Rams Season Opener: Moral Victory, Literal Defeat
That was the too-true statement uttered by the bartender at McGurk's yesterday afternoon after the Cardinals blocked Josh Brown's 34-yard field goal attempt early in the first half. A sizable crowd gathered to soak in the Sunday sun on the patio (while 52,000 stayed pale inside the Ed Jones Dome) and, early in the game, nearly everyone echoed the exact same sentiments as the exasperated barkeep.
Then the Rams started to play like a legitimate NFL football team.
Sam Bradford and new receiver Mark Clayton seemed to have a cosmic connection -- combining for ten completions including one very impressive "Ohhhhh!" catch toward the end of the first half. Indeed, save for the inexcusable interception on what should have been the game-winning drive, Bradford looked like -- to quote the sports fan's favorite cliché -- "the real deal" and most definitely the future of the franchise.
On the defensive side, Chris Long finally (!) looked like the big, bad defensive end Rams fans have been, um, longing for. Long put a hurting on Cardinals QB Derek Anderson's ribs (anyone else notice Anderson clutching his chest like he was having a heart attack?) and was caught by the television cameras saying a few choice words to the Arizona offensive line. Amateur lip readers could make out Long repeatedly saying something something along the lines of, "I'm gonna fudge you up!"
Indeed, it was a quality game on both sides of the ball (thanks in large part to Steven Jackson and James Laurenitis) and the Rams honestly looked like the better team for 95 percent of the game. Then, even though the sun continued to shine on patio drinkers across town, that black cloud of bad luck settle over St. Louis.
Ron Bartell dropped an interception and later left Larry Fitzgerald wide open in the end zone for a touchdown. C.J. Ah You forced a fumble and defensive tackle Clifton Ryan scooped up the ball and rumbled toward the end zone -- "carrying it like a loaf of bread" as one on-looker eloquently described it -- only to have it swatted out of his hands Leon Lett-style by Arizona's Steve Breaston.
Despite the misfortunes, however, the Rams still had several chances for victory late in the fourth quarter. That alone is cause for celebration -- as one onlooker pointed out yesterday, "When was the last time you were interested in the last six minutes of a Rams game? Two or three years ago?"
Of course, the home team blew it once again (twice, really, after Tim Hightower coughed it up and gave the Rams a second chance with less than two minutes left in the game) thanks to poor clock management and the inability to make a big play when the team really needed it.
It's definitely a new year but, once again, it was the same sad result -- a 17-13 loss -- for the Rams. At least this time around it was exciting to watch.