Upon Further Review: Rams Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
8:00
AM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- A review of four hot issues from the St. Louis Rams' 23-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers:

All but eliminated: In a purely mathematical sense, the Rams remain in the NFC playoff picture at 5-7, but for all intents and purposes, Sunday's loss wiped out any remaining hope the Rams had of making the postseason. To get in the mix, the Rams would need to win out to finish 9-7 and then top it off with an incredible amount of help from about a half dozen teams.

Instead, the Rams will play their final four games with a focus on making more improvements with an eye toward 2014. Rams brass has quietly viewed 2014 as the team's possible breakthrough year, but for that to happen they need their young team to continue taking positive steps in that direction in the season's final month.

[+] EnlargeSt. Louis' Matt Giordano
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezMatt Giordano is tackled for a loss by Anthony Dixon on a fake punt.
Rough day for offense: There weren't many good things to take away from Sunday's game for the Rams as a whole, but especially for the offense. Quarterback Kellen Clemens was under siege for most of the day, and when he was able to throw it, he missed on some passes he should have hit. When Clemens did throw an accurate ball, he was victimized by about six drops from his pass catchers.

The run game, which had been so successful in recent weeks, also wasn't able to get rolling. The final rushing numbers (114 yards, 4.4 yards per carry) didn't look bad, but much of that success came when the game was already lost. The Rams ran six plays and did not pick up a first down in the first quarter.

Line dancing: The Rams have had their share of injuries along the offensive line this season, but they hadn't reached a point where they almost ran out of healthy options until Sunday, when center Scott Wells left with an ankle injury just before the half and did not return. Later, left tackle Jake Long suffered a concussion and also did not return.

That left the Rams scrambling for help with Tim Barnes getting his first extended look in the middle in a regular-season game. Shelley Smith jumped in at right guard with Rodger Saffold kicking back out to left tackle. It remains to be seen how much time Wells and Long will miss, but the Rams' line appears poised to do even more shuffling with those injuries and the impending return of guard Harvey Dahl.

Second guessing: With his team trailing 16-6 early in the fourth quarter, Rams coach Jeff Fisher called for a fake punt deep in Rams territory. The trickery backfired when safety Matt Giordano was unable to get the pitch to receiver Stedman Bailey on a reverse and the Niners tackled him for a loss of 5. The Niners took over at the Rams' 17 and scored on the next play to make it 23-6 and seal the win.

Fisher took the blame for the call after the game, acknowledging that he was trying to give his team a spark given the aforementioned offensive struggles, but also said that it may not have been the best time or location for the call.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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