Coach Steve Spagnuolo blamed himself for the St. Louis Rams' ugly first quarter Friday night, saying he was guilty of not having his team ready to play.
The Rams (1-1) fell behind 14-0 and could never make up the lost ground as they fell 20-13 to the Atlanta Falcons at the Edward Jones Dome.
"I think it's all on the head coach with the first quarter," Spagnuolo said. "I don't think I had the team ready to play in the first quarter. I'm going to take the onus on that. We need to start the game better, especially against a good football team."
Asked how he was going to make sure the Rams were ready when they travel to Cincinnati to play the Bengals on Thursday, Spagnuolo said he didn't know.
"I'm going to be evaluating myself all the time," Spagnuolo said, "I'll sit back this week, and if I think there's something we can do differently in practice, we'll do it.
"If I think there's something we can say or approach differently the day before the game, we'll do that. But, right now if the team is not ready early like that, it's on the head coach. So we'll figure out a way."
The Falcons (1-1) first-string offense marched down the field with surgical-like precision on their first two drives against the Rams' first-string defense.
Spagnuolo said he couldn't tell in the locker room before the game that his team wasn't prepared.
"Are they ready? Are they not ready?" Spagnuolo said. "Sometimes you'll walk in there and say, 'This team is not ready to play,' and they go out beat a team by 30 points. So that's hard to assess."
The Rams allowed 162 rushing yards. Their starting defense got bludgeoned for 65 yards on seven carries by running back Michael Turner on the opening drive.
The Rams were plagued by poor tackling even though they had live tackling in practice during the first two weeks of training camp.
Spagnuolo said he wasn't going to second guess his decision to scale back on the live tackling during the last week.
"I'm not going to do that to myself," Spagnuolo said. "At some point, we all know in this league you stop doing live tackling in practice because you've got to have guys healthy. I think we will bounce back on that. It wasn't real good last night, but we'll get better at it."
The Rams' first-string produced only three points in the first half.
For the Rams' offense to struggle was more understandable since they were playing without quarterback Marc Bulger (broken pinkie finger), left tackle Alex Barron (swelling on the knee), left guard Jacob Bell (concussion) and wide receiver Donnie Avery (broken foot).
Still, the Rams were 0-for-3 in their red-zone opportunities.
"We talk about it all the time," Spagnuolo said. "When you get in that area of the field, everybody has to remind each other in the huddle that we have to focus and finish. I'm not sure why we didn't finish. I'm not going to blame it on focus. They probably made some good plays, too."
The Rams had a chance to pull out a win after rookie quarterback Keith Null and the third-string offense moved the ball to Atlanta 17 with 1:27 left to play.
But Null had a pass go through the hands of tight end Joe Klopfenstein in the end zone on second down.
"It probably would have been a tough catch, but it was a decent throw, I think," Spagnuolo said. "Keith would tell you that if he had to do it all over again. He would have went somewhere else with it. There was a possibility to make a play there, but it wasn't an easy catch."
Null was intercepted in the end zone by Atlanta safety Eric Brock on fourth down.
Spagnuolo said wide receiver Nate Jones was open on underneath route, but Null tried to throw the ball to tight end Eric Butler.
"They had brought a blitz, which is a good call by them," Spagnuolo said. "(Keith) got it out in time, so the blitz part of it wasn't an issue. It just didn't happen."
Spagnuolo said he didn't know if he would have gone for the win and attempted a two-point conversion instead of kicking the game-tying extra point if the Rams had scored.
"We would have had to talk about that," Spagnuolo said. "I would have liked to have a chance to make that decision."