posted on December 18, 2011 11:06
All of the elements for a Rams upset on the scale of the Saints game are in the air today: throwback jerseys? Check. Home game? Check. Backup QB starting? Check. Devastating hangover for your reporter? Big time check.
Forgive me if I don’t think everything’s adding up quite as well as in that New Orleans game, though. As expected, QB Sam Bradford is inactive with a re-aggravated high ankle sprain. Starting in his place will be Kellen Clemens, the Oregon product recently claimed off waivers from the Houston Texans. Clemens offers some escapability in the pocket, which is a big time plus given the state of the Rams’ hobbled offensive line. The big question mark for Clemens has always been his accuracy; we’ll see if he’s improved in that area today.
Other inactives for the Rams include QB A.J. Feeley (thumb), T Mark Levoir (groin), CB Justin King (shoulder), DE James Hall (pec), RB Quinn Porter (oblique), and LB Justin Cole (healthy).
I’ll be back with more during the game. In case this live blog isn't enough, I also tweet about the proceedings on game day (@djgelner).
-The Rams won the toss and elected to receive. Jerious Norwood brought the ball out to the 20. The offense came out and was surprisingly immediately effective, as Steven Jackson ran well, and Kellen Clemens was able to get the passing game going a bit by rolling out of the pocket. It's amazing what a healthy quarterback can do in terms of avoiding pressure...
-Unfortunately, after an incomplete pass, a toss-screen to Jackson didn't get much, and the Rams were forced to punt the ball away.
-The Rams' defense appeared to hold on the Bengals' first possesion of the game, but Eugene Sims got flagged for a questionable roughing the passer penalty, giving the Bengals a fresh set of downs. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green took advantage of the situation, connecting for a 55 yard completion, bringing the Bengals down to the Rams' five yard line. The Rams' defense held the Bengals to a field goal, making it 3-0 Cincinnati early on.
-Clemens showed good accuracy on the ensuing Rams drive, hitting both Austin Pettis and Brandon Lloyd for first downs. Steven Jackson continued to run the ball well straight ahead. The Rams received what was almost certainly a make-up roughing the passer call to move the chains again. Unfortunately on third-and-one, instead of giving the ball to Jackson up the middle, the Rams tried to string it out wide and lost a couple of yards. As if that wasn't bad enough, Josh Brown flat-out missed a 45-yard field goal attempt to keep the score 3-0 Cincy.
-The Bengals' offensive line was flagged for a holding penalty on their first play of the drive, but A.J. Green broke a screen pass for the first down. Green is really something else; fast, rangy, explosive. I understand why some fans would want to take an o-lineman in the first round next year, but after seeing what a dynamic playmaker like Green can do for a team, I'm firmly in the "take a playmaker" camp.
-The first quarter ended with the Bengals driving. I'll be back with more at the half.
-The Bengals took another holding penalty before Dalton threw a pick to Josh Gordy, who sat on the pass like an old pro before a sizeable return. Interesting; the Saints upset was keyed by a Gordy pick...hmm...
-Unfortunately, after a nice Steven Jackson run, Clemens was sacked for a big loss, and the Rams were forced to punt the ball away. If the Rams want to have any hope of an upset, they quite simply have to score (file that under useless football pundit cliches...).
-The Rams' defense held again, as they were able to put Green on the ground on another 3rd down screen attempt. The offense got the ball back with great field position, on their own 45 yard line.
-The Rams tried to get something going with a throwback pass to Austin Pettis, but it was underthrown and Pettis was unable to hang on, so the Rams were forced to punt.
-The Rams' defense held again (after ANOTHER penalty by Cincinnati), and the Bengals were forced to punt (AGAIN). Fortunately for the Rams, Robert Quinn blocked the punt, giving the Rams excellent field position.
-The questionable play-calling on third down continued, as McDaniels opted to line Brandon Lloyd in the backfield on third down and throw a pitch to him, which the Bengals sniffed out behind the line. Fortunately (I guess...) Lloyd was facemasked, giving the Rams a fresh set of downs. Kellen Clemens continued to underthrow his receivers a bit, but the Rams were able to get down to the five yard line before kicking a field goal to knot the score at 3.
-The Rams looked to be well on their way to holding the Cincy offense, but Rod Hood was flagged for pass interference on A.J. Green on third down. At full speed, it sure looked like Hood interfered with Green, but the replay showed that Green tripped over his own feet. The Bengals caught a break on the call...
-The Rams' defense held strong (again) on two run attempts by the Bengals on third and fourth and one. Can the offense get more points with favorable field position and only 1:17 left?
-They put points on the board! Facing a fourth and one, Spagnuolo wisely ignored the exhortations of the crowd and elected to kick a field goal to go up 6-3. Points are like gold for this team, and I imagine that the psychological boost that going into the half ahead for once would be huge.
-The Rams' defense continues to amaze, as they stuffed the Bengals on the ensuing possession to take a 6-3 lead (!) into the half. Be back with more in the third.
-A.J. Green returned to action for the Bengals in the third quarter, and the Bengals started off the half moving the chains, and getting into Ram territory. After a big third-and-one stop, Mike Nugent converted the Bengal field goal to tie the game at 6.
-Clemens showcased good escapability on the Rams' ensuing possession, as he led the Rams to a fourth and a half-yard at the Bengal 45 yard line. Spags elected to punt the ball away, and the Bengals fair caught it at their own ten yard line. I disagree with the decision; I think with a half yard, driving, and a chance to put points up on the board, you have to take a shot there. We'll see if it was the correct decision as the game progresses.
-The Bengals came close to converting a third and long, but the Rams' defense held (again) and the Rams got the ball back.
-On the ensuing drive, the Rams still couldn't get anything going on offense. Clemens was absolutely killed by a free blitzing Bengals defender, and Donnie Jones had to punt again. The punt was a good one, but Brandon Tate ran it back 56 yards deep into Ram territory; a late hit by the Rams didn't help matters any.
-The Bengals finally ground down the Rams' defense, as Bernard Scott put the ball in the endzone for a touchdown. The curses I'm muttering are because I have Cedric Benson in one of my fantasy playoff games--can't you give him the goal line carry!? Ridiculous...13-6 Bengals by the way...
-The third quarter came to a close after a short completion to Lance Kendricks. I have to get prepared for postgame stuff during the fourth; I'll be back with a column after the game. Enjoy the show, folks...
D.J. Gelner covers the Rams beat for insideSTL. Follow him on twitter for the latest Rams updates (@djgelner). Be sure to follow his live blogs and tweets on game days.