ARLINGTON, Tex. -- For anyone who thought the St. Louis Rams had passed the point in their rebuild of being on the wrong end of a beatdown, the Dallas Cowboys served up a sobering reality Sunday afternoon.
In what has become a house of horrors in three visits (including one in the preseason) to AT&T Stadium, the Rams offered no resistance in any phase on their way to a 31-7 drubbing at the hands of the Cowboys.
Coach Jeff Fisher summed it up succinctly but thoroughly.
“We didn’t do really anything well today,” Fisher said. “We didn’t run it, we didn’t stop the run, we didn’t throw it, we didn’t stop their passing game, had difficulty on third downs both sides of the ball, and obviously had some penalties on special teams. They’re a good football team. I did not see this coming.”
There’s no shame in losing to a team like Dallas on the road, but there’s plenty to be found in whatever it was the Rams put on the field Sunday. The players were beaten at every turn; the coaches were outwitted on every X and every O. No man was left out of the thorough domination that took place.
Fisher wasn’t the only one who didn’t see this performance coming, not after what he and his team believed was a good week of practice.
“I don’t think anybody came out here and wasn’t ready,” defensive end Chris Long said. “We just got beat. There are days when you just get flat out beat, and today was a day like that. It sucked and we hated every minute of it and we have to hurry up and get ready for this next game. We have got to correct the things we did wrong, and we’ll figure out what those are.”
Figuring it out likely won’t be a problem because, as Fisher pointed out, there’s plenty of blame to go around. The problem might come in fixing it on such short notice with the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers coming to town for a Thursday night game.
To offer a blow by blow of every misstep in this one would take more time than anyone has but here’s a small sample of the way the Rams were pushed around on Sunday:
Outgained 396 yards to 232 including a first half in which the Cowboys posted 202 yards to the Rams’ 18.
The offense did not gain a first down until there were about nine minutes to go in the second quarter, the only one they’d gain in the opening 30 minutes.
After not allowing a sack in the first two games of the season, the Rams yielded six to the Cowboys.
Looking for trends? The Rams again struggled mightily on third down, allowing the Cowboys to convert 5 of 11 and again racked up special teams penalties with three flags for 26 yards and one more that Dallas declined.
With a few exceptions, the Rams managed to stay close in most games last season. There was a forgettable beatdown at the hands of the Patriots in London, and the Jets and Vikings had fairly comfortable wins on the Rams’ home field, but the Rams had signs of life even in those contests.
For Rams fans, Sunday’s loss brought painful memories of the five-year run in which the franchise went 15-65 and claimed its spot in the record books for the worst stretch of football in league history.
Long said it would be folly to believe you are ever past that point, and in looking around the league on a weekly basis, his point is valid. Still, quarterback Sam Bradford had held out hope that the Rams were beyond laying this type of egg.
“I think anytime you’re a part of a team, you think that -- you like to think that -- this shouldn’t happen,” Bradford said. “It wouldn’t happen. You know, maybe this is a good reality check for us.”
It’s a reality check that should permeate the locker room and into the offices of Fisher and his coaches. It’s one loss and it’s a loss that comes early in the season. There’s plenty of time to bounce back, but perhaps just as many problems that require solutions.
“Sometimes you’re the bug,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “Sometimes you’re the windshield.”
There’s no doubt which the Rams were on Sunday.