Rams Fall in Detroit
Rams Fall in Detroit
By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer
Posted 2 hours ago
DETROIT – As the Rams surged to victories the past two weeks, they received nearly equal contributions from all three phases of the team: offense, defense and special teams.
Those performances led to two victories in a row. On Sunday at Ford Field, they lost in all three of those phases, as the Lions pulled away to a convincing 44-6 win against the Rams.
In the aftermath of the defeat, it was pretty simple to coach Steve Spagnuolo: win as a team, lose as a team.
“There’s a lot of things,” Spagnuolo said. “All three phases had a hand in the disappointment of getting beat. Usually when that happens in all three phases, the score gets lopsided and it was.”
The loss snaps the Rams’ two-game winning streak and drops their record to 2-3 on the season. Detroit picked up its first victory to improve to 1-4 on the season.
For most of the week, Spagnuolo warned his team about getting too high on its success just as he cautions it not to get too low when it suffers a loss. In the moments following the game, Spagnuolo said he didn’t believe Sunday’s loss was a result of the former.
“I don’t think that’s the reason, I really don’t,” Spagnuolo said. “Had I thought that during the week and I thought I was in tune with it, that we were not preparing, we weren’t ready, that there was a sense of overconfidence, I certainly was prepared to jump in there and try to straighten it out. I just never sensed that.”
What did transpire came more from an early avalanche of miscues and missed opportunities that eventually snowballed into a lopsided defeat.
In last year’s win in Detroit, the Rams benefited from a fake field goal that set the tone for the game. On Sunday, it was a little special teams trickery that backfired that set the tone again, this time in favor of the Lions.
During meetings earlier in the week, Spagnuolo and special teams coordinator Tom McMahon discussed the possibility of catching the Lions sleeping right off the bat with and onsides kick should Detroit elect to receive first.
Hoping to set an aggressive tone, Spagnuolo decided Sunday morning to go for the gusto right off the bat.
“We thought we had something there,” Spagnuolo said. “I just thought it would be good for the team to be aggressive on the road.”
But Lions cornerback Amari Spievey recovered the kick at the Rams’ 41, giving Detroit prime field position to open its first drive. Making matters worse, linebacker David Vobora and running back Kenneth Darby were injured on the play.
The Rams defense committed two quick penalties before eventually holding the Lions to a field goal and a 3-0 lead. Those weren’t the deciding points but they were the first ones in a game the Rams would never lead.
After the teams traded three and outs, the Rams offense pieced together a drive that appeared to put them in position to come away with points. Instead, two key turning points happened.
On the second play of the series, quarterback Sam Bradford threw deep down the left sideline for receiver Mark Clayton. A flag came out for illegal contact but Clayton crumpled to the ground, landing awkwardly as he pursued the ball.
The result was a patellar tendon injury that will likely end Clayton’s season.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t big,” Bradford said of Clayton’s loss. “I think everyone on this team knows what he does for this offense in the first four games of the season so to lose him that is definitely going to hurt.”
Even without Clayton, the Rams trudged on and drove inside Detroit’s 10. On first and goal at the 9, Bradford fired left to Danny Amendola, who turned it inside looking for room. As he was brought down, Amendola lost the ball and Lions cornerback Alphonso Smith recovered.
An opportunity to tie it or take the lead was gone and though they later managed a field goal to even it back up at 3, the game never had the same feel.
“It deflates you a little bit,” Spagnuolo said. “You have got to overcome that and drive and I thought the team did but you can’t turn the ball over. We did that a little bit today.”
Indeed it was an uncharacteristic day for a Rams offense that had done a good job of taking care of the ball in the first four games. The Rams finished with three turnovers, two interceptions from Bradford and Amendola’s fumble.
In addition, a group that had been solid in the red zone was turned away on all three of its trips inside Detroit’s 20, settling for two field goals from Brown and the aforementioned fumble.
Although the Rams punished Detroit in the first quarter, outgaining it 126-26 and having the ball for nearly 11 of the 15 minutes, the score was just 3-3 when the quarter ended.
“That’s something we are going to have to look hard at,” Bradford said. “Anytime you are in the red zone, you have got to get seven points. You can’t settle for 3. We kicked two field goals and we turned it over inside the 10 once. Things like that, they come back to hurt you.”
While the Rams offense was struggling to punch it in down inside the 20, the Rams defense which had been so outstanding inside its own 20 was unable to come up with the stops it had been getting.
The Lions mixed things up offensively, taking shots down the field and utilizing underneath routes and screens to keep the Rams off balance.
After holding opponents to field goals or less on six consecutive possessions dating to the Oakland game, the Lions converted two of their three chances and came away with 17 red zone points as the Rams struggled to generate a consistent pass rush.
Likewise, the Rams’ success getting off the field on third down also took a hit as Detroit converted six of 13 third down opportunities.
“They made a lot of big plays,” end Chris Long said. “We knew coming in they were a big play offense. We didn’t get off the field on third down and I think that can rest on the D line’s shoulders. You have to get home on blitzes and we have to rush the passer when we don’t blitz. I think they were on the field too much and that’s on us.”
And special teams allowed the deciding points, a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Stefan Logan to make it 10-3, a deficit from which the Rams never recovered.
Much as Spagnuolo emphasized the past two weeks not to get up too much from a win, he must now again make sure his team can get past a disappointing loss once again.
“We are not happy with it at all the way we played today,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “But we know we are not going to just sit here and sulk about it. We know this team is better than what we showed today and we have just got to go out there, try to regroup and prove that.”