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Upon Further Review: Rams Week 14

12/9/2013

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A review of four hot issues from the St. Louis Rams' 30-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals:

Officially official: The moment the Rams lost quarterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending knee injury back in Week 7, it became quite clear they would have little shot to reach the postseason this year. A loss to San Francisco last week made it a 99 percent certainty that they wouldn't. Sunday's loss took away any remaining hope for even the most optimistic of the Rams' faithful.

The Rams dropped to 5-8 with the loss and are out of possibilities for postseason play, something they are no stranger to. The Rams have now missed the playoffs in every season since 2004 and are almost certain to finish last in the NFC West.

Penalty party: For the second consecutive week, the Rams tallied 11 penalties. Those penalties cost the Rams 90 yards this week and 105 last week. This week's penalties moved the Rams from a tie for fifth in total penalties for the season into third place all by their lonesome. They have 98 penalties this season, trailing only Seattle and Tampa Bay.

Rams players put the blame on themselves for the errors and though there has been consistent insistence that many of the penalties called on them have been incorrect, the fact remains that the Rams continue to rack up costly flags. Worse, the Rams are not good enough to overcome them.

All the right moves: Harvey Dahl returned to the lineup this week, settling in at his normal spot at right guard. Coach Jeff Fisher said it's a general rule for a player not to lose his starting job to injury, thus Dahl's return to his usual spot. Small problem is Dahl's return meant uprooting Rodger Saffold, who had settled in nicely at the position in Dahl's absence.

So the Rams set about working a three-man rotation on the right side of the line with Saffold as the one constant in a swingman role. Dahl started at right guard with Saffold at right tackle followed by Saffold at right guard with Joe Barksdale at right tackle. While the thinking of getting Dahl back in the lineup is fine, it's a bit perplexing why the Rams refuse to find a place for Saffold that doesn't continuously disrupt continuity on the line. Saffold played well at guard and could have a future there. Why not let him play on the left side and see if he can settle in for the final games before he hits free agency this offseason?

Running in place: Without Bradford's services, the Rams have had a simple offensive formula to get victories from week to week. Run the ball, take care of it and take advantage when chances for big pass plays arise. The key, however, has been the first step in that process, the whole run the ball thing.

For the most part, they've been able to do that with rookie Zac Stacy leading the way, but Arizona's highly ranked run defense ensured Stacy and the Rams went nowhere Sunday. Stacy's 25 yards on 14 carries was by far his worst output since becoming the starter, and though he scored a touchdown and Tavon Austin posted a 57-yard run, the Rams were stuck in neutral most of the day. The rest of the offense felt the effects.