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Thread: Cup is half-empty for the Rams
Cup is half-empty for the Rams
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
TOO MUCH HESTER Chicago's return man runs two kickoffs back for TDs.
TOUGH THIRD QUARTER Bears break open game after holding one-point lead.
BRIGHT START The Rams get on the board first with a 99-yard touchdown drive.
The Rams played with intensity and focus, more so than has been the case for weeks. For a half, anyway. But in the end, it was the same old result for the Rams — a loss.
Despite giving their Monday night best for two quarters, the Rams lost for the seventh time in their last eight outings, 42-27 to Chicago. At 5-8, and with two of their three remaining games on the road, any realistic chance for postseason play disappeared Monday at the Edward Jones Dome.
"It hurts because I know it puts a damper on our playoff chances," quarterback Marc Bulger said.
Coach Scott Linehan, ever the optimist, isn't willing to say it's over — until it's officially over.
"I don't know what's official," Linehan said. "Two years ago, this (Rams) team was 6-8, won their last two, got in. It doesn't matter if we don't take care of business and win the next three games. I know that. But we've got to play next week and hope for the best there. I don't think anything's impossible. Never do."
But it would take a minor miracle for the Rams to get into the postseason. Another victory — just one — might be a better goal to shoot for. Because if it weren't for a Bulger touchdown pass to Kevin Curtis in the final minute two weeks ago against San Francisco, the Rams would be in the midst of an eight-game losing streak.
Even so, the team's dramatic fall continues after a 4-1 start. The Bears (11-2) clinched a first-round bye with the victory, ending a four-game losing streak in the series with the Rams.
Chicago got two kickoff returns for touchdowns by Devin Hester, 172 yards rushing, and a sparkling 114.4 passer rating and two TD passes by Rex Grossman. Yes, the same Rex Grossman who finished with a 1.3 passer rating last week against Minnesota.
"He made some good throws," Rams safety Corey Chavous said. "He was under a lot of heat this week. He's a kid that's basically a fighter, and he made some plays tonight, I give him credit."
For the Rams, it was fun for a half. The Bears led by only 14-13 at intermission, but broke open a tight game with two third-quarter touchdowns. Chicago scored on its first possession of the second half on a 30-yard run by Thomas Jones, capping a 94-yard drive.
After the Rams went three and out, Chicago's offense went back to work. Running back Adrian Peterson gained 31 yards on a middle screen. Three plays later, Grossman threw a perfect fade pattern to Muhsin Muhammad, who stretched his 6-foot-2 frame for the catch and a 13-yard TD. That gave Chicago some breathing room with a 28-13 lead late in the third quarter.
"They hit a second gear on us," Chavous said. "We could've played a lot better, I thought, in the second half. But it's one of those things where we just didn't put together a full game in terms of consistently making the plays we needed to win."
Not even close. The game snowballed out of control early in the fourth quarter. Aided by a pass interference penalty against Tye Hill and a defensive holding call against La'Roi Glover, the Bears took a commanding 35-13 lead on a 1-yard TD run by Peterson with 13:04 left in the game.
In the third quarter, the Rams were outgained 191 yards to 31 and ran only 10 plays.
"They had the ball forever, and we had two third downs where we couldn't convert," Bulger said. "It's part of our job to stay on the field a little bit longer, and we weren't able to do that."
Things started promising enough for St. Louis, with the Rams beginning a 99-yard TD drive late in the first quarter. Bulger hit Torry Holt for gains of 13 and 16 yards, but the big play was a 42-yard strike over the middle to Curtis. That gave the Rams a first down on the Chicago 26. The drive appeared to stall three plays later at the Bears' 17.
But on fourth and 1 in a scoreless game, Linehan decided to go for it. Stephen Davis lined up in front of Steven Jackson in the I-formation. When the ball was snapped, Jackson ran left as if running a sweep, but Bulger handed the ball off to Davis, who rambled 16 yards to the Chicago 1.
On second and goal from the 1, Bulger threw a fade pattern to Holt for the TD and a 6-0 lead. It stayed at 6-0 because the first bad snap of Chris Massey's NFL career resulted in an aborted play. Jeff Wilkins never got the chance to kick as the ball was scooped up by Chicago.
Holt beat Hester on the pass play. A return man by trade, Hester has played nickel back the past two games because of injuries in the Chicago secondary. But Hester got those points back in the blink of an eye.
He took the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and an NFL record: It was Hester fifth kick return for a TD — with three others coming on punt returns and one on a return of a missed field goal. Hester added 96 yards worth of icing on the cake with another kickoff return for a TD in the fourth quarter.
"The difference in the game was felt in the returns," Linehan said. "When you get them (TDs) in special teams, it is hard to overcome."
Re: Cup is half-empty for the Rams"The difference in the game was felt in the returns," Linehan said. "When you get them (TDs) in special teams, it is hard to overcome."