Friday, September 12, 2014

Rams Drop Opener to Vikings

The Rams had a rough beginning to their season on Sunday, losing a 34-6 contest to the Vikings at the Edward Jones Dome. Each phase of the game was largely ineffective, leading to the lopsided final score.

While St. Louis’ defense was able to neutralize star running back Adrian Peterson -- holding him to just 75 yards on 21 carries -- the unit could not say the same for Cordarrelle Patterson. With just over two minutes in the third quarter, the wide receiver took a pitch from quarterback Matt Cassel and broke off a 67-yard touchdown run. The score increased the Vikings’ lead to 20-3, and Minnesota didn’t look back.

“We didn’t play very well today,” head coach Jeff Fisher said. “I was not anticipating that out of us. I’m just disappointed. It seemed throughout the game that different players took turns making drive-killing mistakes, or allowing drives to continue.”

“There’s things that just happened. If I could explain them, I should be able to prevent them,” Fisher added. “But I’m certainly going to go into detail with them tomorrow. There are things that just should not happen.”

Stopping the run was one area in which the Rams struggled, giving up a total of 186 yards on 30 plays -- a 6.2 yard average.

“We felt like we were in pretty good position -- we just didn’t execute,” Fisher said.

The Rams also had a difficult time with penalties, which Fisher said “killed drives.” St. Louis was flagged for 13 times for 121 yards.

Shaun Hill began the game under center, but was replaced by Austin Davis at the start of the third quarter due to a quad injury. Fisher said that Hill hurt it at some point during the first two quarters.

“At halftime, we decided that it would not be a good idea for him to return,” Fisher said. “It was mild and it was getting worse, so at that point you have to pull him.”

“There’s no reason to make any excuses, that’s for sure,” Hill said on his performance with an injury. “The leg is a long ways from the head.”

Neither quarterback was able to do much offensively, as Hill finished 8-of-13 for 81 yards, and Davis finished 16-of-23 for 192 yards. Both threw an interception.

“We made too many mistakes,” Davis said. “Whether it was taking sacks or penalties, just whatever it was -- you name it, we kind of found a way to mess it up. So we have to flip this thing around soon as we can, and not let it drag us down.”

Hill had some decent moments early in the game, particularly when he targeted wide receiver Brian Quick. The two connected four times in the first half for 70 yards -- including the offense’s first play, which was a 23-yard pass.

One of the few other bright spots in the contest was defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The rookie notched four tackles during the contest, including two for loss on Peterson. Rookie E.J. Gaines, who started at cornerback in place of Trumaine Johnson, had three tackles and two passes defended.

Minnesota took a 13-0 lead into the half on two Blair Walsh field goals -- one in the first quarter, and another in the second -- and a late second-quarter touchdown. Hill’s interception set up the Vikings’ TD, as he was picked off at the St. Louis 35 with 1:09 before the break. It took four plays and 48 seconds, but quarterback Matt Cassel hit receiver Greg Jennings in the back of the end zone for the 8-yard score.

The Rams scored their first points of the game in the third quarter on a 56-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal, cutting the lead to 13-3. The converted kick tied the mark for the third longest in Rams’ history.

But that was when the Vikings answered with Patterson’s long touchdown run to make it a three-possession game. Cassel added another touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, and Harrison Smith returned a Davis interception 81 yards to increase Minnesota’s lead to 34-3.

Zuerlein hit a 46-yard field goal with 1:26 left to close out the scoring.

While the game was a disappointment for everyone, Fisher told the team that the opening contest does not define the season.

“It’s unfortunate that it ended the way it did here at home with the enthusiasm that our fans brought to the game,” Fisher said. “We’ve got work to do and we’ve got another game in a week, so we need to get ready for it.”

The Rams play the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay next Sunday at 3:05 p.m.

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