Lost in the midst of the bigger stories of the left knee injury to quarterback Sam Bradford and the overall chippiness of the game was an eminently winnable game that the Rams never actually came close to winning.
That's because a formula that had served the Rams well in the past two weeks turned on them, creating a role reversal that ended any hopes the Rams had of getting above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2006.
Against Houston and Jacksonville the past two weeks the Rams have found themselves plus-seven in turnover margin with the added bonus of two instant touchdowns on defense and another on special teams. Against Carolina, that was turned upside down as Carolina turned two takeaways into 10 points, including the third pick-six of the season from Bradford on a play where his arm was hit by safety Quintin Mikell.
Another positive trend that reversed course was the Rams' performance in the red zone. Entering the game, the team was third in the league in red zone scoring, putting up touchdowns two-thirds of the time they traveled inside the opponent's 20. Against the Panthers, the Rams scored a touchdown just once on three trips, including a failure early in the game in which they came up empty altogether when they failed to convert on fourth down.
On the other side, the Rams held Carolina to two touchdowns in four tries, a solid effort in keeping the Panthers out but not enough to get the job done.
"We didn’t get stuff done," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We didn’t make plays, we didn’t get turnovers. We have got to find a way to get the ball back. It was a good plan against the run but we’ve got to find a way to get our hands on an interception, get the ball out, stuff like that."
And so continues the Rams' hard-to-figure Jekyll and Hyde act of the first seven weeks.
A roundup of Sunday's Rams stories that appeared on ESPN.com. ... We opened with this week's Rapid Reaction from the loss to the Panthers. ... Next, it was a news story on Bradford's injury paired with a reaction on what it means for the Rams moving forward. ... There was also the news story on the fighting between the teams and the showdown between cornerback Janoris Jenkins and Carolina receiver Steve Smith. ... We capped the day with a look at the penalties and loss of discipline by the Rams in the loss.
At stltoday.com, Jeff Gordon offers his weekly report card on the Rams.
Jim Thomas detailed the craziness of the day in his instant game story.
NFL.com comes with the report that the Rams have "discussed" the possibility of adding quarterback Tim Tebow. I'd think a discussion is as far as that would go, if at all.
The Associated Press' game story breaks down the work of Cam Newton and the Panthers.
The Charlotte Observer offers up five plays that made a difference in the game.