Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rams pathetic in 37-7 loss to Ravens


Ray Rice? Sure. Anquan Boldin? Of course. But just about the last thing
the Rams expected entering Sunday's game with the Baltimore Ravens was a
lethal dose of Torrey Smith. Actually, three lethal doses in a
disturbing 37-7 loss at the Edward Jones Dome.

There's no other way to describe it. It was a pathetic showing for the
Rams, particularly in the first half. In an offseason and preseason of
heightened expectations, the Rams have fallen flat three games in a row.
Sure, the early-season schedule has been daunting, but the Rams clearly
haven't been up to the task. Not even close. Now 0-3, the Rams have been
outscored 96-36 in a league where 40 to 50 percent of the games every
year are decided by seven points or less.

Smith, by the way, was there for the taking by the Rams in the second
round last April _ a wide receiver with the kind of elite speed to get
behind opposing secondaries. (Instead, the Rams took tight end Lance
Kendricks.) On Sunday, Smith got behind the Rams' secondary, more
specifically cornerback Justin King over and over and over.

Smith caught three passes for 133 yards in the first quarter. All went
for touchdowns. And in each case, King was victimized with Smith
basically just running by him with his 4.3-second speed. Smith had
struggled in the preseason and early season, and had trouble catching
the ball, which was part of the scouting report on him coming out of the
University of Maryland. He had even argued with his followers on
Twitter, asking them to be patient, that the plays were coming.

They came in a flood Sunday. He had no trouble catching the football. In
fact, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco overthrew him on two other occasions
in the end zone in the first half. Other than defensive end Chris Long,
who got his third sack of the season and had several other hurries and
hits, the Rams couldn't get any pressure on Flacco, and didn't do much
blitzing in the first half.

When Flacco wasn't throwing deep over King, he was picking apart the St.
Louis defense with underneath stuff. Known as grounding, pounding
offense, the Ravens couldn't look a gift horse _ or make that secondary
_ in mouth. Flacco threw it a whopping 31 times in the opening half.

When the Ravens weren't beating the Rams' pass defense, they were
averaging 10.9 yards per carry on the ground in the opening half.
Running back Rice had a 53-yard gain on 3rd-and-1. On that play, the
Rams' missed two tackles. They missed a lot of tackles Sunday, and all
told yielded 406 yards in the first half. Normally, 406 yards is
considered a good offensive output for four quarters _ not two.

The St. Louis offense was just as inept. Quarterback Sam Bradford
completed only four of 15 passes for a paltry 17 yards in the first
half, throwing his first interception of the season. Bradford was sacked
twice for 14 yards in the first half, so the Rams' net passing total at
halftime against a Baltimore defense that supposedly was susceptible to
the pass was three yards. Three.

The Rams reached Baltimore territory only twice, stalling once at the
39. On the other penetration, they reached the Ravens' 14 after a
nine-yard run by Cadillac Williams, but right tackle Justin Smith was
penalized 15 yards for shoving Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis on the
play. Referee Scott Green's crew somehow missed the fact that Baltimore
defensive end Arthur Jones reacted by shoving Smith to the ground.

After the penalty, on a second-and-7 from the Ravens' 26, Bradford threw
his first interception in 89 passing attempts this season. Danario
Alexander stumbled on the play, leaving only Baltimore cornerback
Lardarius Webb to catch the fade pattern down the right sideline.

The Rams did break the shutout in the third quarter on a 34-yard pass
from Bradford to Brandon Gibson. But once again, there were too many
dropped passes, too many penalties, and yes, yet another defensive
touchdown for the opposition _ this time when 330-pound Ravens defensive
tackle Haloti Ngata rumbled 28 yards with a Bradford fumble for a fourth
quarter score.

Smith, a No. 2 overall pick by St. Louis in 2009, was benched in the
fourth quarter after yielding a sack. Other than that, the Rams were the
model of efficiency and performance.

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