The Kellen Clemens era began for the St Louis Rams on Sunday, and unfortunately for Rams fans, it followed pretty much the same script as the rest of this dysfunctional season.
Start out showing some life. Work your way downfield but stall out when in scoring position. Settle for field goals and trust your defense. Then watch stolidly as your defense starts to break down, and the opponents pull away.
The Rams defense was the best unit on the field through the game's first half, as they stifled everyone but rookie phenom AJ Green
(94 yards on 4 first-half catches) and held Cincinnati to a lone field goal. Meanwhile, their offense turned a bevy of great field position into a trio of field goal tries, converting them into six points.
A tough half of hard-nosed football served as the introduction to Marshall Faulk's halftime tribute, but the team just couldn't sustain any momentum coming out of the break. Cincinnati, with a big nod to Jerome Boger's criminally incompetent referee crew, put seventeen unanswered points on the board, grinding out a big win and grinding away any hope for an upset win.
In what has become a running theme, the Rams simply could not establish anything on offense until late in the fourth quarter, when a lightbulb came on for Josh McDaniels. Why not try a short-passing game geared toward moving the chains? Why not indeed. If only we might have seen a consistent approach all game long, instead of the usual variety of trickeration and counter-counter-counterintuitive playcalling. (2nd and 23? How about a toss sweep? 3rd and 22, how about a tight end screen?)
And so an offense that didn't turn the ball over once, and got to midfield or crossed it nine times came away with only thirteen points.
A critical turning point came on fourth down early in the third quarter with the ball right on the 50, with a first down mere inches away. Cincinnati had just tied the game at six, and the offense needed to respond. The Rams punted away, a decision that should come back to haunt them all week long. The Bengals went on to score fourteen unanswered to put the game away.
Just another game filed under "missed opportunities." That file is getting pretty thick now, as a lost season ticks away.