By Bill Coats
10/14/2007 7:40 pm

BALTIMORE — At age 37 and working on NFL season No. 14, Andy McCollum has seen a lot. But never, he said after the Rams’ 22-3 loss to the Ravens on Sunday, has he witnessed anything like this season.

“I don’t have any answers for anything this year. I don’t know how we can get this many people hurt. I don’t know how we can lose so much and play so crappy,” McCollum muttered. “I don’t know . . . I just don’t know.”

Although coach Scott Linehan and his players have steadfastly refused to cite them as an excuse for their winless ways, the team’s expanding list of injuries can’t be overlooked as at least a strong contributor to the 0-6 record.

Consider that the Rams went into Sunday’s game with these performers on the shelf: No. 1 quarterback, No. 1 running back, a first-team wide receiver, holder and backup wide receiver, two starting offensive linemen, two backup o-linemen, primary return man, first-team strong safety, second-team strong safety. And during the game they lost starting center Brett Romberg (ankle) and wideout Drew Bennett (hamstring).

McCollum’s season offers stark illustration of the Rams’ health epidemic. Beaten out by Romberg in the preseason, McCollum spent the first four weeks as the backup center.

As the injuries mounted, Linehan decided to start working McCollum at left guard, and he wound up starting there last week and again Sunday. Then, after Romberg went down, McCollum was back at center for the first time since the ’06 opener.

“I was just getting comfortable (at guard), and then I move back in” to center, he said. “But wherever I’m needed, I’ve got to play there and I’ve got to play well. We all have to pick it up a notch so we can get a win around here. It just stinks. I don’t know what else to tell you.”

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A sequence in the second quarter defined the Rams’ season in a nutshell. After Leonard Little sacked Ravens QB Kyle Boller, DE Victor Adeyanju grabbed the loose ball and headed downfield. The Rams, trailing 6-0, wound up with a first down at the Baltimore 11 and a chance to move in front. Here’s what happened next:

>>RB Brian Leonard gained 2 yards up the middle. 2nd and 8.

>>Leonard was dropped for a 3-yard loss on an off-tackle run. 3rd and 11.

>>QB Gus Frerotte threw incomplete (but catchable) to WR Marques Hagans in the end zone. 4th and 11.

>>K Jeff Wilkins missed wide left on a 35-yard field goal attempt.

>>The Ravens hustled 75 yards in eight plays and scored their lone TD on a 6-yard run by Willis McGahee. 13-0. Ballgame.

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Notes & quotes:

>>The Rams are minus-8 in turnovers a year after they finished No. 2 in the league at plus-14. They committed six turnovers Sunday – five interceptions and a lost fumble.

>>You know it’s been tough day at the office for the Rams when their leading receivers are Hagans and TE Dominique Byrd.

>>McGahee mustered only 61 yards on 25 carries. The Rams still haven’t given up 100 yards to a ballcarrier this year.

>>The Rams have been outscored 159-73 for the season, including a stunning 81-13 on the road.

>>Rams QBs have tossed 12 interceptions and just five TD passes.

>>Wilkins has misfired on four of his last six FG tries in open-air stadiums.

>>Frerotte’s fumble easily could’ve been ruled a sixth interception. Frerotte’s arm was hit as he cocked, and he pushed the ball across the line of scrimmage, where nose tackle Kelly Gregg plucked it out of the air.

>>Frerotte, on the Rams’ punchless offense: “It makes you sick; it makes you want to throw up.”