Protection breakdown dooms Rams, sets up game-winning field goal

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Let's take a look back at the turning point in the St. Louis Rams' 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday:

The situation: In reality, there is no play from this game that will be scrutinized more than the one that took place two snaps before the one we are about to cover. That was the one where Rams quarterback Case Keenum suffered a concussion on a hit from Baltimore defensive end Timmy Jernigan. That play ended with a neutral-zone infraction on Baltimore for 5 yards. Two plays later, the Rams faced a third-and-5 from their 46 with a minute to go and the game tied at 13.

Keenum stayed in the game after the concussion and threw an incomplete pass to open receiver Wes Welker on second down. That left the Rams seeking the ever-elusive third-down conversion. At worst, they wouldn't convert and would punt it away -- or so they thought.

The play: The Rams lined up with a receiver split left and two to the right with tight end Jared Cook in tight to the line but not attached. Keenum was in the shotgun with running back Benny Cunningham to his left. Baltimore lined up with four defenders at the line of scrimmage, two linebackers at normal depth and two safety deep with three cornerbacks on the field. All three cornerbacks offered press coverage looks at the line of scrimmage.

Before the snap, Keenum called out the protection and pointed to potential blitzers coming from his left side. There isn't much fancy to break down about this play as Baltimore linebacker Courtney Upshaw easily burst past left tackle Greg Robinson. Upshaw bent the edge so fast that Keenum never had a chance to get rid of the ball as Upshaw hit Keenum around the waist and right on the ball. Keenum coughed it up and Baltimore end Lawrence Guy recovered at the Rams' 41.

Robinson's pass protection issues have been well-documented, but this one was particularly brutal given that Baltimore didn't throw anything too exotic at him. He simply failed to establish the edge and Upshaw ran right past him. As the ball was snapped, Robinson can be seen looking at Baltimore linebacker Zach Orr, but it was Cunningham who emerged in the hole to block Orr. Robinson didn't get outside fast enough and Upshaw was there in a heartbeat.

With so many moving pieces elsewhere on the offensive line, the Rams have to be disappointed that the No. 2 overall pick continued to be the one to struggle in such important moments.

The fallout: The Ravens took over at the Rams' 41 and picked up 12 yards over the span of their next three plays. With three seconds left, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco spiked the ball to set up kicker Justin Tucker's 47-yard field goal. Tucker made the kick as time expired, sending the Rams to a loss that coach Jeff Fisher called one of the worst of his time in St. Louis.

The loss also dropped the Rams to 4-6 for the season and likely ruined any realistic chance they had to make a push for the postseason. Sometimes the turning point is a complex play, but perhaps it's fitting that in a game that was mostly ugly, it was a pretty simple pass protection error that led to the final result.