ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Rams entered the season as a legitimate contender for the NFC West title, and they’re winless after six games.
Despite massive spending on the offensive line and in the backfield, the Rams are averaging a measly nine points. The defense, coach Steve Spagnuolo’s calling card, is the worst in the NFL by far against the rush, even without DeMarco Murray’s 253-yard whopper in Sunday’s 34-7 loss at Dallas.
Players don’t know quite what to say about the dismal state of affairs, especially after last season’s six-win improvement that left them just short of the playoffs. No doubt the early schedule has been rigorous, but they’ve barely been competitive.
“We went down to Jerry’s house, and we stank it up,” center Jason Brown said Monday.
The vibe feels like 2009, when Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney launched their rebuilding effort and St. Louis finished 1-15. But they were thought to be establishing a foundation at that point.
There’s so much on Spagnuolo’s housekeeping list now he was unaware Monday that this week’s opponent, the New Orleans Saints, is coming off a 62-7 rout against the Indianapolis Colts.
“I haven’t looked at one score yet except the Rams score,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s pretty impressive. We know what they’re all about in terms of firepower, so it’s a pretty good challenge.”
Spagnuolo’s message to players: Don’t fret about what’s happened, concentrate on the next game.
“In this business you’ve got to be very segmented,” Spagnuolo said. “Your thinking has to be that way. So, we’re in the seventh segment and we can worry about the first six or what’s after that.
“I mean, you just have to do it that way.”
The Rams hurt themselves with poor tackling during the Dallas debacle. Spagnuolo said the Cowboys gained 183 extra yards on 11 plays, almost half of that from Murray’s quick change of direction that bedazzled safety Quintin Mikell on his 91-yard jaunt.
“I mean, it’s the National Football League,” Hall said. “If you can’t tackle, you shouldn’t be here. We’ve got to get it done.”
Backup quarterback A.J. Feeley made his first start since 2007 and couldn’t ignite the offense. Steven Jackson had two big carries, a 40-yard burst followed by a 6-yard scoring run for the Rams’ first rushing touchdown since his first carry of the year, but mustered just 24 yards on his other 16 attempts.
The Rams have the worst red-zone offense in the NFL, and failed to cash in on first-and-goal from the 2 in the fourth quarter. Brandon Lloyd had a decent debut with six catches for 74 yards but couldn’t hang onto a potential touchdown pass.
The Lloyd pickup, combined with rookie Austin Pettis’ double duty on special teams, resulted in the Rams’ leading receiver being a game-day inactive. Brandon Gibson, who has 17 catches, could get back this week if Danario Alexander (hamstring) needs time.
Punter Donnie Jones was one of the lone bright spots. Jones averaged a 42-yard net on five attempts to give him 381 with the Rams, passing Sean Landeta for most consecutive punts with no blocks.
The Rams didn’t even get to whoop it up for long at the Cardinals-Rangers World Series game Saturday night, heading for the team hotel without seeing any of Albert Pujols’ three home runs.
A mounting injury list adds to the challenge this week. Quarterback Sam Bradford is still in a walking boot with a high left ankle sprain that could sideline him for a second week. He hasn’t done much rehabbing since Friday.
“It’s been a shutdown deal,” Spagnuolo said.
Two players, offensive tackle Jason Smith and defensive tackle Darell Scott, sustained concussions on Sunday. It’s the third concussion in three seasons for Smith, the second overall pick in 2009, who also was visiting a specialist for a neck injury.
Cornerback Justin King (groin) could be limited in practice, further depleting the secondary. Alexander had an MRI exam and Spagnuolo said linebacker Brady Poppinga (calf) may not practice this week.
Copyright Associated Press