Coming off a very impressive, if ultimately unsatisfying, tie against the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams welcomed the struggling (to put it lightly), New York Jets into the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday afternoon.
The previous week, the Rams played tough against one of the best teams in the NFC on the road. Yesterday they took on a middling-to-poor team from the AFC at home. You would think, having watched them play a tight contest against San Fran, that the Jets and their drama would be perhaps not easy pickings, but certainly pickable.
The result? Utter disappointment, and a whole host of questions cropping back up again.
It's really kind of hard to decide which side of the ball was more disappointing for the Rams, honestly. On one hand, the Jets have a positively awful offense, yet they somehow managed to put up 27 points on a Ram defense which has garnered mostly good results this season. On the other hand, while the Jet defense is certainly stronger than their offense, the Rams should have been able to move the ball pretty effectively. They...did not.
And, let's face it: this was a Jets team just asking to be beaten. All week, pretty much every day brought some new bit of news from the New York locker room, mostly focused on the quarterback controversy. You know, the controversy where every member of the press wanted to talk about Tim Tebow, and every player on the Jets wanted to (anonymously) tell every member of the press how much Tebow sucked. Against that backdrop, one had to assume Mark Sanchez's confidence has taken at least a hit or two. Sure, his teammates were all sticking up for him, but the mere fact those question were being asked is the sort of thing that just gets to a player after awhile.
So, you know, a tumultuous locker room, a struggling starting quarterback, and a team that, overall, has been borderline awful this season. The Rams were actually favored, if you can believe it. For the first time this season, people were actually picking the Rams to win this game. And the Rams went out and made the Jets look good. Like, really good. Good in italics good.
The story of the game was the turnover battle. The Ram defense has failed to force a turnover in five games now, tying the all-time NFL record. (Side note: does it seem to anyone else like we should come up with some different way of describing it when a team or player ties a bad record instead of a good one?) They weren't awful, necessarily, but there doesn't seem to be much resembling playmaking ability on the defensive side of the ball.
On the other side, the Ram offense gave the ball away three times, twice on lost fumbles and once on an exceptionally ugly interception. Brandon Gibson had a nice game, scoring both of the team's touchdowns, but otherwise it was a quiet day for the offense. A Jets team that had allowed 58 points the previous two contests held the Rams to just 14. Sam Bradford, coming off an efficient, controlled and, well, impressive performance against San Francisco, was back to looking inaccurate (the word scattershot came to mind more than once), and making poor decisions. Bradford went 23 of 44 for just 170 yards despite the offensive line holding their own against the New York pass rush.
The very worst of it? The fact the Jets still looked like a subpar team overall. Sure, they looked miles better than the Rams, but it wasn't as if Mark Sanchez was tossing bullets all over the field. The Ram defense just managed to make a receiving corps woefully short on talent look all kinds of effective, with more than one receiver somehow managing to find a gaping hole in the coverage.
The only real bright spot of the day was another solid day of special teams play, with Janoris Jenkins blocking a field goal attempt in the first half. That's right, folks; one receiver had a solidish day and the Rams blocked a kick. You don't have to bother watching the highlights now; I've just described all of them.
It was a disappointing afternoon for a team that's shown plenty of reason for optimism recently. Chalk it up to growing pains, if you like, but I'm not quite there yet. I actually felt pretty good after the tie against the 49ers, despite the fact the whole thing ended up feeling like a huge missed opportunity. That was a team the Rams had no business hanging with, I told myself, and yet they really outplayed the Fighting Harbaughs.
Yesterday, though, that was a team the Rams should have beaten. The Jets are a mess. And instead we saw...that. There's no silver lining here, no ray of light in a rough afternoon. It was ugly, and no one should feel good about what they saw yesterday.
It looked like a real opportunity for the