Upon Further Review: Rams Week 4

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
1:00
PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- An examination of four hot issues from the St. Louis Rams' 35-11 loss to the San Francisco 49ers:

Downward spiral: A comeback win in the season opener against Arizona had those following the Rams believing this would, at minimum, be the season the Rams took another step forward and put themselves firmly in the mix to get back into playoff contention.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelSam Bradford was sacked five times, lost a fumble and threw an interception against the 49ers.
In retrospect, that game should actually have served as a warning sign for the Rams’ many problems. A win can cover for a lot of issues. Since erasing that 11-point deficit, things have gotten worse by the week in a three-game losing streak, culminating in two complete no-shows against Dallas and San Francisco.

The Rams have been outscored 69-18 in those two games, and 55-6 in the first half of the past three.

Stuck in the mud: The Rams’ running game went nowhere in the first three weeks, and they insisted it was because of those early deficits. The logic was that they couldn’t stick to the run enough to find a rhythm because they kept falling behind.

There was truth to that, but the more inconvenient truth is simply that the Rams don’t have the pieces in place to muster even a serviceable rushing attack. The offensive line is failing to open holes, and the Rams have complementary backs but none capable of being the starter and finding hidden yards when holes don’t open up.

The Rams have 189 yards on the ground through four games, and their output of 18 yards on 19 carries Thursday night is the lowest in the league this season. For the season, they are averaging 2.5 yards per carry. At the current rate, this will be the worst rushing team in franchise history.

A rushing cure: There is one obvious cure for the Rams’ rushing woes, but I doubt the NFL would allow them to alter the schedule to play themselves. After shutting down Arizona and Atlanta’s woeful run games, a Rams run defense that was mostly solid in 2012 has been gashed by Dallas and San Francisco to the tune of 412 yards on the ground in the past two weeks.

The Rams missed end William Hayes against the 49ers, and perhaps linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who was released. Too often, the Rams fail to fill gaps, allowing huge holes for backs to exploit.

No-win situation: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford had a brutal outing against the 49ers, taking five sacks, completing less than 50 percent of his passes, tossing an interception (and lucky not to have more), and losing a fumble.

In this current incarnation of the Rams' offense, it doesn’t seem to matter where Bradford throws it, it’s not working. All the short passes yield no chunks of yards, but when he goes downfield, there hasn’t been much success, either.

Against the 49ers, Bradford attempted to get the ball down the field more, and the results were disastrous. On throws 15 yards or more downfield, Bradford was 2-of-8. For the season, he’s completing 34.6 percent of his attempts on such throws.

Right now, it doesn’t matter where Bradford throws, he simply isn’t getting results.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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