Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'Terrible' Rams are royally beaten

LONDON • As Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan so aptly put it: "Sometimes you're the bug, and sometimes you're the windshield."
It wasn't difficult to tell which was which Sunday night in Wembley Stadium.
The Rams got some sightseeing in during their weeklong stay in the England. Among other things, they saw the Tower of London, and the crown jewels, and Trafalgar Square. What they didn't see was that red, white, and blue truck — complete with windshield — otherwise known as the New England Patriots.
After a promising start, the Rams were outscored, outplayed and humiliated by the Patriots in a 45-7 loss before a sellout crowd of 84,004
It was a long way to go to play so poorly. The Rams, now losers of three in a row, fell to 3-5 and have an extra week to stew about it as they enter their bye before returning to action Nov. 11 at San Francisco.
"There's just days where you're going" to stink, defensive end Chris Long said. "And ... we were terrible. We were also playing a Hall of Famer. So it was a bad day to come out and be below average."
The Patriots, who pulled the future Hall of Famer — quarterback Tom Brady — with 8 minutes, 20 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, improved to 5-3. Adding insult to injury, they topped 350 yards of offense for the 17th consecutive game, breaking a record they had shared with the Greatest Show on Turf - more precisely, the 2001 Rams team they defeated in Super Bowl XXXVI.
"They got off to a good start" with the early touchdown, Brady said. "We countered and never looked back."
Things started promisingly enough for the Rams, who came out in the no-huddle after taking the opening kickoff. Just five plays into the game, quarterback Sam Bradford found wide receiver Chris Givens deep for a 50-yard touchdown pass. It marked the fifth consecutive game Givens had caught a pass of 50 yards or more, setting an NFL rookie record.
"First time we touch the ball, we go down and score -- exactly what we planned to do," Bradford said. "And then it just all felt apart from there."
The lead lasted as long as fish and chips do at lunchtime around here. Before you could say "Spygate," it was 28-7 Patriots at halftime.
"I don't know what happened," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "A lot of things steamrolled against us. We had plays where we just dropped coverages, missed communications. At the end of the day, we're a better defense than this - than what showed."
En route to a 473-yard day on offense, Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots' underrated running game couldn't be stopped, or even slowed. The Patriots scored TDs on their first five possessions, including all four series in the first half.
The Rams forgot to pack their pass rush for this trip, going sackless for the first time all season. When they rushed four, Brady had plenty of time. When they blitzed, Brady carved them up like a Thanksgiving turkey, frequently throwing to the area vacated by the blitzer.
Former Ram Brandon Lloyd caught only two passes Sunday, but both went for touchdowns as he gave rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins fits.
Two more Brady TD tosses went to Gronkowski, who gave Rams safeties and anyone else in his path fits with eight catches for 146 yards. Gronkowski looked like a rugby player out there, bouncing off would-be tacklers for extra yardage with his 6-6, 265-pound frame.
"He's a good player," safety Quintin Mikell said. "I think him and Tom have a rapport together, and he creates certain matchup problems with his size and all that stuff. At the end of the day, if we're all doing what we're supposed to do, we can minimize that."
About the only thing that got minimized Sunday was the effectiveness of the Rams' offense. The Rams got some cheap rushing yards near the end of the game, after the Patriots had sent out their JV defense, but Thunder (Steven Jackson) & Lightning (Daryl Richardson) never really got going.
And after the big strike to Givens early, the Rams never did much to exploit one of the league's worst pass defenses.
"You look at their defense and I think they were 30th defending the pass, so we came into this game really expecting to move the ball," Bradford said. "We got beat in every phase of the game. Got dominated. I don't think there is any other way to put it."
After the Rams' opening score, they didn't make it into New England territory again until their fourth possession late in the first half, and that ended in a mini-disaster. On the first play following the 2-minute warning, Greg Zuerlein lined up for a 53-yard field goal but never got "The Leg" on the ball. Holder Johnny Hekker bobbled the snap and was forced to scramble for his life.
Hekker was tackled for a 9-yard loss with New England taking over at its 45, giving Brady a short a field for the Patriots' fourth TD drive of the day just before the half. It wasn't until the end of the third quarter, by which time the Rams were down by 31 points, that New England was forced to punt.
Just before the start of the second half, coach Jeff Fisher gathered the entire Rams team around him on the field and gave an animated speech trying to stir up the squad. So much for the impassioned plea: The Patriots needed only six plays to reach the end zone again after taking the second half kickoff.
At 35-7 and only 2½ minutes into the second half, it was only a matter of how big the shellacking would be. It turned out to be the Rams' worst defeat since a 47-7 setback late in 2009, Steve Spagnuolo's inaugural season in St. Louis, to Fisher's Tennessee Titans.
"What is required to beat a Patriot team that's playing that well on both sides of the ball is a near-perfect game, and obviously, we were unable to do that," Fisher said. "Tom got a hot hand, and had a good sense, and those guys made a lot of plays for him.
"So this will be a real test for our young football team going into the bye week coming off a disappointing loss like this. We'll find out a lot about ourselves."

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