The number wasn’t quite right, but Quintin Mikell knew that, whatever the actual number was, it wasn’t good.
After the St. Louis Rams fell 27-13 to the New York Jets Sunday, Mikell stood at his locker and acknowledged it has been too long since the Rams last win. Mikell said 48 days, and while it’s actually only been 45 you can’t blame the players for feeling like they’re all running together at some point.
All that was supposed to change Sunday. When the Rams and Jets met at the Edward Jones Dome, it was the Jets who were supposed to be the NFL’s punchline, the disorganized franchise unable to get out of its own way.
But Sunday afternoon, the joke was on the Rams. The Jets flipped the script on the home team, running the ball and playing opportunistic defense en route to a convincing victory.
“We knew that they were going to come out here and give us their best shot, give us a fight, because of all the stuff that’s been going on over there,” Rams LB James Laurinaitis said. “Teams in the NFL don’t just fold, so we knew that they were going to come out and give us a fight.”
The Jets did all that and more, beating the Rams at their own game. Although they only outgained the Rams 289 to 281 in total yards, the Jets rushed the ball 21 more times and forced three turnovers to the Rams’ zero. The turnovers led to 14 points and made the difference in the game.
“It’s been too long since we’ve created turnovers,” DE Chris Long said. “We’ve got to do our part. If the offense is struggling a little bit, you have to be able to try to negate that advantage for the other team. We didn’t do that today. We were close on a couple of plays, but it just didn’t happen.”
Embattled Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez also got the better of his counterpart, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Sanchez was unspectacular but efficient, completing 75 percent of his passes and finishing with a 118.3 passer rating.
Bradford, on the other hand, led the Rams to an early touchdown drive but struggled to find any consistency from that point forward. A late touchdown contributed to Bradford’s statline, but the game was defined by the offense’s inability to establish a rhythm.
“I thought we came out, we executed, and we did a lot of things well that first drive,” Bradford said. “Then after that it seems like we lost all rhythm that we might‘ve had. If you don’t have rhythm it’s tough to get things going.”
And the momentum the Rams did manage to grab was usually accompanied by a yellow flag. After a Jets field goal made it 13-7 with just under a minute to play in the first half, Rams wide receiver Chris Givens returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown only to have it called back due to a holding penalty. The Rams went three-and-out on the possession.
After a promising game against the 49ers last week, Sunday offered a chance for the Rams to cement their place as a team to be reckoned with in 2012. Instead, it left the team with a new set of questions to answer heading into next week’s showdown with the Arizona Cardinals.
It’s a game that presents an opportunity to end the winless streak, a streak that began the day after the Rams beat the Cardinals on a Thursday night in early October. The Rams were 3-2 on Oct. 5; they’re 3-6-1 on Nov. 19.
Running back Steven Jackson said the losing, while difficult, offers a lesson to the team’s younger players.
“Each and every week is a new game,” Jackson said. “Each and every game is going to be a tough fight regardless of who the opponent is, regardless of what the record reflects. It’s tough to win in this league.”
Mikell knows. It’s been 45 days and counting. The Rams hope they won’t have too many more before the counting stops.