The Rams entered Sunday’s game against Miami tying to win their first road game of the season, and snap a five-game losing streak away from home.
Instead, they found a way to continually shoot themselves in the foot with red-zone failures, penalties and special teams gaffes that led to a 17-14 loss on a day they outgained the Dolphins, 462-192. In the first half, the Rams had 294 yards to Miami’s 99 yet trailed 10-6.
They know they have a lot of things to clean up with Green Bay visiting St. Louis on Sunday, followed by a “home” game in London against the Patriots on Oct. 28.
Said quarterback Sam Bradford, “It’s extremely frustrating. Anytime you’re able to move the ball like we did and accumulate that many yards, and only score six points (in the first half) is probably one of the more frustrating things. It’s just the little things. We get down there one time and get a penalty and we go from first-and-10 to first-and-20. It was just not executing and we’ve got to find a way to score touchdowns and not kick field goals. It really came back to hurt us at the end of the game today.”
Linebacker James Laurinaitis said, “We worked hard to stuff the run. I thought we did that, but we needed to come up with some more big plays and get turnovers. If we do that I feel like we win. The object is to score more points than the other team. However many yards we put up or yards we didn’t allow on defense, all that, doesn’t matter. On those drives we have to hold Miami to field goals instead of touchdowns.”
The Rams failed to force a turnover and had 12 penalties for 94 yards, including three on special teams. Fullback Brit Miller inexplicably fielded a short kick and fumbled, leading to a Miami field goal. Dolphins kickoff returner Marcus Thigpen returned the second-half kickoff 44 yards and Miami drove for a touchdown.
Punt returner Janoris Jenkins, who replaced the injured Danny Amendola, made several poor decisions and seemed tentative, totaling 21 yards on six returns. He had a long of 14 so his other five returns netted a grand total of seven yards.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein began the day by extending his field-goal streak to 15 straight, then showed he is, in fact, human, by missing his final three to the left, including a final-second long enough 66-yarder that would have tied the game and set an NFL record. The biggest miss was 37 yards at the end of the first half.
Concluded coach Jeff Fisher, “We had a lot of opportunities today to win this game and we didn’t get it done, particularly in the first half. The penalties ... just the little things. We fumbled a kickoff and those kinds of things, we can’t do that.”
Of course, there were good things. Rookie wide receiver Chris Givens had a reception of at least 50 yards for the third consecutive game. He scored on a 51-yard play in the previous game against Arizona, had a 52-yard reception the week before against Seattle and had a 65-yarder Sunday. For the season, he has seven receptions for 197 yards, a 28.1-yard average.
The Rams entered the game ranked eighth in the NFL on third-down defense, allowing 32.8 percent conversions. Miami converted just 4-of-12 for 33.3 percent Sunday. However, the flip side is the Rams’ consistent struggle on their own third-down plays. Prior to the game, they had converted just 35.9 percent of their third downs. Against Miami, it was an abysmal 3-for-13 for 23.1 percent, lowering the season percentage to 33.8.
The run defense shut down Reggie Bush to the tune of 17 yards on 12 carries. Meanwhile, Rams running back Daryl Richardson had 99 combined yards from scrimmage on 13 touches. He rushed 11 times for 76 yards, including a 44-yard run that was the longest against Miami this season.
Strangely, quarterback Sam Bradford showed up on the injury report Friday with a knee injury, then had the best running game of his career against the Dolphins. His 34 yards rushing were the most in a game in his career, a 21-yard run was the longest of his career and a 1-yard touchdown run was the team’s first rushing touchdown of the season. He also completed 26 of 39 passes for 315 yards and a 91.3 passer rating.
Is it coincidence that Bradford was on the injury report after media access to coach Jeff Fisher was over for the week? Bradford was listed as probable with full participation in practice, but when did the injury occur? The reality is that there are very few questions asked about injuries because no answers are usually given.