Rams Come Up Short in Seattle

Posted Jan 3, 2011

SEATTLE – As the game clock hit zero and the proverbial clock struck midnight on the Rams’ season, it was nearly impossible for anyone to come up with the words to sum up the team’s disappointing loss to Seattle on Sunday night.

In the end, disappointment and frustration were the emotions of the night for the Rams as Seattle surged to a 16-6 win and claimed the NFC West Division with a 7-9 record by virtue of the divisional record tiebreaker over the Rams.

“You feel disgusted that you get this far and you don’t finish it out,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “We obviously have to give credit to Seattle, they played a good football game and we obviously didn’t play well enough to deserve to be NFC West champions. It’s tough. That’s all you can really say. You put your heart out there for 16 weeks and you have an opportunity to have this chance and you don’t grasp it.”

Perhaps the most frustrating part of Sunday’s loss was the basic fact that answers for what happened were extremely hard to come by in the game’s immediate aftermath.

Of course, many of the things that have kept the Rams from getting over the hump in other games this season reared their heads again Sunday.

The offense never really got into much of a rhythm, save for one long drive and penalties and mental miscues kept them from taking advantage of the few opportunities they did get in the red zone.

While the defense played well enough to keep the Rams in the game, it also allowed enough big plays to give Seattle the path to enough points for the victory, including a touchdown on the opening drive.

The end result was a loss that left the Rams short of reaching their team goal of becoming division champions in a season that, to this point, had been full of redemption.

And though it can be hard to see the forest through the trees right away, coach Steve Spagnuolo did take a moment to remind his team of how far it had come in 2010.

“There’s not a lot to say immediately after the game,” Spagnuolo said. “We’ll get together tomorrow. Certainly we are all disappointed. I did tell them that I appreciated their efforts this year from the bottom of my heart. I thought the work ethic and what they did, hanging together and enjoying each other and some of the things we did along the way I was very appreciative of that.”

In a game that the Rams would never lead, it got off to an ominous start as Seattle won the toss and immediately marched down the field for a touchdown to open the game.

The biggest play of that drive was a 61-yard completion from Seattle quarterback Charlie Whitehurst to receiver Ruvell Martin down the left sideline on the game’s second play from scrimmage.

A defensive holding penalty on cornerback Ron Bartell gave the Seahawks new life after what seemed to be a third down stop and Whitehurst hit Mike Williams for a 4-yard score two plays later for a 7-0 lead.

The big play set the tone for Seattle and got an already rowdy crowd even more fired up.

“It wasn’t a busted coverage,” Spagnuolo said. “I think we got kind of a little over aggressive on the pump to the little flare route on the bubble screen and he held on to it a little bit. That hit us early with field position and they ended up with a touchdown.”

Aside from some problems stopping the run in the second half, the Rams defense settled in after that opening drive and held Seattle to three field goals the rest of the way.

Of course, with the Rams offense struggling as much as it has all season, just those three field goals would have been enough to get Seattle a win.

With Seattle’s defense loading up all night to slow down running back Steven Jackson, much of the onus fell on rookie quarterback Sam Bradford and the passing game to pick up the slack.

It’s a task they simply weren’t up to.

“The fact that our defense played great tonight, the fact that we let the team down, we couldn’t get anything going, that’s what really hurts,” Bradford said. “To come in here and only score 6 points, that’s just not the way you want to end the year.”

All told, the Rams finished with just 184 yards of total offense, went 2-of-14 on third down conversions,  gained 10 first downs and punted nine times.

After the game, Bradford said there wasn’t any one thing to point to for the offense’s struggles so much as one thing that was lacking.

“I think one of the reasons is we never got in a rhythm,” Bradford said. “We never came close to getting in a rhythm. We put together one drive early in the game and then after that it seemed like it was three and out or we might make one decent play. It was just tough to find any rhythm today.”

Even when they did have a rhythm, such as on the drive Bradford mentioned, the Rams moved 83 yards on 13 plays and seemed poised to score the tying touchdown.

But, as has been the case on other occasions this season, they were flagged for a holding penalty that pushed them back 10 yards and forced a field goal for Josh Brown to make it 7-3.

“We had one drive that went for almost 90 yards,” Jackson said. “We came up short with a penalty I believe. We were able to move the ball (there).”

Aside from that drive, though, it was tough sledding as the Rams had no other drives netting more than 29 yards of offense.

Included in those missed opportunities were some golden chances to take advantage including missed conversions on third and short as well as some key drops such as two deep passes that receiver Danario Alexander was unable to grab.

“There’s no excuse for that,” Alexander said. “I am here to try to make big plays for the team and I didn’t do my job today.”

Now, the Rams will turn their attention to what will be a long offseason a little earlier than they had hoped.

In those moments after the game, it was hard for anyone to focus on just how far the Rams have come in 2010 but even when asked to do that, maybe the answer was buried somewhere in the fabric of the words.

“It’s a tough question because we are a better team than we were a year ago but we were not good enough,” Laurinaitis said. “That’s the way that our team is, not just tonight. We left too many wins out there this season and we’re past that “taking steps.” This team’s goal wasn’t to take steps. This team’s goal was to win the NFC West and we fell short of that.”
If nothing else, it’s clear the bar has been raised.