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Rams find ways to lose games they should win
Rams find ways to lose games they should win
BY BRYAN BURWELL | Posted: Monday, September 20, 2010 12:15 am
OAKLAND, Calif. • So now it was the visitors' locker room inside the Oakland-Alemeda Coliseum, but it really could have been any locker room in the NFL, because quite frankly we've seen this play out far too many times before. In one corner of the cramped room, Rams place kicker Josh Brown leaned against his locker stall and lamented the failed mechanics of another missed field goal like a golfer overanalyzing a botched swing.
He said he aimed here, but the ball went there. He said something about expecting it to draw, but instead it went straight, and then he beat himself up a thousand different ways. "Oh, gawd, you just can't miss those shorties," Brown grunted. "You just can't do that. It's like there's a big, red, glaring sign up there saying that."
And finally he said what everyone else was surely thinking:
"And then we lose the game by two (points)? Awww, man. That hurts."
Yes, it certainly does.
Raiders 16, Rams 14.
Only two games into the 2010 season, a season that just has to be better than the last one (1-15), and the Rams are still losing games they ought to win. They are 0-2 against two incredibly beatable football teams from Arizona and Oakland. They are winless against two totally ordinary quarterbacks named Derek Anderson and Bruce Gradkowski. They are losing football games that have come practically gift wrapped in pretty bows by gracious NFL schedule makers, and the Rams have blown them badly.
"I'm going to credit Oakland first," said Steve Spagnuolo, trying hard not to disrespect the decidedly beatable Raiders. "But as I told the football team, you can't win in the National Football League when you beat yourself."
And oh, how the Rams beat themselves.
Just like last week.
Just like every annoying, agonizing, frustrating, maddening, hair-pulling, stomach-churning Sunday we've seen over and over again for the last three or four seasons around here. The names change, even the circumstances are a little different. But the ultimate results won't change when a football team still can't figure out how to win games that are right there for the taking.
"Somehow we have to find (out how)," said Steven Jackson. "And we have to do it on Sunday. We can't do it on Wednesday or Thursday. We have to do it on Sunday."
The problem is that no matter how good the game plans are, something seems to get lost in the translation by noon or 3 p.m. on Sunday. So here they were in front of the rowdy denizens of the Black Hole who were booing their own starting quarterback, Jason Campbell, in the first quarter because the Raiders offense was so stagnant, and the Rams couldn't take advantage.
How did they mess this one up?
Well there was Brown's missed field goal in the first quarter and the Rams lose the game by two points. And they commit a silly personal foul on an incomplete pass in the end zone that leads to a Raiders field goal (and they lose by two points). And they get an offensive pass interference call (wide receiver Danny Amendola set a pick) that turns a second-and-1 play in Oakland territory into a second and 20 at the Rams' 36 and an offensive drive shuts down. And they commit another defensive roughness penalty in the third quarter that leads to another field goal for Oakland (and the Rams lose by two points), and they have cornerback Ron Bartell jump a slant route in the end zone and drop a sure interception (just like he did last week), and one play later the Raiders score a touchdown.
And there was another dropped interception (Larry Grant) and another roughing the passer penalty and an illegal contact penalty after that that led to another Raiders field goal.
But then you see the Rams get another touchdown with a little more than three minutes left, and it's Raiders 16, Rams 14, and just for a moment your heart skips a beat and you think, "Hey, this game isn't over just yet."
But then this ordinary guy named Gradkowski is rushed out of the pocket and he throws the ball away almost into the front row seats behind the Rams bench, and you're thinking wow, the Rams might get the ball back. ...
And then Fred Robbins — that would be 33-year-old, 11-year veteran Fred Robbins, who has played on a Super Bowl-winning team and was brought here to add some stability to a youthful team — gets called for a foolish penalty for shoving Gradkowski long after the ball left his hand and fell harmlessly to the ground.
All together now:
As he stood in the interview room after the game, you could tell how annoyed Spagnuolo was about the outcome of this ball game. It wasn't merely that his team had lost, but it was how it lost. It lost because of dumb plays.
"The disappointing thing is I had not seen or felt this was an undisciplined football team," Spagnuolo said. "But how can you not think that after a game like that? We just have to learn that you can play tough, physical football and be smart doing it.
"I did think we played tough and physical.... but it's too hard to win when you're giving away free 15-yard plays."
That's what's so annoying about watching these Rams. A year ago, they had no chance to win. Even if things were done perfectly, that only meant they were going to lose respectfully. Now they are good enough to beat teams like the Cards and Raiders. But not like this. Not when they self-destruct at every turn.
"We were undisciplined," said Bartell. "And we got what we deserved."
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Re: Rams find ways to lose games they should win
I still prefer losing games they should win over having no shot at winning after the first quarter like last year's team. The losses are tough but at least it's progress and these mistakes are easily correctable.
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