By Cedric Williams
It didn’t seem possible that the St. Louis Rams could play worse than they did last Sunday in a 31-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
But it absolutely happened Thursday night at the Edward Jones Dome, when the Rams were run over in a 35-11 beat down by the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.
St. Louis looked good early, when they out-gained the 49ers 64 total yards to a mere 25, and grabbed a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
But over the next two quarters, the Niner offense, led by wrecking ball running back Frank Gore, pounded on the Ram defense, while the San Fran “D” smothered every aspect of the St. Louis offense. The visitors out-gained the Rams from there on out, and roared back to a 21-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The final 15 minutes was more of the same, as even the Niner backups seemed to make big plays and score points, while the Rams continued to be stuck in the mud.
Here’s how we graded the Rams offense, defense, and special teams in Thursday night’s loss to the 49ers:
Offense Grade: F
There’s no way to sugarcoat it. The Rams were atrocious on offense.
They couldn’t run the ball and finished with just 22 rushing yards on 16 carries for a hideous 1.4 yards per carry average.
They couldn’t really pass the ball either. Quarterback Sam Bradford threw for a game-high 202 yards, but completed just 19 percent of his passes and finished the night with a putrid 59.2 passer rating.
Bradford was also sacked five times, fumbled twice, and was intercepted once.
And that’s not even mentioning the wide-open touchdown he missed midway through the first quarter, when St. Louis was still playing halfway decent and could have gone ahead 7-0.
Defense Grade: D
The only reason we’re giving the “D” a D and not an F, is because they actually played pretty well in the first quarter.
San Francisco got almost all its first quarter yards on its first two plays – an 11-yard pass to fullback Bruce Miller and an 18-yard run by Gore.
But after that, the Rams tightened up and held the Niners to just six positive yards the rest of the period.
Unfortunately, that was the end of just about anything positive for St. Louis on defense.
San Francisco scored touchdowns on three of its next four possessions – getting one each from its stars Gore, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, and tight end Vernon Davis.
And just for good measure, the Niners added too more scores in the fourth to send just about all the Ram fans home early, while a large contention of San Fran fans stayed and chanted “Let’s go Niners” the rest of the night.
Special Teams Grade: D
Kicker Greg Zuerlein didn’t get many chances with the Ram offense running on empty all night, but punter John Hekker did, and he didn’t have a great night either — finishing with a 44.5-yard average on 11 punts.
And really that’s just another indictment on the Ram offense. No NFL team should be having its punter on the field 11 times in one game. That’s just ridiculous.
The Rams return men stunk it up too, with kickoff return specialist Benny Cunningham averaging a pedestrian 24.7 yards on three kickoff returns (but that’s not counting the two other short returns that didn’t count, because of St. Louis penalties), and punt return “ace” Tavon Austin managed just 3.2 yards on six returns, despite having what seemed like a lot of room to work with as 49er punter Andy Lee averaged 54.7 yards on his seven punts.
Quarterback Grade: D-
We like Sam Bradford. We really do. But we just can’t overlook the horrendous night he had throwing the ball on Thursday.
It began with a key miss on third down on the Rams first drive, which forced a punt.
Then on St. Louis’ second drive, the Rams got all the way down to the San Francisco 22, and Bradford somehow missed a wide open Austin Pettis at the goal line for an incompletion that forced a field goal attempt, instead of a point-after-touchdown try, which is what should’ve been happening.
In the second quarter, Bradford was picked off in the end zone by San Francisco’s Donte Whitner to kill what proved to be St. Louis’ last promising drive until the fourth quarter.
That interception also began a string of 11 incompletions for Bradford on 12 straight passes that held the Rams to just one first down in the third quarter.
By the time St. Louis got its next first down late in the fourth, the game was already over.
And even then the Rams were booed off the field by the few fans that stuck around to see the end of the game.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at email@example.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.