ST. LOUIS -- As the clock wound down to end the first half Monday night, the St. Louis Rams had plenty to feel good about. All signs pointed to a 14-3 halftime lead, and they appeared to be just 30 minutes away from an upset of the San Francisco 49ers.
But nothing is ever as it seems when it comes to the Rams, at least nothing that looks like it's going to end in a surprisingly positive result. Moments later, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick hit receiver Brandon Lloyd for an 80-yard touchdown that set the 49ers on a 21-point scoring spree that would lead to a 31-17 San Francisco victory.
It was another backbreaking big play by an opponent in a game in which the Rams started fast and finished painstakingly slow. If it felt like the Week 3 game against Dallas on replay, that's because it pretty much was.
"We have got to play the defenses that are called. I sound like a broken record," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We have got to play what we call. We've got to execute the defense. It's definitely not scheme. We have just got to execute. That's all I can really say. The guys know it, but for some reason we are not putting together full games. And until we do it, we are going to get these same results."
With the ball at their 20 and 27 seconds to go in the first half, the 49ers seemed content to go into the locker room trailing by 11 points and start fresh in the third quarter. They hadn't called any timeouts and were in no hurry to stop the clock.
On the Rams' sideline, coach Jeff Fisher pondered calling a timeout in hopes his team could get the ball back and squeeze out more points before the half. A stop on third-and-6 might have given the Rams enough time to steal a field goal.
Fisher opted not to call the timeout, though, and the 49ers opted not to run out the clock. Instead, they called for Lloyd to run a double move down the left sideline in hopes the Rams would yield a big play. The Rams called for a basic zone coverage with the simple idea of keeping the ball in front of the defense.
Well, it was simple in theory but not so much in execution.
"We were just in zone coverage," Laurinaitis said. "I'm not going to throw anybody under the bus, but we had this coverage in specifically for this team, and we have just got to execute it. Know the situation, two-minute [offense]. Heck, they are letting the clock run out. That's the thing that kind of gets under me the most is they were letting the clock run out, not even trying to call timeout or anything. We have just got to execute. Know the situation, back up. If they catch it, make them earn it. We have got to stop with the explosive plays."
Laurinaitis doesn't have to throw anyone under the bus, because anyone watching could tell it was Janoris Jenkins who bit on Lloyd's double move.
Jenkins' propensity for giving up big plays is nothing new. It's not even the first one he's allowed on "Monday Night Football." Seattle's Golden Tate beat him for an 80-yard touchdown pass in 2013 that led to a 14-9 Rams loss.
Now in his third season in the league, one would think Jenkins has matured beyond such mistakes, but the evidence on and off the field would suggest otherwise. Jenkins elected not to speak to the media after the game.
Of course, Jenkins wasn't solely to blame for the play. Seeing as how he has given up his share of big plays, the Rams' coaching staff also should know better than to put him in that situation with no safety help on the back end in the first place.
"It was a double move," Fisher said. "He should stay on top. In retrospect, we should probably not put him in that position. We have to be better than that as coaches and as players."
By this point in the Rams' latest rebuilding process, that's a refrain that has grown all too familiar.