One common theme in life is that nothing comes easy. The St. Louis Rams learned that lesson the hard way today.
After all the hype about the Rams being the favorites to win the NFC West—and the hype that Sam Bradford would take that next step—has been quieted very quickly.
The game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the St. Louis Rams was close for a little over two quarters, but then it got out of hand in a hurry. The final score of 31-13 Eagles doesn't look terrible, but this is an experience the Rams will need to learn from.
Injuries are a part of the game of football and unfortunately, injuries have hit the Rams early. Four Rams starters got bit by the injury bug in this game. Steven Jackson left the game after his 47-yard touchdown run with a right quad injury. Danny Amendola dislocated his elbow, Sam Bradford injured his right index finger and tackle Jason Smith suffered a high left ankle sprain. For a young team like St. Louis, losing four key players is a huge blow.
Before we take a look at the negatives of the Rams' first game, let's take a look at the positives.
The running game looked great. Steven Jackson walked into the end zone on his first score. After his injury, Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood had no problem picking up the slack. Cadillac ended up rushing for 91 yards and he caught six passes for 49 yards. If the Steven Jackson injury is significant, Williams showed that he can handle the load.
There wasn't a lot of positives to take from the defensive play of the Rams, but they were able to get good pressure on Michael Vick. The problem was they couldn't get him to the ground. Nevertheless, Vick finished at a 44 percent completion percentage and under 200 yards passing. That's a win in my book.
Now, let's take a look at some of the issues St. Louis faced.
Sam Bradford was hit over and over and over again. When he did have time to throw, he appeared to rush his passes. Philadelphia's pressure led to missed opportunities on the part of the Rams. The rush may have been in large part to the loss of Jason Smith, but it seemed like every time I looked up, Jason Babin was on top of Bradford.
Again, in this game, the pressing need for a reliable receiver showed up for the Rams.
What the exact number of drops was I'm not sure, but promising rookie tight end Lance Kendricks dropped a pair of passes that should have been caught. He wasn't alone, though. Sure-handed Danny Amendola dropped one, and the issue also reappeared for Brandon Gibson.
Many people will look back at this game and say the run defense was poor. I don't believe that was the case. To me, the effort looked lackluster in the fourth quarter. The Rams looked defeated. Aside from Cadillac's effort on the offensive side, the defense appeared to have given up. On the drive where LeSean McCoy broke the 50-yard touchdown run, it looked like the Red Sea parting. Guys were not following their assignments, which led to McCoy running at least five yards a pop before being touched.
When it's all said and done, the Rams lost to a team that is more talented than them and could be in the Super Bowl this season. To be in arm's reach for most of this game may not be what we wanted, but it's an accomplishment. If the players had any belief that they'd walk to the division title this season, those beliefs are squashed.
St. Louis needs Steven Jackson and Sam Bradford back on the field next week if they want to compete with the Giants. Personally, I don't see how either Jason Smith or Danny Amendola could make it back for next week's game.
The rough road for the Rams has just gotten rougher. What we've seen from the Steve Spagnuolo era, however, is that when things get tough, St. Louis responds. They will need to respond next week against a New York Giant pass rush that will be better than the Eagles'; otherwise, they could be embarrassed on national television.