Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams
October, 20, 2013
By Nick Wagoner | ESPN.com
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.