Rams lament missed opportunities

Tight end Jared Cook and the Rams missed on several opportunities to swing the game in their favor. Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS -- It should tell you all you need to know about the state of the St. Louis Rams offense that on a day when their defense held the NFL's top-ranked offense to 12 points that linebacker James Laurinaitis found himself describing all the ways the defense could have played better.

"Well, quite frankly, we have got to find a way to get another turnover," Laurinaitis said. "They fumbled on a sack. We dropped a couple of their picks. You have got to make those plays, especially against a really good O. We fought back, we fought hard in that second half, really the second quarter on but we’ve got to find a way to get a couple more turnovers, flip field position and do our part."

To be fair, the Rams defense absolutely did its part in their 12-6 loss to the Steelers on Sunday afternoon. But Laurinaitis is right, in a game in which one big play might have tipped the scales in their favor, one caught interception, recovered fumble or long ball reeled in could have been the difference.

Such is life for a team with one of the slimmest margins for error in the NFL. But while winning teams often make their own luck, the Rams seemed to find themselves openly RSVPing no to every invitation they received to make that game-altering play.

Perhaps most maddening were three dropped balls that cost the Rams a potential touchdown, interception and first down, respectively.

At the top of the list was tight end Lance Kendricks' drop on a deep pass down the left sideline early in the third quarter. It was a play strikingly similar to the touchdown he caught in week 1 against Seattle but this time, Kendricks failed to haul it in. After the game, Kendricks said he saw the ball leave quarterback Nick Foles' hand but didn't see it again until it hit him in the facemask.

"I saw the ball go up, I just lost it in the light," Kendricks said. "I couldn’t see it coming down at all. It’s tough because those are the plays we’ve got to make to win the game. But if I could take that back, I would catch it 100 times over. I just lost it in the light. It’s hard to keep track of it when the ball was high in the air but I’ve still got to come down with it."

It wasn't the only backbreaking near-miss for the Rams.

"Yeah, that’s hard," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We had three drops today and you’re in a field position game like that where there’s potential swings and potential first downs, those are hard to overcome. He didn’t drop it on purpose but he needs to make that play."

The same could be said for Kendricks' first-quarter drop on what should have been a relatively easy first down. That drop killed the Rams' first drive near midfield. Of course, he wasn't alone in that.

With 10 minutes to play, Steelers quarterback Michael Vick fired a pass right at cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, who had plenty of room to run in front of him had he been able to catch it and run. Instead, he dropped it and the Steelers punted it away. On Pittsburgh's previous possession, Rams end Robert Quinn got to Vick for a sack, forcing a fumble at Pittsburgh's 27 but running back Le'Veon Bell beat Rams defenders to the ball.

It's nitpicking to say the Rams could have done more on two positive plays but they know that those are the types of plays that can determine an outcome in any given week.

"The margin of error is four five plays," Laurinaitis said. "There’s four or five plays that really decide football games it seems like every Sunday. Very rarely do you have teams just doing whatever the heck they want on you or vice-versa. So it comes down to a few explosive plays that really make all the difference. The margin of error is super small in this league."

On Sunday, the Rams got another painful reminder of just how small it is.