Bradford threw deep to Lloyd down the left sideline. There was lots of contact from Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner and early contact at that. But much to the chagrin of Lloyd, Spagnuolo and booing Rams fans, there was no flag for pass interference.

"I was looking for a flag," Lloyd said. "There was a lot of contact. I was definitely expecting a flag because it was late in the play, but just didn't get it."

So it was ruled an incomplete pass. On the next play, Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons burst around Hughes, sacking Bradford from behind. Bradford fumbled, and the Seahawks recovered and took over at the St. Louis 25.

Five plays later, Marshawn Lynch, scored on a 3-yard run to push Seattle's lead to 17-7. Given the Rams' offensive ineptitude Sunday, that 10-point lead might as well have been 30. The Rams just weren't going to catch up.

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