Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams
November, 3, 2013
By Nick Wagoner | ESPN.com
ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 28-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans:
What it means: Kellen Clemens, in his second game as the starting quarterback, did everything you could possibly want him to do. For about 55 minutes. He extended plays with his legs, he completed passes to convert key third downs and, most important, took care of the ball. But with the game tied at 21 and less than five minutes to go, Clemens coughed up a fumble that quickly turned into the winning points for the Titans.
Running back Benny Cunningham lost another fumble early in the game as the Rams were about to go in for a touchdown. The moral of the story isn't much different from what happened against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night. Without Sam Bradford, the Rams simply aren't good enough offensively to overcome costly turnovers.
Without a consistently stout defensive effort and a mistake-free offense, the 3-6 Rams will struggle to find many victories the rest of the way.
Stock watch: Rising -- Running back Zac Stacy was at it again this week and this time with the added bonus of reaching the end zone via the run for the first (and second) time this year by any Rams runner. Stacy is unquestionably the Rams' best running back and has solidified himself as a legitimate workhorse.
Stacy finished with 127 yards on 27 carries with those two touchdowns. He also continues to prove a better receiver than expected with 51 more yards on six catches. All of that on a bum ankle that had him as questionable on the team's injury report.
Stock watch: Falling -- After two weeks of marked improvement, the Rams run defense reverted to its early-season form. For those following along, that's not a good thing. Tennessee's combination of Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene repeatedly found room to run.
All told, the Titans rushed for 198 yards on 35 carries, an average of 5.7 yards with all four of their touchdowns coming on the ground.
Another costly miss: For the second week in a row, Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein missed what turned out to be an important field goal. Against Seattle, Zuerlein missed from 50 yards out, a miss that denied the Rams a chance to simply kick another field goal to beat the Seahawks on their final drive.
On Sunday, Zuerlein missed from 44 yards at the end of the first half. Instead of a 10-7 lead with the first possession in the third quarter, it was 7-7. A late lead might have allowed the Rams to approach their drive with under five minutes differently. Instead, they had to be aggressive and Clemens fumbled.
What's next: The Rams embark on an extremely difficult stretch with a trip to take on Andrew Luck and the Colts in Indianapolis next week before getting a much-needed bye week. From there, it's a schedule loaded with teams like the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears at home and all three NFC West division road trips to wrap up the season.