Rams vs. Cardinals: Takeaways from St. Louis 30-10 Loss to Arizona

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerContributor IIIDecember 9, 2013

Rams vs. Cardinals: Takeaways from St. Louis 30-10 Loss to Arizona

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    The St. Louis Rams (5-8) suffered a second consecutive loss against the Arizona Cardinals (8-5) in a disappointing effort that ended with a score of 30-10. 

    The Rams were able to find the end zone in the second half of the game following a 56-yard run by Tavon Austin, but that's about the only positive for St. Louis from this game. 

    Arizona dominated at the line of scrimmage and limited the St. Louis running backs to just 44 yards (not counting Austin's big run). 

    On defense, the Rams forced just five incompletions in 32 attempts. Carson Palmer torched the secondary for 269 yards, while the Arizona backs added 108 yards on the ground. 

    It was an all-around disaster for St. Louis. 

    It won't get any easier for the Rams, as they host the dominant New Orleans Saints next week. 

    For now, here are my takeaways from St. Louis' loss to Arizona. 

Tavon Austin Is St. Louis' Top Offensive Player

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    Tavon Austin had a slow start to his rookie season, but he's the only exciting element to the St. Louis offense this year.

    The Rams were smothered by the Arizona front eight and couldn't do anything on the ground. Tavon's 56-yard run was the only offensive play worth watching from this game, at least from St. Louis' perspective.

    The last two games have been awful offensive showings for the Rams. If not for Austin's dazzling play, St. Louis football would be about as thrilling as a third-grade soccer match.

    For the sake of entertainment, the Rams need to feed Austin the ball as much as humanly possible in the final games.

Kellen Clemens Is Not the Answer...Not Even as the No. 2 Quarterback

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    Kellen Clemens had some fun this season and produced the two best games of his eight-year career against Chicago and Indianapolis, but it's time to move on.

    With two picks, a 59 percent completion rate and numerous questionable throws, it's officially time for the Rams to move on.

    St. Louis can find a better backup quarterback. It's just a question of whether that guy is already on the roster.

    With nothing to lose and nothing to gain, it's time for second-year player Austin Davis to get his first NFL start.

    Davis completed just 51.1 percent of his passes in the preseason, but he had three touchdowns and zero picks. Davis also shares Clemens' mobility and can extend plays with his legs.

    Before the season ends, it's time to find out what the Rams have in Davis.

    Here's a more in-depth look at why the Rams should start Davis. 

Stedman Bailey Has a Bright Future

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    Stedman Bailey had just two receptions in the first 12 weeks, but the rookie third-round draft pick now has three catches and over 40 yards in each of the last two games.

    Bailey entered training camp at the bottom of the depth chart, but he has worked hard and has gradually earned more and more playing time this season. Nothing has been handed to him.

    Bailey does not have elite speed or size, but he constantly works to improve his hands and route-running. His skill set and work ethic is similar to former Rams great Isaac Bruce.

    Bailey is one of many young Rams players capable of making a big impact in the near future.

Zac Stacy Hits a Wall

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    Zac Stacy has been one of the better offensive players for St. Louis this season, but the rookie back had the least productive game of his career against Arizona.

    Stacy was held to just 25 rushing yards on 14 carries, which averages out to about two yards a carry.

    Starting center Scott Wells was out of action in this game, and that certainly didn't help, but overall, the Arizona front eight was just too much for the Rams.

    Stacy did score St. Louis' only touchdown of the game, but overall, he was a non-factor.

Brian Schottenheimer Is in Trouble

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    Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer seemingly gained some job security after his unit had two monster performances against Chicago and Indianapolis, but the offense has regressed once again.

    Excuses can certainly be made for Schottenheimer, such as the absence of his starting quarterback and the youth on the roster, but he deserves some blame.

    There's no good explanation for why Austin, the top playmaker on offense, had only two touches against Arizona. Getting the ball in Austin's hands has been an issue all season.

    And there are also concerns dating back to the season opener, such as why it took so long for Stacy to get a shot at running back.

    The Rams made significant investments on offense. The team signed Jared Cook and Jake Long to major contracts. General manager Les Snead used high draft picks to secure Austin and Brian Quick, and neither player has been properly utilized this season.

    For all the investments made on offense, the results have been embarrassing. Schottenheimer may have to pay the price in the offseason.

Robert Quinn Losing the Battle for Defensive Player of the Year

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    Robert Quinn is virtually a lock for the Pro Bowl and has put together an impressive season, but after two weeks with no sacks, his Defensive Player of the Year hopes are vanishing.

    There's still a chance Quinn will catch fire in the final weeks and have a few monster games to put him over the edge, but Luke Kuechly and Robert Mathis are pulling ahead.

    Quinn has 13 sacks this season and trails Mathis by 2.5 sacks. With some luck, Quinn can catch up and secure the first-annual Deacon Jones award.

Officials Owe Janoris Jenkins One Touchdown

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    Janoris Jenkins picked up a Rob Housler fumble at the goal line and returned it 99 yards for a touchdowns. 

    Well, he didn't quite travel 99 yards. The officials blew the play dead after about 50 yards. 

    The referees wrongfully assumed Housler crossed the plane before coughing up the ball. Unfortunately, he did not. 

    The refs were trigger-happy with the whistle, so rather than letting the play unfold and sorting things out later on, they mistakenly cut the play short and cost the Rams a touchdown.

    Arizona fans will say an unnecessary roughness penalty for a Rams hit on Carson Palmer would have prevented the touchdown, but that is not the case.

    The Rams were in the process of returning a fumble, and Palmer was hit as the result of a block. He was fair game in that scenario. The penalty was only called because the play was whistled dead.  

    Had the officials done a proper job, there would have been no penalty, and the Rams would have earned a touchdown. 

    It could have been a different game if that play was called correctly. It's sad when blatant officiating errors alter the outcome of a game. 

Alec Ogletree Is Quietly Excelling

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    Rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree had a bad missed tackle in the opening quarter, but he finished with eight tackles and a sack against Arizona.

    Ogletree now has 93 tackles, four forced fumbles, one sack and one interception returned 98 yards for a touchdown.

    Ogletree is not making memorable highlights on a weekly basis, but it's clear the talented linebacker is just as advertised.

    Ogletree will be an incredible asset for the St. Louis defense moving forward.

Rams Need Sam Bradford Back in the Worst Way

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    Clemens was phenomenal against Chicago and Indianapolis, but it's suddenly becoming obvious that Sam Bradford is an important part of the team.

    The passing game has struggled ever since Clemens took over. He has been held under 250 yards in all six of his starts and has finished under 200 yards three times.

    Clemens was initially able to get away with his erratic passing since the run game was excelling. Now that the last two opponents have silenced the run game, forcing the Rams to rely on the pass, the difference between the two quarterbacks is now painfully clear.

    For those who wrongfully assumed Clemens would challenge Bradford moving forward, please watch a replay of St. Louis' disastrous performance against Arizona.

    As you watch, remind yourself that Bradford was on pace for 32 touchdown passes and 3,800 yards before going down.