Rams vs. Cowboys: Takeaways from St. Louis' 31-7 Loss to Dallas

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 22, 2013

Rams vs. Cowboys: Takeaways from St. Louis' 31-7 Loss to Dallas

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    The St. Louis Rams (1-2) were humiliated for a second-consecutive week after a lopsided 31-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys (2-1). 

    The St. Louis offense went three-and-out to start the game. They punted the ball, Dallas fumbled on the return and St. Louis recovered with prime field position. Rather than capitalizing on the turnover and going into kill mode early, the Rams were forced to punt yet again. 

    It was all downhill from there. With 18 total yards and only one first down in the entire first half, the Rams fell well behind early on. 

    Dallas moved the ball with ease thanks to DeMarco Murray, who finished with 203 total yards, and entered halftime with a 17-0 lead. 

    Dallas scored 24 points before the Rams finally found the end zone with a third-quarter touchdown, but the game was already out of hand. 

    It was an embarrassing outing for the Rams and deflating loss for the fanbase. 

    Read on for several takeaways from today's game. 

Veterans on Defense Need to Wake Up

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Where has Chris Long been? The Rams have completed three games and the veteran has zero sacks. He has been virtually invisible.

    For all his Twitter trash talking, he sure hasn't backed it up on the field this season. I'm wondering if he's even aware that the preseason ended three weeks ago. 

    Although, Long is not the only veteran who has been nonexistent in 2013. 

    Cortland Finnegan has been hyped by the Rams marketing department as a franchise player and even had his image plastered on the entrance to the Edward Jones Dome, but apparently the maintenance department will have to get the paint remover ready. 

    Giving up big, back-breaking plays has recently become a habit for the eight-year veteran, who surrendered yet another touchdown against Dallas. 

    Finnegan and Long are the leaders on defense. They should be setting the example for the young players. At this point, the only thing the youngsters are learning is how to properly roll over and play dead. 

    If key veterans can actually show up to the games, perhaps the Rams will secure their second victory before the month is over. 

    If not, you can count on general manager Les Snead handing out some pink slips this spring to clear out salary-cap space.  

Rams Still Struggling to Win Games Outside the Division

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    Last year, the Rams finished with a 4-1-1 record against NFC West teams and had a modest 3-7 record against teams outside the division. 

    This year, St. Louis' single win came against the division rival Arizona Cardinals, while the Rams have dropped their last two games against non-NFC West teams. 

    Poor play outside the division prevented the Rams from reaching the postseason a year ago, and it appears to once again be an issue for this young St. Louis team. 

    There are eight non-division games remaining in the season, so there's still plenty of time to balance out the record and improve in that department, but the Rams must learn how to play with tenacity every Sunday.

    Cranking up the notch every time a division foe comes to town and playing on Ambien against everyone else is not a recipe for success in this league. 

The Offensive Scheming Has Been Horrendous

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    Once again, St. Louis' offense appeared to be playing against a brick wall for the majority of the game. 

    Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called a predictable and tame game that left a lot to be desired. His in-game adjustments were nowhere to be found. 

    Dallas brought heavy pressure in the first half, but Schottenheimer stubbornly refused to counter the pressure with a healthy dose of screen passes. 

    Not to mention, the Rams again decided to wait for the deficit to exceed 20 points before progressing to a hurry-up offense, just as they did against Atlanta

    Sam Bradford excels in a fast-paced offense, but it does no good to implement the scheme after the game is already out of hand. 

    With the hard-nosed San Francisco defense up next, it's time for the coaching staff to seriously reevaluate the offensive philosophy. 

Time to Bring Back Jo-Lonn Dunbar

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    Last year, Jeff Fisher benched Chris Givens and Janoris Jenkins against the 49ers for violating team rules, according to NBCsports, demonstrating a no-tolerance policy for nonsense. 

    During training camp, Fisher surprisingly cut Jo-Lonn Dunbar after the linebacker was handed a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, according to NBCsports

    We get the point, Mr. Fisher...you run a tight ship.

