Self-inflicted wounds doom Rams; Bradford hurt


The Rams started and ended today’s game against the Carolina Panthers in the absolute worst way possible.

Sam Bradford’s opening pass was tipped and intercepted by safety Captain Munnerlyn, who seemingly evaded every single Ram on the field as he returned the ball 45 yards for a score. Twenty seconds in, the Rams trailed by seven. The Rams actually responded pretty well but pretty much had a bizarro half of football compared to last week – i.e. the Rams moved the ball incredibly efficiently between the 20s but only scored three points in their two red zone trips, plus had two giveaways that directly led to 10 Carolina points. Despite putting up nearly twice as many yards as Carolina in the first half, the Rams trailed 17-5.

Then, in the middle of the third quarter all hell broke loose. A huge brawl broke out between the Panthers offense and Rams defense, and the refs seemed content just letting the two teams scrum for what felt like hours. Finally, defensive end Chris Long was flagged and ejected for throwing a punch, which of course enraged the Rams. At that point, the Panthers, led by wide receiver and professional instigator Steve Smith, were able to get under the Rams skin the rest of the afternoon. All in all, the Rams racked up five personal fouls, a number that easily could’ve climbed into the double digits had the incompetent refs paid full attention.

As if the second half meltdown wasn’t enough, Bradford hurt his left knee midway through the fourth quarter and crashed to the ground in what Fisher described as “significant pain.” He left on a cart. Early reports indicate that it’s a pretty major knee injury that will end Bradford’s season. If true, you can effectively kiss the Rams’ season good bye.

MVP – James Laurinaitis

Laurinaitis is rarely the flashiest player on the Rams’ defense, but he’s certainly the most dependable. He’s missed two defensive snaps in his entire career and had his best game of the season today as he led the team in tackles with 11, one of which was for a loss. He also had a nice sack on Newton early on that knocked the Panthers out of field goal range.

LVP – Brian Quick

How can I give this to Quick when he had a career-high 97 yards on two catches, you ask? Because he should’ve had 150 yards and a touchdown. In typical Quick fashion, despite his tantalizing talent, he was mostly agonizing to watch due to his two crucial drops, one that stalled a promising drive and one that would’ve made the score 30-19 in the fourth quarter and given the Rams momentum. Yes, he had a nice 73-yard catch and run to set up a touchdown and also had a nifty 24-yarder in the first quarter, but the Rams need a lot more consistency out of the 33rd overall pick from the 2012 draft, and they’re still not getting it. He was also one of the Rams who succumbed to the undisciplined play of the second half, as he basically threw a punch at a Panther defender’s helmet that drew a 15-yard personal foul and easily could’ve resulted in Quick’s ejection from the game.

X-Factor – Robert Quinn

Quinn again had a mostly magnificent game as he filled the stat sheet with three tackles, all of which were for a loss, had a sack and also continuously hit Newton on his zone-read handoffs, which is legal. Quinn did his part today onĀ  defense. A lot of other guys, including most of the secondary, did not.

Key Stat – 15-17

Newton only missed two throws all day as he put up a stat line of 15-17 for 204 yards and a touchdown. The front seven actually got pretty decent pressure on him throughout the day. The problem was more in the infuriating soft zone that the Rams deploy for some unknown reason, which allowed Newton to make easy reads even while he was being flushed out of the pocket. A notable example of Newton exploiting the Rams’ soft zone came in the second quarter when the Panthers faced a 3rd and 11 from the Rams 22. It looked as if the Rams’ bend-but-don’t-break defense would yet again stop the Panthers short of the goal line and force a field goal to keep it a one-score game. Instead, Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn, who was being covered by Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, ran a route and sat down two yards past the first down marker. As the ball was in flight to a wide open Ginn, Johnson was still running backwards into the end zone. Ginn nearly scored on the play. Panthers running back Mike Tolbert punched in the touchdown on the next play to give the Panthers a 17-5 lead.

Tweet of the Game

What This Loss Means

As I mentioned in my preview this morning, a loss wouldn’t have been the end of the world for the Rams today. The Panthers are better than their record indicated coming into this game. What’s going to be the end of the world (figuratively of course) is if Bradford’s season is done, which it appears is probably the case.

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