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Rams Lack Enough Firepower, Lose to Patriots 23-16

The Steven Jackson-less St. Louis Rams lost their first game under interim head coach Jim Haslett to the New England Patriots in Week 8. The Rams could not take advantage of two interceptions by Matt Cassel and scored only 6 points in the second half as the Patriots took the lead for good on a touchdown pass to Kevin Faulk. The big-play Rams offense could not come up with enough big plays to win the game and the defense wore down as the game went along against the short-passing of New England.

The Rams severely missed Steven Jackson as Travis Minor and Antonio Pittman were not the answer and were never able to get loose into the second level of the Patriots defense. Pittman and Minor too often went down with first contact with an arm tackle by the Patriots defensive line. The holes created were not huge, but seemed to be enough for mid-sized gains, but both backup running backs continually went down at first contact. The Rams also missed their other injured starter Adam Carriker as the Patriots were able to run the ball down the middle of the Rams defense. Additionally, Leonard Little was injured at the end of the first half and the Rams were unable to get consistent pressure with their pass rush and Matt Cassel was able to get very comfortable in the pocket. Chris Long had two sacks on two great plays, but Long was not consistently hurrying Cassel.

Besides Chris Long, another bright spot for the Rams was the play of Donnie Avery. The rookie speedster had his best game of the year with six catches for 163 yards and a touchdown. He was the Rams only offensive weapon on the day and when the Patriots began to double(and triple!) cover him, the Rams offense sputtered. Dante Hall was able to rally the Rams with three catches on their final drive, but Marc Bulger threw an interception as he was trying to fit the ball into Donnie Avery inside the 10 yard line on 3rd and long with time running out.

The Rams were booked for 9 penalties for 63 yards, included some killer penalties and a huge penalty on the opening kickoff that brought back a 80-some yard return by Dante Hall. Patriots had 0 (zero!!) penalties enforced.

Looking at the big picture, the Rams continued to play with spirit and fight that is indicative of the Jim Haslett Rams, but missed out on too many chances to beat the hobbled, but still great New England Patriots. It is going to be a tough loss for the Rams to swallow, especially after leading in the fourth quarter, but the Rams were able to continue their improved play. Looking ahead to week 9, the first place Arizona Cardinals come to the Edward Jones Dome to face the Rams in a battle that will have a lot of say about who wins the NFC West.

UPDATE 10:30pm: Great reaction from Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at his Extra Points Blog here about the missed opportunities in the game and other observations.  I especially agree with his points 1 and 3. 

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