By Cedric Williams
With four wins to go along with encouraging efforts in its three losses since September, the last bad performance the St. Louis Rams had come the last time they played the San Francisco 49ers.
It was Week 4, September 26 to be exact, and it was in one of the league’s showcase games of the week, with a nationally-televised audience tuning in on the NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.
Everyone was ready for some football, except for the Rams, who were pummeled by the 49ers, 35-11.
Since then, the Rams were better.
As mentioned, they won four of the next seven, and had even put themselves back into playoff contention in the stout NFC.
Unfortunately though, the Rams came crashing back to earth on Sunday, after a simply dismal performance in the rematch against the Niners.
San Francisco got the lead early, added on to it throughout the day, and cruised to a 23-13 victory that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score made it seem.
St. Louis didn’t score its lone touchdown until there were 18 seconds left in the game, and by then, the Niners had pulled most of their defensive starters and were already beginning to focus on their huge matchup next week against the Seattle Seahawks.
For the Rams, disappointing is probably the best word to describe their performance, although words like lackluster, ineffective, and inept come to mind, too.
We’re going to stick with the word that began with the D, because that’s the grade we gave nearly every aspect of the team following Sunday’s beatdown in San Francisco.
Offense – D
Running back Zac Stacy had a solid day, with a game-high 72 yards on 19 carries, but he was the only one. Quarterback Kellen Clemens was 19-for-37 for 218 yards, with a touchdown, an interception, and a 67.2 passer rating. But most of those good numbers came at garbage time, with San Francisco’s backups in the game.
When the game was still a game, Clemens struggled mightily against San Francisco’s physical and aggressive defense. The Ram receivers also had a rough day, with at least six dropped passes, including one on what would have been a big gainer for Chris Givens, two almost laughable drops by Jared Cook, and tipped ball by Tavon Austin that became an easy 49er interception.
Injuries along the offensive line also proved to be a problem, as center Scott Wells went out with an ankle injury in the second quarter and left tackle Jake Long was lost to a concussion in the second half.
Defense – D
The Rams were bullied by 49er receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree.
Boldin, who had a huge day in the first matchup between the two teams, was back at it again on Sunday, with nine catches for 98 yards and a whole bunch of jaw-jacking that none of the Rams could match.
And Crabtree, who was making his first appearance of the season after sitting out all year with an injury, made a 60-yard catch and run that helped set up a San Francisco score.
The front seven, for the most part, had a good game. They limited San Francisco’s Frank Gore to under 70 yards and sacked quarterback Colin Kaepernick four times.
Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to overcome perhaps the worst day of the season for the secondary as a whole.
Special Teams – C-
Once again, the kicker and the punter were very good for the Rams, with Greg Zuerlein nailing a pair of tough field goals in the always swirling wind of Candlestick Park and Johnny Hekker averaging just under 50 yards per five punts.
But a subpar performance in the return game meant the Rams would have terrible field position almost all day. There was one good chance to recover a muffed San Francisco punt and get some good field position, and maybe turn things around a bit, but like everything else on Sunday, it just wasn’t meant to be.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can be found on Examiner.com.