Monday, October 17, 2011

Rams overmatched against Packers

The Rams matched Green Bay yard-for-yard, first down-for-first down. Unfortunately for them, they didn't come close to matching Green Bay point for point, falling to 0-5 on the season Sunday.
With the Rams squandering scoring chance after scoring chance, Green Bay jumped to a 24-0 first-half lead and cruised to a 24-3 victory Sunday, staying unbeaten for the season at 6-0.
The Rams missed a field goal on their first possession of the game, and settled for a field goal on their last possession of the half after reaching the red zone. In the second half, each of the Rams' first five offensive possessions reached Green Bay territory, including advances to the Packers' 10_ and 15-yard lines. But how many points did the Rams get out of all that? Zero.
The best chance came late in the first quarter. On a first and goal from the 10, quarterback Sam Bradford badly underthrew a fade pattern in the end zone intended for Danario Alexander, with Sam Shields intercepting  the pass. Later in the second half, a potential scoring drive was scuttled by a 16-yard loss when a backwards pass eluded Cadillac Willams. And midway threw the fourth quarter, a fourth-and-6 pass to tight end Lance Kendricks right at the first-down marker was dropped.
It was that kind of game and it's been that kind of season for the Rams. Missed opportunities and sloppy play have been consistent themes.
It's not as if the Packers had receivers running free all day against the Rams _ just enough to take a 24-3 halftime lead thanks to three Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes plus a Mason Crosby field goal. The Packers led by only 3-0 early in the second quarter, when Rodgers got his throwing arm warmed up on a chilly, windy day at Lambeau Field.
After a fourth-and-3 gamble by the Rams failed at the Green Bay 41 late in the first quarter, the Packers had the short field to work with. A fourth-and-1 gamble by the Packers at midfield resulted in a 15-yard gain by James Starks. Rams linebacker Brady Poppinga, the ex-Packer, slipped at the line of scrimmage, giving Starks an extra-large running lane.
On the next play, Rodgers completed a 35-yard TD pass to James Jones, with defender Justin King trailing by a couple yards on the play. It marked the fifth TD pass King has allowed in the last three games for St. Louis.
Green Bay scored on TD passes on their next two possessions. After Quinn Porter downed a Donnie Jones punt on the Green Bay 7, the Packers struck for seven on the next play. On the play, Al Harris bit on a play fake by Rodgers, leaving Jordy Nelson uncovered. Both Harris and safety Darian Stewart had chances to tackle Nelson at the Rams 40, but both missed, tripping over each other in the process.
The 93-yard touchdown was a career long throw for Rodgers and a career-long catch by Nelson, giving Green Bay a 17-0 lead with 9 minutes 11 seconds left in the first half. Before the half was out, Green Bay got back in the end zone on a seven-yard pass from Rodgers to Donald Driver. Driver was double-teamed by King and Craig Dahl at the goal line, and well covered at that. But King and Dahl both left Driver _ heading for the line of scrimmage thinking Rodgers might scramble. Rodgers didn't scramble _ he tossed the ball to a wide-open Driver with 1:51 to play, stretching Green Bay's lead to 24-3.
Going with a no-huddle offense almost exclusively, the Rams gained 222 yards in the first half, good output against any defense. But they had only three points to show for it. Jason Brown missed a 47-yard field goal attempt, wide right, on the Rams' first possession of the game. Brown made a 36-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in the second quarter.
* * *
Mike Sims-Walker, who was signed in free agency almost immediately after the lockout to give the Rams help at wide receiver, was among the pregame inactives for St. Louis on Sunday.
Sims-Walker, who had a couple of drops against Washington prior to the bye week, was working with the "scout" team by the end of the practice week, running the routes of Green Bay receivers for the Rams' starting defense.
The Rams are expected to start Brandon Gibson and Danario Alexander at wide receiver against Green Bay.
There were other lineup/inactive developments as well. Veteran Ben Leber, who started the first four games at weakside linebacker, was inactive. The former Minnesota Viking had done little so far this season, and is expected to be replaced in the starting lineup by Chris Chamberlain.
Veteran Rod Hood also was inactive, meaning street free agent Brian Jackson _ added at the start of the practice week _ will join Justin King, Al Harris, and Josh Gordy as the four active cornerbacks against Green Bay's potent passing game. King and Harris will start, with Gordy the third corner in the Rams' nickel and dime packages.
For the second game in a row, running back Jerious Norwood is on the inactive list. As a result, RB Quinn Porter is likely to return kickoffs, with potential help from Austin Pettis. With newly-signed WR/return man Nick Miller on the pregame inactive list, Pettis, Porter and Greg Salas are all options on punt returns.
The Rams' other inactives Sunday were TE Stephen Spach and DE C.J. Ah You. The roster decisions mean that rookie wideouts Pettis and Salas are both active for the first time this season. In addition, rookie linebacker Jabara Williams makes his NFL debut for St. Louis.

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