USA TODAY


A season that began amid high expectations went south very quickly, beginning on the first offensive play of the season.
Running back Steven Jackson gave the Rams a 7-0 lead over Philadelphia on a 47-yard run, but suffered a strained quadriceps muscle on the play.

Before the game had ended, the Rams also lost wide receiver Danny Amendola (dislocated elbow) and cornerback Ron Bartell (broken neck) for the season.

That began a string of injuries that saw the season end with 17 players on injured reserve, including six cornerbacks, three wide receivers and three offensive linemen that started the season opener.

The Rams had 17 players on the season-ending roster that weren't in training camp, including five that started on offense in the regular-season finale 34-27 loss to San Francisco. All four cornerbacks active for the final game against the ***** were also not with the team in training camp.

Only four players started all 16 games, with just one on offense. That was Harvey Dahl, who started games at both right guard and right tackle.

NOTES, QUOTES

WHAT WENT RIGHT: There wasn't much. The one shining light was Jackson, who came back from his early-season injury to rush for 1,145 yards, the seventh consecutive season he had reached 1,000. Only six other backs in history have also done that. Jackson was able to also average xxx yards per attempt with a changing offensive line and against defenses geared to stop him.

Defensively, despite rarely leading in games, end Chris Long had a career-best 13 sacks and continued the steady improvement he has shown since being installed as the fulltime left end last season.

Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis was again the anchor of the defense, making the calls and leading the team in tackles. Rookie right end Robert Quinn, who didn't play during his final season in college, showed improvement and had five sacks as well as blocking three punts.

At the injury-ravaged cornerback spot, unheralded Josh Gordy competed in the passing game and had a team-leading three interceptions.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The injuries were the biggest factor. Amendola, who was quarterback Sam Bradford's security blanket and caught 85 passes in 2010, had five receptions in the opener when he was hurt. Amendola was to be Bradford's check-down option in the new scheme implemented by coordinator Josh McDaniels. When rookie Greg Salas eventually showed that he could be Amendola's replacement, he was lost for the season with a broken leg on Nov. 6.

Bradford passed for 321 yards in an Oct. 16 loss to Green Bay, but injured his ankle on the final play of the game. He played just five more games and after backup A.J. Feeley, who was the quarterback in an Oct. 30 win over New Orleans, suffered a broken thumb on Dec. 4, Kellen Clemens started the final three games. Clemens was claimed on waivers from Houston Dec. 7.

The injuries at cornerback resulted in the defense having to make adjustments and alter the scheme favored by coach Steve Spagnuolo. Bartell and cornerback Bradley Fletcher, who tore his ACL in a bye-week practice, were also good in run support, which was a significant shortcoming of the replacement corners. They competed in the passing game, but poor tackling among the entire secondary resulted in 15 runs of 20 yards or more, seven of 40 or more and five of 50 or more.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

—RB Steven Jackson finished with 1,145 yards for the season, but suffered a biceps injury in the season finale against San Francisco.

—QB Kellen Clemens became the third quarterback injured when he suffered an ankle injury late in Sunday's loss to the *****. X-rays were negative.

—QB Sam Bradford ended his frustrating second season on the inactive list with an ankle injury. Bradford, the league's offensive rookie of the year in 2010, played in only 10 games this season, winning just one.

—QB Tom Brandstater played in his first NFL game, replacing Kellen Clemens, who suffered an ankle late in Sunday's loss to the *****. Brandstater's first play as a pro was on third-and-17. He threw two incompletions that ended the Rams' last hope.