    However, considering that Murray made the Rams defense look like an NCAA Division II team with his 175 rushing yards, maybe it's time to rethink that move.

    Dunbar brought attitude to the defense, something this unit has severely lacked this season.

    Not only that, but he performed at a near Pro Bowl level in 2012 with 115 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two picks.

    The defense has been lifeless this season. It would be nice if they had at least one starter who played with heart, and Dunbar can certainly be that guy. 

Isaiah Pead Is Gaining Confidence

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    I have been as critical as anyone when it comes to former second-round pick Isaiah Pead and his sluggish development, but it appears that Pead is finally flashing some potential. 

    Against Dallas, Pead was St. Louis' top offensive player. That's not saying much, considering the Rams were held to just seven points, but Pead was one of the few positives from the game.

    The second-year back had seven catches out of the backfield and picked up 63 total yards. Also, he appeared to be only player in a Rams uniform capable of crossing the elusive first-down marker.

    Pead finished with just 70 total yards as a rookie in 2012 and nearly matched that total in one game against Dallas.

    With Steven Jackson in Atlanta, nothing would benefit the Rams more than Pead manning up and cementing his place in the starting lineup with solid play.

    Lets hope that Pead continues to build confidence throughout the season.  

Rams Cannot Blame This Loss on Penalties

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    The Rams were penalized seven times in each of their last two games, and Jeff Fisher decided to speak out and defend his squad following last week's game in Atlanta, according to ESPN

    “In my opinion we should have been penalized twice,” Fisher said. “I was upset after the ballgame but looking at the tape, those are incorrect calls.” 

    Fans have been equally frustrated with the officiating lately, but it's time to put the complaints on hold. The referees did not lose the game for the Rams in Dallas. 

    A special teams penalty wiped out a would-be Tavon Austin punt-return touchdown and negated another 31-yard return by Austin later on, but zebra bias should not be solely blamed. 

    The Rams were outplayed by the Cowboys in every aspect of the game. A penalty-free game would have resulted in the same lopsided victory for Dallas. 

    Penalties did not give the Cowboys 194 rushing yards; it was terrible run defense. Penalties did not sack Bradford six times; it was horrendous blocking by the offensive line. 

    Penalties are traditionally a convenient scapegoat, but not for this game. Dallas was simply the better team. 

Sam Bradford Never Had a Chance

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    For those that feel Bradford was a key factor in the Rams' loss to Dallas, you're correct. 

    Bradford had his share of errors in the game. There were far too many checkdowns, and Bradford missed a number of open receivers. 

    However, the support was beyond lousy. I realize that's a tired excuse and fans are sick of hearing it, but it's the truth. 

    What kind of numbers and production can you possibly expect from the quarterback when the line surrenders six sacks and the receivers drop every other pass? 

    There's nothing Bradford can do to make that go away. I encourage you to watch the video above as evidence.  

It's Time to Be Concerned

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    I'm usually an optimistic guy when it comes to the St. Louis Rams. I've been guilty of the occasional knee-jerk reaction in the past, but I rarely get my readers riled up with doomsday scenarios and predictions of gloom. 

    However, following Dallas' thorough beating over the Rams, it's time to show some concern.

    The strength of the 2013 Rams was supposed to be defense, remember? The unit was going to carry the team early on while the young offense worked out the kinks.

    The St. Louis defense has now surrendered over 30 points two weeks in a row. They are currently giving up 28.6 points per game on average. 

    Entering Dallas, we knew the pass defense was in shambles, but the stiff run defense was still ranked top five in the league (61.0 yards per game). But as it turns out, the Rams can't even stop the run—the Cowboys racked up nearly 200 rushing yards. 

    For those who felt the Rams would build on their 7-8-1 record from a year ago and make a run at the playoffs (myself included), there may be a rude awakening ahead. 

    Playoff teams do not enter halftime with a 20-point deficit on a consistent basis. It just doesn't happen. 

    Four days from now, the Rams will take on the stout 49ers on a prime-time stage. If they don't enter that game as a totally transformed team, it will be a very long season. 

    Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer's profile or by following him on Twitter.