Through the first five games of the 2012 season, the St. Louis Rams played with the poise of their head coach.
Against the Miami Dolphins, the youngest team in the NFL was betrayed by its inexperience.
The Rams had one of their more impressive games of the season in terms of yards gained and allowed but three missed field goals by rookie K Greg Zuerlein and touchdowns by Dolphins receivers Marlon Moore and Anthony Fasano were enough to give the Dolphins a 17-14 win.
Zuerlein, a local and national story through the first month of the season for his accuracy and leg strength, made the first two field goals of day to run his streak to 15 straight but missed his last three, including a 66-yard attempt at the end of the game. They were the first three misses of his professional career.
“It’s tough on the young man but he’ll bounce back,” Fisher said of his young kicker. ”He’s fine. He’s just got that personality.”
The Rams got off to a quick start in the first quarter, moving the ball through the air and on the ground. A 44-yard run from RB Daryl Richardson set up Zuerlein’s first field goal of 48 yards, and a 65-yard bomb from QB Sam Bradford to WR Chris Givens led to a 32-yard field goal to put the Rams up 6-0. In total the Rams put up 294 yards of offense in the first half, the ninth-highest for a first half in team history.
But Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill led the Dolphins right back, eventually finding Moore wide open after Rams CB Janoris Jenkins allowed him to run by undeterred. It was one of the few times this season that Jenkins has looked like a rookie.
FB Brit Miller, a team captain, then made a rookie mistake when he tried to return a kickoff and fumbled. The fumble gave the Dolphins a short field, which they turned into a Dan Carpenter field goal.
After missing a 52-yard field goal earlier in the quarter, Zuerlein missed a 37-yarder – a chip shot by his standards – to close the half. Despite gaining 294 yards in the half, the Rams still trailed 10-6 at the break.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher said the individual mistakes added up over the course of the game.
“Just the little things,” Fisher said. ”We fumbled a kickoff and those kinds of things, we can’t do that.”
The inability to find the end zone despite the huge yardage disparity and the six points left on the field would provide costly. Tannehill led another drive after the half, this time connecting for a one-yard touchdown to Fasano. Despite allowing the two touchdowns, the Rams defense kept the Dolphins offense largely under wraps, allowing only 19 yards rushing and just 192 total yards.
The Rams cut it to 17-14 late in the fourth quarter but Zuerlein’s 66-yard attempt sailed wide as time expired, a fitting end to a day where the Rams’ youth shone through. They’ve made big strides this season, but Sunday showed they’ve still got some growing to do.