KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams have made a habit of starting as the hare and ending as the tortoise in 2014, but for all of those slow finishes, many of them can be directly linked to a series of missed opportunities.
And there will be no sequence of plays that better sums up this year's team so far than what happened midway through the second quarter of Sunday's loss.
In a 7-7 game with the ball at Kansas City's 8-yard line after a fumble recovery by defensive end William Hayes, the Rams somehow managed to come away with no points. Not a touchdown, not a field goal, nothing. Instead of at least a 3-point Rams' lead, Kansas City got the ball back and promptly drove for a field goal of its own.
It was a six-point swing that turned more painful as the Chiefs rattled off the next 24 points of the game. They scored all 34 of their points after the Rams' opening touchdown.
"We clearly got outplayed the second half of this game in all three phases," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "It probably started before half when we had the turnover, got sacked, got no points and then gave up points. So this team is going to have to learn to play consistent through 60 minutes."
Really, the most consistent thing about this Rams team is the repeated use of that final sentence. Talk of finishing a game, playing a full 60 minutes and other such cliches are staples around the St. Louis locker room, yet nothing seems to change -- with rare exceptions like last week's win against Seattle mixed in.
Sunday's failure came at all levels, but the steamroller didn't really fire up until after the missed second-quarter chance.
The Rams' offense had put together an impressive opening drive for a touchdown, and though it hadn't scored since, had at least moved the ball. On first down from the Chiefs' 8, running back Tre Mason ran up the middle for 1 yard. On second down, the Chiefs blanketed a Rams receiver corps as pressure came through the Rams' struggling offensive line and forced quarterback Austin Davis to scramble for a yard.
Third down is when things really took a turn for the worse as Davis felt pressure, escaped the pocket to the right and instead of throwing the ball away or hanging in the pocket to find receiver Chris Givens in the back of the end zone, took a 14-yard sack.
"That was a big point in the game," Davis said. "Obviously you get the big turnover. At minimum, you’ve got to come away with three, but, really, you need to score a touchdown. I’ve got to throw it away. We’re even closer and it would have been more of a chip shot for Greg so I have got to do a better job of throwing the football away and managing the situation. You get the field goal and everyone feels a little bit better. Those types of plays are critical in a close game, as it was at that point."
In fairness, Davis had thrown a touchdown earlier in the game on a similar play when he rolled out and found tight end Lance Kendricks in the back of the end zone. Taking a sack isn't a good play but it still left kicker Greg Zuerlein a 38-yard chip shot. Or so it seemed.
Zuerlein, who has developed a knack for missing kicks at crucial times, said he rushed the kick and didn't set his plant foot properly.
"Anytime you go out there they expect you to make the field goal, obviously you should, being that close," Zuerlein said.
Once again, there are a lot of simple enough things the Rams should be able to do to help them win games. They're the things that winning teams do and losing teams don't. And for as long as the Rams don't do them, they'll continue to get the same result.