By Cedric Williams
It was another disheartening Sunday for the St. Louis Rams — perhaps the most disappointing performance for the club since the season opening loss to Minnesota.
St. Louis looked fantastic in driving right down the field on the opening drive of the game for a touchdown that gave the Rams a 7-0 lead.
But just about everything after that was a veritable nightmare for the Rams, who wound up suffering a 34-7 beatdown at the hands of the cross-state rival Kansas City Chiefs.
Finding a silver lining in Sunday’s effort would be difficult for even the most optimistic of Rams’ sunshine pumpers. That’s why we gave low marks to just about every aspect of the team on Sunday.
Here’s how we graded the Rams after a truly rough day in Kansas City:
Quarterback – D
Austin Davis was terrific on that Rams first drive of the day, which ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks, but was jumpstarted by a 43-yard deep corner connection to wideout Kenny Britt.
But then on St. Louis’ second drive, Davis forced another deep throw into double coverage towards Britt that was intercepted by KC’s Ron Parker. From that point on, the Rams’ promising young signal-caller couldn’t seem to find his bearings.
Whether it was crowd noise, the Kansas City pass rush, or just his own ineffective play, Davis looked like a third-stringer playing in one of the NFL’s toughest road environments.
Running Backs – C-
The Rams went with a true running back by committee approach on Sunday, with Benny Cunningham, Tre Mason, and Zac Stacy combining for 66 yards on 16 carries.
Stacy actually led St. Louis is receptions (three) on Sunday, but after the first quarter (which included a 41-yard kickoff return by Cunningham), the Rams’ RBs weren’t much of a factor at all.
Receivers & Tight Ends – D
Like everything else from an offensive standpoint, the Rams’ pass-catchers were great on the first drive and virtually invisible the rest of the day.
Britt beat two KC defenders for that 43-yard catch on the game’s third play, but then he only had one more catch the rest of the day. Tavon Austin only had four touches (two of them on run plays), and Brian Quick injured his shoulder on his only catch, which forced him from the game early in the second quarter.
Tight end Lance Kendricks made a terrific adjustment to get open on his touchdown catch, but then didn’t see the ball again. Jared Cook seemed like a perfect matchup against KC’s athletic linebackers, but he only had one catch as well.
Offensive Line – F
By the end of the game, the Rams’ O-Line was so beaten up the only regular starter playing at his regular position was right tackle Joe Barksdale. But even before the injuries to Jake Long, Rodger Saffold, and Scott Wells occurred, St. Louis’ front five was getting beat up pretty bad by KC’s front seven.
The run blocking was good, but not good enough to sustain a full day’s effort, and the pass blocking was atrocious, allowing seven sacks on the day (three by KC sack maven Justin Houston) for a negative 44 yards.
Defensive Line – B
This was the only Ram unit that played well in our estimation.
Robert Quinn had sacks on back-to-back plays, giving him three in his last two games, after totaling none in St. Louis’ first five games. Rookie tackle Aaron Donald was virtually unblockable all day, and even though he was credited with only one tackle on the day, he did force a fumble deep in KC territory, which was recovered by veteran end William Hayes.
These guys haven’t quite lived up to their “Sack City” best D-Line in the league preseason hype. But they have played much better these last two games.
Linebackers – F
As good as the D-Linemen were was how bad St. Louis’ LBs were on Sunday.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar missed several key tackles, and he probably had the best day of the group. Middle backer James Laurinaitis seemed to get swallowed up by KC’s massive O-Line most of the day. And Alec Ogletree had another bad day, as he was beaten constantly by KC’s short passes to tight ends, which he then compounded by taking two 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalties
Secondary – D
Injuries during the practice week forced the Rams to start rookies E.J. Gaines and Marcus Roberson at both cornerback spots. Then after in-game injuries felled Rodney McLeod and Cody Davis, a third rookie (Lamarcus Joyner) was forced into action at safety.
And with that much inexperience on the field, KC had an easy time just picking apart the Rams back line.
Special Teams – F
This group had its best day of the season last week and was a key reason why the Rams won that game, but then responded with perhaps its worst game of the season Sunday against the Chiefs.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 38-yard field goal that would’ve given St. Louis a 10-7 lead late in the second quarter. The Rams had just gotten the ball deep in KC territory, thanks to a turnover, but wound up getting nothing out of it when “Greg the Leg” missed what should be a chip shot for an NFL kicker.
That miss was a key turning point, as KC went down for a field goal of its own to take the lead into the halftime break, then came out and broke St. Louis’ back with a 99-yard kickoff return on the first play of the second half to go up by 10, which on this day was more than enough to put away the Rams.
Coaching – D-
It’s becoming apparent that head coach Jeff Fisher and coordinators Brian Schottenheimer and Gregg Williams are pretty good at putting together early game plans. But once the opponent adjusts, the Rams coaches haven’t been able to find many answers to counter whatever new things their opponents are doing.
And at some point, especially after watching similarly talented players make explosive plays against them, the question has to be asked, why can’t the Rams figure out a proper way to use Tavon Austin?
He was one of the most dangerous players in all of college football during his team at West Virginia. But save for a couple of fleeting moments here and there, Fisher and Schottenheimer can not seem to get Austin the ball in a position to do anything dramatic with it at all.
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.