NFL Nation: 2013 Week 7 STL at CAR Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams

October, 20, 2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 30-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers:

What it means: The Rams lost the game but may have taken an even bigger hit as quarterback Sam Bradford suffered an injury late in the fourth quarter. He was taken off the field on a cart with a little less than five minutes to go. If that injury is serious, this is headed toward a lost season for St. Louis.

As for the game, the Rams got their season back on track in the past two weeks by winning the turnover battle, finishing drives in the red zone and maintaining discipline on penalties and silly mistakes. This loss saw a near-complete role reversal in a game that closely resembled last week's win against Houston -- with St. Louis in the role of the Texans.

The Rams dominated most of the first half, but Carolina converted two takeaways into 10 points and the Rams managed just three points on two trips to the red zone. St. Louis drops to 3-4 with the defeat. Seven weeks in, figuring out this Rams team remains a difficult proposition.

Stock watch - Up: The Rams' run defense -- This is an area in which the Rams have been simply miserable for most of the year, but they actually stepped up to perhaps their toughest test yet against the Panthers' multifaceted rushing attack. Carolina finished with 102 yards on 38 carries, an average of just 2.7 per attempt.

Stock watch - Down: The Rams' discipline -- Simply put, the Rams lost their cool against a team that didn't hesitate to instigate things. Carolina receiver Steve Smith was in the head of the Rams, especially their young corners, and that tension boiled over in the second half. The result was an ejection for defensive end Chris Long for throwing a punch and personal foul penalties on Brian Quick and guard Harvey Dahl.

Bad bounces: The Rams couldn't have had a worse start after their first play from scrimmage turned into Captain Munnerlyn's 45-yard interception return for a touchdown and a quick 7-0 deficit. Bradford has thrown four interceptions this season, three returned for scores. All three of those have come on either a deflected pass or, in this case, his arm being hit as he prepared to throw.

What's next: The Rams have a long week to prepare for what figures to be one of their toughest challenges to date. The Seattle Seahawks come calling for a Monday night date after a long week. Of course, if that one gets out of hand as this one did, there may be nobody there to see it. The St. Louis Cardinals could be playing Game 5 of the World Series down the street that night.

Rapid Reaction: Carolina Panthers

October, 20, 2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A few thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 30-15 victory against the St. Louis Rams:

What it means: Carolina (3-3) has a chance Thursday night at Tampa Bay to get above .500 for the first time under third-year coach Ron Rivera and the first time since 2008. The Panthers, who started 1-5 each of the past two seasons, didn't win a close one, which has plagued them. But they did win an ugly one in which the Rams constantly shot themselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers in an oh-so-familiar way. Knowing it can play a subpar game and still get away with the victory at least has to be encouraging for a Carolina team trying to build an identity.

Stock watch: Running back Mike Tolbert scored on a 1-yard run in the first half to give him three touchdowns in the past two games. He has become the go-to guy in short-yardage situations, although he was stopped on two plays from the St. Louis 1 in the third quarter and then drew a personal foul. It will be interesting to see how his carries change when Jonathan Stewart, the team's second all-time leading rusher, returns from the physically unable to perform list. Rivera indicated that could be this week.

Inconsistent O-line: The Panthers did a poor job run and pass blocking, particularly in the first half when quarterback Cam Newton was sacked twice and Carolina ran for only 28 yards against the league's 30th-ranked run defense. Sixteen of that came on runs by Newton. DeAngelo Williams, the team's leading rusher, had seven yards on five carries in the first half. The Panthers couldn't move the Rams out of the way on two carries from the St. Louis 1-yard line in the third quarter.

Weakness in secondary: Left cornerback Josh Thomas was beaten for a 73-yard catch in the third quarter and a 63-yarder in the first half that was called back for a tripping penalty on the Rams. He is solid against the run but way too soft against the pass. Don't be surprised to see Melvin White or Drayton Florence get more time there.

Early team MVP: There are a lot of candidates on defense, but you can't overlook kicker Graham Gano. He is 9-for-9 on field goals after going 3-for-3 on Sunday -- including a 50-yarder that made him 3-for-3 from that range.

What's next? The Panthers travel to Tampa, Fla., for a Thursday night game. This will be the NFC South opener for Carolina, which lost both games to the currently winless Bucs a year ago.




Sunday, 2/2