As if yesterday's chippy, mistake-filled 30-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers was not enough, the St. Louis Rams received a more stunning blow late Sunday evening: QB Sam Bradford will miss the remainder of the 2013 season after tearing his left ACL during the game.
Bradford sustained the knee injury late in the fourth quarter while being pulled out of bounds by Panthers safety Mike Mitchell as the Rams attempted to rally from a 15 point deficit. The play appeared to be legal, but perhaps unnecessary as Bradford was fully intending to step out of bounds after a short gain. Bradford immediately grabbed his left leg and appeared to be in significant pain before being carted to the locker room. With Bradford sidelined, it is expected that veteran QB Kellen Clemens will take over the starting job, and the Rams will scour the wire for backup quarterback help.
Before the injury some members of the Rams were already seeing red, with multiple personal fouls and one ejection (DE Chris Long) having been handed down during various scrums and post-whistle infractions. Rams CB Janoris Jenkins and Panthers WR Steve Smith certainly were not planning to invite each other over for dinner, based on post-game comments. But with Mitchell appearing to celebrate after Bradford's exit (a short gain on second down), OG Harvey Dahl lost his cool and appeared to be on the verge of a bare knuckle brawl. All in all, it was not a pretty sight for #Ramsnation to see their team reduced to a seething group of frustrated men (although the frustration was understandable).
Rams must figure out how to move forward
In the aftermath, the Rams' braintrust will certainly have to regroup, put their minds together and figure out how to compete against what is the second toughest schedule in the NFL. Clemens has starting NFL experience and knows the ins-and-outs of OC Schottenheimer's offense, so the offense should theoretically be able to function. However, with Bradford coming on strong the last three games (seven touchdowns to one interception), and with the Seattle Seahawks looming next week in a Monday Night matchup, the timing of the injury could not have been worse for an offense hitting its stride.
On the bright side, the Rams seem to finally have their ground game humming, with RB Zac Stacy leading the charge and a sprinkling of RB Daryl Richardson as a change of pace back. It was certainly a positive to see Stacy earn his first touchdown, albeit in the air. As Clemens adjusts to leading the offense, the ability of Stacy to move the chains and the offensive line to provide adequate pass protection will be critical. The Rams are still searching for their first rushing touchdown, however, and with the Seahawks up next will face a strong challenge on the ground.
At 3-4, the Rams' season is far from over and there were positives from yesterday's matchup. WR Brian Quick had a few costly drops, but also showed some of the talent that made him a second round pick with a 73 yard catch down the seam and a dragging of multiple defenders. WR Tavon Austin got back on track, with what should have been a 63 yard touchdown reception (called back for a Jake Long tripping) as well as some chain moving catches and solid punt returns. TE Jared Cook was more active in the passing game with four catches on seven targets. WR Chris Givens turned a crossing route into a 24 yard catch and run.
If the skill players continue to make plays for their quarterback after the catch, as is likely in what will become a ball-control offense, the Rams should be able to hang in there and compete offensively. If not, then it certainly could be a very long season for #Ramsnation and the Rams' defense.
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