Last whimper for Rams
AP)BY JIM THOMAS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
01/04/2010

Like so many other Sundays this season, the Rams came out scrappy, hung around and threatened to make a game of it.

Like so many other Sundays, they went out quietly another day, another defeat. When things go south with these guys, they go w-a-y south. And so it was Sunday on Fan Appreciation Day at the Edward Jones Dome.

Trailing only 7-6 against San Francisco with 7 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Rams picked the worst time possible to give up their longest pass play of the season. On third and 1 from the San Francisco 27, quarterback Alex Smith threw deep to Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis. Davis got behind Rams safety James Butler, and once Davis got the ball nobody was going to catch him.

The 73-yard touchdown catch gave San Francisco a 14-6 lead with 7:29 to play. Before all was said and done, the 'Niners left town with a 28-6 victory, and the Rams left the stadium red-faced as usual.

"It's a hard way to finish," Steve Spagnuolo said of his 1-15 debut as an NFL head coach. "For 3 quarters, it was toe to toe with a good football team ... and then to have it kind of get away like that at the end. We were hoping to finish on a high note and weren't able to do that."

Not even close. Just about any way you slice it, this was the worst season in Rams football history. Over the course of the campaign the Rams set franchise marks for:

Most consecutive losses (17, going back to last season).

Most consecutive home losses (13).

Most losses in one season (15).

The 1-15 debacle is definitely something no player, coach or anyone else in the organization ever wants to go through again.

"That's kind of like asking a boxer who just got knocked out, 'Do you want to get knocked out again?' " offensive lineman Adam Goldberg said. "No, you don't want to get knocked out again."

The Rams were pummeled on several levels Sunday, particularly on offense.

They managed a mere 109 yards, a single-game low since the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995.

For the 13th time in 16 games, the Rams scored one or fewer TDs.

The Rams managed only one first down in the entire second half, and just six for the game.

Add it all up, and their season total of 175 points scored was the sixth-lowest total in the NFL since the league went to the 16-game schedule in 1978.

On Sunday, rookie quarterback Keith Null was knocked woozy by a relentless San Francisco pass rush. His replacement midway through the third quarter, Kyle Boller, was under siege not only from the ***** but also from teammate Steven Jackson.

Early in the fourth quarter, Jackson was stuffed behind the line for a 5-yard loss. He got up barking at Boller, an exchange that continued on the sideline.

"That's between me and Steven," Boller said. "I'm not going to get into that."

"That was just in the heat of the game, that's all," Jackson said.

Later in the game, defensive end Chris Long also got overheated. Long gave a retaliatory shove to a ***** player after the whistle and was ejected from the game with 2:27 to play.

"I was very frustrated," Long said. "I'm just frustrated with the way I feel like we finished, I finished. I take full responsibility for my actions. I play the game hard, and I'm not going to apologize for playing the game hard. But I do regret letting my emotions get the best of me."

When undrafted rookie Roger Allen III left late in the second quarter with a knee injury, the Rams basically were out of offensive guards. Starting right tackle Goldberg was moved over to Allen's left guard spot. Another undrafted rookie, Phil Trautwein, came off the bench at right tackle to play his first NFL snaps from scrimmage.

No matter who was up front, the Rams couldn't block the *****, especially defensive end Justin Smith, the nine-year NFL veteran from Jefferson City High via the University of Missouri. Although never known as a sack artist, Justin Smith looked like Bruce Smith on Sunday, recording a career-high 3. Overall, the Rams yielded a season-high eight sacks.

"It was a tough day for our group," Goldberg said, speaking of the offensive line. "We've lost a lot of good players in this second part of the season. They're all really tough guys and good players. So with good medical attention and good rehab, they'll come back strong next year."

Guard Jacob Bell (hamstring), guard/center Mark Setterstrom (triceps), tackle Jason Smith (concussion) and now Allen (knee) all were unable to finish out the season because of injuries.

As usual, the Rams were unable to finish out drives on offense. With the game still in the balance in the fourth quarter, Spagnuolo once again went conservative. On fourth and 2 from the San Francisco 11, trailing 7-3, Spagnuolo opted for a Josh Brown field goal instead of trying for a first down and possible go-ahead touchdown with 9:18 to play.

"I thought that was the right thing to do," Spagnuolo said. "The prior play on third and 1 did not have very much success. So that kind of played into it. If it was fourth and half a yard, we would have thought about it. But I thought it was the right decision to make."

But next to nothing went right for the Rams this season, did it?