Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams
December, 8, 2013
By Nick Wagoner | ESPN.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 30-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
What it means: For the second week in a row, the Rams suffered a decisive loss to an NFC West opponent on the road. What's more, the loss moves the Rams to 5-8 on the season and puts them on an almost certain trajectory to a last-place finish in the division.
While the Rams have been playing without starting quarterback Sam Bradford since Week 7, they appear to have fallen behind yet another team in the NFC West. Before the season, many believed the Rams to be a sleeper to challenge Seattle and San Francisco for divisional supremacy. Instead, it's Arizona that has embraced that role, leaving the Rams searching for scraps.
The season-opening win over the Cardinals seems like a lifetime ago and remains the team's only divisional win against four losses only a season after going 4-1-1 in the same division. Perhaps most worrisome for the Rams is the real possibility that whatever improvements they believe they have made still aren't enough to keep them from the NFC West basement.
Stock watch -- up: Receiver Stedman Bailey -- Although his numbers don't leap off the page, Bailey has earned more playing time with his sharp route-running and consistent hands. He finished with three catches for 46 yards, but it's more instructive to note that he's the team's most reliable and trustworthy pass-catcher. It's been a rough year for Rams receivers, but Bailey is at least emerging as something of a bright spot in the final weeks.
Stock watch -- down: The Rams' secondary -- This isn't anything new, but be it scheme, personnel or a combination of the two, the Rams' defensive backfield continues to struggle. With cornerbacks playing plenty of soft coverage and drawing flags when they were more aggressive, Arizona's Carson Palmer made everyone forget he's battling an elbow injury. Palmer threw for 269 yards while completing 27 of 32 passes with a touchdown.
Clemens' rough day: It was established early that the Rams would have trouble running the ball, leaving the offense in the hands of quarterback Kellen Clemens. After some early success with bootlegs and rollouts, the Rams didn't have much more through the air. Once the Rams fell behind, Arizona deployed its seemingly endless variety of pressure packages and began battering Clemens.
When all was said and done, the Cardinals sacked Clemens four times and hit him seven, according to unofficial statistics. He was under fire plenty of other times and will certainly be sore on Monday.
What's next: A two-game western road swing comes to an end with the Rams returning home for the holidays for back-to-back games at the Edward Jones Dome. That's the good news. The bad news is the Rams welcome another tough opponent in the New Orleans Saints. Improving Tampa Bay follows just before Christmas to wrap up the NFC South portion of the schedule.