GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The St. Louis Rams' Lost Decade of football is now officially a decade. As a result of Sunday's 30-10 loss to Arizona, the Rams can do no better than 8-8 for 2013, and that's only if they sweep their remaining three games against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Seattle.
(Best of luck with that.)
So that makes 10 consecutive seasons without a winning record for St. Louis, dating back to the team's last division championship in 2003.
For those keeping track, the Rams (5-8) were officially eliminated from playoff consideration with the loss at University of Phoenix Stadium. Not since 2004 has the team participated in the postseason -- with a wild-card berth following an 8-8 regular season.
So the misery continues. Since opening this season with a 27-24 victory at home against Arizona, the Rams have gone 0-for-the-NFC West, losing to San Francisco (twice), Seattle, and now Arizona by a combined score of 102-43.
The St. Louis defense didn't exactly come out breathing fire, and overall the Rams put up only moderate resistance against an Arizona team still fighting for a wild-card berth at 8-5. The Rams couldn't run the ball, couldn't cover Larry Fitzgerald, and ended up in double figures penalty-wise for the second week in a row.
Arizona took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in eight plays, facing only one third down along the way.
There was no play longer than 19 yards on the drive and the Big Red were aided by an unnecessary roughness call against rookie safety T.J. McDonald for a late hit after an end-around by Patrick Peterson. Rashard Mendenhall finished off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.
The Rams responded with a 49-yard field goal drive, trimming the score to 7-3 with 6 minutes 12 seconds to go in the opening quarter. And that's the way it stayed until the final minute of the first half.
A key sequence occurred early in the second quarter, when safety Rodney McLeod knocked the ball loose from tight end Jim Dray just short of the goal line. Janoris Jenkins scooped up the ball and dashed down the right sideline. Jenkins was on his way to a touchdown but the play was ruled dead.
Why? Because the ruling on the field was a 17-yard touchdown catch by Dray. But a booth review showed that it was indeed a fumble, and that Dray was short of the goal line when the ball was poked out by McLeod.
It was small solace to the Rams, however. Instead of a touchdown by Jenkins on the return of the recovered fumble, they got the ball at their 10. And because the play was blown dead, Jenkins was ruled to have recovered in the end zone for a touchback, giving the Rams the ball at their 20.
Adding insult to,well,insult, Eugene Sims was charged with a personal foul for going after quarterback Carson Palmer. Sims was merely trying to block for Jenkins on the return, thinking the play was still live. So instead of a potential TD and a 10-7 lead, the Rams began at their 10 after the penalty (half the distance to the goal line) was marked off.
With the aid of a couple of more defensive penalties by the Rams, Arizona tacked on a TD in the final minute of the first half to take a 14-3 halftime lead. A pass interference penalty on Janoris Jenkins, covering Michael Floyd on third-and-9, kept the drive going. Otherwise, the Cardinals would've had to punt.
Given the reprieve, Arizona got a first down at the St. Louis 45. An unsportsmanlike conduct flag against defensive end Robert Quinn made the task 15 yards easier a few plays later for the Cardinals, who ended up scoring on a Palmer 7-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald.
That gave the Cardinals a 14-3 lead with 50 seconds left in the half
It didn't stay that way for long once the second half started. On the third play of the third quarter, quarterback Kellen Clemens was hit by Cardinals linebacker John Abraham, who beat Jake Long on the play. Abraham's hit took some steam off Clemens' throw and linebacker Karlos Dansby stepped in front of intended receiver Jared Cook for a "pick six." Dansby's 23-yard interception return for a TD made it 21-3 Cardinals just 18 seconds into the second half.
After an exchange of punts, the Rams were backed up on their 1, when Abraham struck again. Looping from the left side of the Rams' offensive line, Abraham steamed up the middle untouched, dropping Clemens for a safety. On the play, center Tim Barnes -- making his first NFL start -- turned to his right to block. Left guard Chris Williams turned to his left. That created a natural lane for Abraham who sacked Clemens in the end zone.
That safety gave Arizona a 23-3 lead, and the rout was on.
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