ST. LOUIS A season that was lost many weeks ago is unlike anything he has lived before, so Sam Bradford leaned back in front of his locker and continued to wait. He was dressed in full uniform more than 10 minutes after he walked off the field to fan disinterest and personal disgust. He buried his face in a cream-colored towel as the sound of teammates unfastening their pads filled the St. Louis Rams' locker room.
The second-year quarterback was beyond frustrated, and he never wants to be part of a similar situation again. The postgame mood Sunday following the Seattle Seahawks' 24-7 rout at the Edward Jones Dome was not unlike those that followed the Rams' decisive losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins: The former Heisman Trophy winner and first overall draft pick struggled to grasp his offense's lack of production. Only now, more than seven weeks after those early defeats, the Rams' issues had not improved. And the season's end is fast approaching.
On Sunday, Bradford stumbled through a 20-for-40 passing performance for 181 yards with one touchdown and one interception on an afternoon when his team fell to 2-8. Backup quarterback A.J. Feeley whispered words to the young player before leaving. Bradford did not move a blue dress shirt, black blazer, black pants and a blue tie waiting to be worn feet away.
"I've never been a part of a team that has been in this situation," Bradford said later. "I don't like it. I do know this: With six games left, I'm going to continue to work as hard as I can to do everything I can to help this team win. I'm not going to quit. I'm going to push our guys to continue to work. I think that's all we can do right now."
All the Rams did Sunday was far from what was needed to earn consecutive victories for the first time this season. The league's lowest-scoring offense produced 185 yards. And running back Steven Jackson was held to 42 yards rushing on 15 carries, snapping a streak of three straight games with at least 125 yards.
The Rams' already-depleted offense sustained another injury Sunday. They began without tackles Rodger Saffold (pectoral) and Jason Smith (concussion). Then former practice squad player Kevin Hughes entered the game in the first half after tackle Mark Levoir (pectoral) left the field.
"It forced us to get the ball out a little quicker than some of the plays we had in our game plan," Bradford said of Levoir's absence. "When that happens, we've got to make those completions."
But for the Rams, production was scarce. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Seahawks leading 17-7, the scattered remains of the announced 56,400 in attendance booed as Bradford walked off the field after throwing an interception to defensive Red Bryant deep in St. Louis territory.
Three plays later, Seahawks running back Justin Forsett burst through a hole on the right side of his offensive line for a 22-yard touchdown. The sequence gave Seattle its decisive margin of victory, and Bradford slumped on a bench next to Feeley as the Seahawks celebrated.
The sight was another example of the struggle the Rams' offense has had in adapting to first-year coordinator Josh McDaniels' scheme. Aside from scoring 31 points in a surprise victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 8, the Rams have not scored more than the 16 points they produced in a loss to the New York Giants in Week 2. In addition, they have been held to no more than seven points four times.
Bradford's production has suffered as well. Last year, he earned NFL Offensive Rookie Player of the Year honors in former coordinator Pat Shurmur's system. Bradford threw for seven touchdowns through seven starts that year, compared to four through the same number of starts this fall. He has looked hurried and confused at times this season even without defensive pressure.
On Sunday, Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo entered a small room deep in the Edward Jones Dome and pounded a podium before beginning his postgame news conference. He still believes he has playmakers but understands injuries to his offensive line have limited his team. But to him, blame is shared among all positions.
Yet reason for that blame eludes Spagnuolo. Early in his postgame address Sunday, he called his offense's issues "unexplainable" a message that has been repeated in recent weeks.
"As an offense, we couldn't get together in a rhythm," Jackson said of Sunday. "We knew they were pretty good against the run. As the injuries occurred, as things went down, we became pretty much isolated to doing certain things."
The Rams' offense has lacked rhythm all season, and Bradford's unit must score more in the following weeks to make the remaining schedule as painless as possible. Unlike a year ago, the NFC West will be long decided before the final week. The San Francisco 49ers improved to 9-1 with a victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and hold a five-game advantage over the Seahawks for the division lead.
For St. Louis, competing for an NFC West championship seems far away. After Bradford took a knee to kill the final seconds Sunday, Seahawks supporters cheered behind their team's bench like so many opposing fans have done in this building in recent months. There were fewer boos than those that followed losses here to the Ravens and Redskins, perhaps because what Rams fans witnessed had become all too common.
Later, before leaving for the night, Bradford was asked what went wrong in the latest disappointment. He gripped both sides of the podium. He started to answer. Then he paused.
"I'm not sure," Bradford said, looking dazed. "We're going to have to look at the tape, obviously."
The tape will show a familiar sight: Another day when the Rams' offense struggled. And another day when the Rams lost.