Six weeks ago, the Rams were over .500 for the first time since the 2006 season. Now, after a desultory 27-13 loss to the Jets following what appeared to be a promising tie with the 49ers, they are 0-4-1 in their last five games and reminding fans of the previous five seasons that produced an overall record of 15-65.
The offense sputtered to a halt after an opening 86-yard drive for a touchdown against the Jets, and they now head to Arizona with many wondering which are the real Rams: The team that totaled 458 yards on the road against San Francisco (367 in regulation), or the one that managed just 281 yards at home against the Jets. In eight possessions after the touchdown that provided the Rams a 7-0 lead, the Rams gained 96 yards on 29 plays.
Said quarterback Sam Bradford, “I thought we came out, we executed, and we did a lot of things well that first drive. Kept ourselves in third and manageable, which is what we wanted to do. We had a few big third-down conversions, then scored on fourth down, which is huge. Then after that it seems like we lost all rhythm that we might‘ve had. If you don’t have rhythm it’s tough to get things going.
“I mean you take away the first drive and we didn’t do much on offense. It’s frustrating after the way we played last week. I thought we were really moving in the right direction and then obviously this week we didn’t play our best and it showed.”
To many, the game was viewed as a step back after the game against San Francisco, although the game before that was a 45-7 loss to New England in London.
“I don’t believe in the whole ‘step forward, step back’ stuff,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “We definitely viewed this as a game that we thought we could get, and it’s disappointing to lose one at home. I’m not going to lie about it. We have to figure out how to win games like these.”
In reality, there is nothing to “figure out.” The issue is playing winning football, which means winning the turnover and field-position battle. Sunday, the Rams those two battles big-time.
Thanks in part to losing the turnover battle 3-0, the Rams usually started drives deep in their own territory. The Rams simply aren’t a good enough offensive team to go 80 or more yards all the time.
The Rams' average drive start was their 22-yard line while the Jets' average drive start was the 46. The Rams began seven possessions inside their 20-yard line, including five in the first half. The Jets began five possessions in Rams territory. Here’s a staggering statistic: The Jets ran 36 of their 65 total plays in Rams territory including 21 in a row in the third and fourth quarter.
The Rams ran six plays in Jets territory in the opening drive, then only had two until the fourth-quarter possession when they trailed 27-7.
As for the turnovers, in the first five games, which resulted in a 3-2 record, the Rams had nine takeaways, fashioned mostly by eight interceptions. However, in the last five games, they have forced no turnovers and overall are minus-8 in turnover ratio. The Rams had three costly turnovers against the Jets.
“It’s tough,” safety Quintin Mikell said of the takeaway slump. Mikell nearly had an interception in the second quarter on a pass that deflected off the hand of running back Joe McKnight. “That’s kind of the way it goes sometimes. You get a bounce here and there, but right now they’re not bouncing our way. We got opportunities a couple times, we were able to get our hands on the ball and we’ve just got to make a play. It’s crazy, because that could be the difference in the game. We haven’t had one in awhile.”
It does seem like the ball isn’t bouncing the Rams way. Last week, the Rams forced fumbles by 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams and quarterback Colin Kaepernick in critical situations, but couldn’t come up with the recovery.
Against the Jets, in addition to the near interception by Mikell, there was the blocked field goal that bounced toward the sideline, so nothing could be done with the recovery. There was also a sack-fumble on quarterback Mark Sanchez that Sanchez recovered. Conversely, a sack-fumble of Bradford on a play that began at the Jets’ 31-yard line bounced right into the arms of linebacker Bart Scott, who ran 38 yards to the Rams 38-yard line. Two plays later, the Jets scored a touchdown to go ahead 10-7.
Another head scratcher by Fisher: Against San Francisco, it was calling a timeout too quickly before the Rams went ahead I the fourth quarter. Sunday against the Jets, it was a bizarre decision to try a two-point conversion after the Rams scored a touchdown with 5:40 left in the game to make the score 27-13.
Two points makes it a 12-point game, while the standard extra point makes it a 13-point game. In both instances, were the Rams to mount a miracle rally and score two touchdowns, they win the game with 14 points. Of course, failing on the conversion left it a 14-point game, and had they been able to score two touchdowns, it would have been a tie game. Going for two there simply makes no sense.
When asked his thinking in going for two, Fisher said, “We just needed points. The 14s still going to do it, we just needed points. So, get as many points as we can get down there.”