Jeff Fisher made it a point recently to emphasize that, although his St. Louis Rams defense had experienced success early, it was largely at the expense of young quarterbacks. Of the team’s first six games, three were against rookie quarterbacks, and two of the team’s three wins have come against rookie QBs. The defense played well, but the real test would come when the Rams faced more elite talent at the quarterback position.
It turns out the Rams still have some studying to do.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots offense schooled the Rams Sunday in London, scoring 28 points in the first half en route to a 45-7 thrashing in front of an international audience. Brady threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns, and the Patriots put up 473 yards of offense against a defense that failed to make the conversion from the U.S. to England.
The game couldn’t have started better for the Rams. After receiving the opening kickoff, QB Sam Bradford needed only five plays to find the end zone, connecting with WR Chris Givens on a 50-yard bomb. It was the fifth straight game Givens has caught a pass of at least 50 yards.
But Brady answered, driving down the field with ease and finding WR Brandon Lloyd for a 19-yard touchdown. Lloyd ended last season with the Rams and followed offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to New England in the offseason.
Without Givens, who left the game momentarily due to a toe injury, the Rams offense was limited and struggled to move the ball with any consistency. The Rams did have an opportunity to cut the lead to 21-10 at one point in the second quarter, but a botched snap on the field goal attempt led to a turnover on downs. The Rams found out that in London, much like in America, when it rains – which it did for the majority of the game Sunday – it pours.
The bright spots for the Rams are few. Givens’ touchdown catch was the high point of the game, but he finished with just three catches for 63 yards. Bradford found nine different receivers and had a 73 percent completion percentage but passed for just 205 yards and the one touchdown. He left the game briefly with what looked like a left shoulder injury but returned the next play after a timeout.
Now, the Rams head into the bye week with a lot to think about. The schedule doesn’t get any easier out of the bye – they travel to face the division-leading San Francisco 49ers in week 10 – and the Rams will have to regroup over the next two weeks if they want to get back on the right track in the second half.
Can they figure out how to score touchdowns with any consistency? Can their defense get back to its stingy ways? And will workhorse RB Steven Jackson even be with the team past Tuesday, when the NFL’s trade deadline passes?
Plenty of questions remain. In their second big test in two weeks Sunday, the Rams had far too few answers.