Five things I noticed while watching the St. Louis Rams during their most recent game, a 26-0 defeat at San Francisco in Week 13:
One play sums up the Rams. Third-and-1 is generally a power running situation, but not for the Rams. They lined up with receiver Brandon Lloyd in the backfield, behind fullback Brit Miller. Miller took the inside handoff and lost yardage. Right guard Jason Brown blocked no one. Defensive end Ray McDonald blew up the play and rolled up on the back of Jacob Bell's legs, leaving Bell with a season-ending injury.
Brandon Lloyd presents a dilemma. The leaping 34-yard sideline grab Lloyd made despite defensive pass interference again showed just how dynamic Lloyd can be as a playmaker. The question is really how much the Rams should consider paying a 30-year-old receiver with one great season on his résumé. The team badly needs a No. 1-type receiver. Lloyd can be that type of player. At what price? And will he have similar value if the Rams have a new offensive scheme next season? So far, Lloyd has flourished under Josh McDaniels, but no one else.
The pass rush was not so bad. The Rams showed they can get pressure when they put the opponent in obvious passing situations. A third-and-17 play right before halftime provided one example. Defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn beat the 49ers' tackles with inside moves, converging at the quarterback for a sack credited to Long. It's unusual to see both defensive ends get to the quarterback immediately on a three-man pressure, but the Rams did it on this play. Long had two sacks.
Defense needs perimeter speed. Not many players would have immediately tracked down 49ers speedster Ted Ginn Jr. on the fly sweep San Francisco ran around right end in the third quarter. The Rams had no chance. The play reminded me how much the team could use an outside linebacker and/or safety with speed in the draft. After the Ginn play, the 49ers successfully ran tight end Delanie Walker to the other side. Walker faked out one safety, Quintin Mikell, and outran the other, Craig Dahl, to get around the corner.
Conventional run defense improved. Yes, the Rams gave up 144 yards rushing on 32 carries, but take a closer look at where the yardage originated. Ginn, Walker and receiver Kyle Williams accounted for 55 of those yards on three carries. Their runs count, of course, but the Rams did hold running back Frank Gore to 3.5 yards per carry. That was a big improvement from the previous week, when Arizona's Beanie Wells gashed them for a franchise-record 228 yards.
Also: five things to watch when the Rams face the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night. I'll be heading over to CenturyLink Field for that one.