Originally written on Rams Herd  |  Last updated 9/9/12

Ultimately, the Rams' upset bid of the Detroit Lions came down to this: a third-down and five play with 2:03 on the clock, just outside the red zone, tied up 20-all. Get the first down, and the Rams can control the clock and have the last shot at putting points on the board. But before we consider what the Rams did on that play, we have to consider everything that brought them to this point, standing on the brink of notching an improbable win against a playoff team. 

We have to consider a banged-up offensive line that lost Scott Wells (foot) and Rodger Saffold (head/neck) after finally being able to four of its ideal starting five on the field. We have to consider Sam Bradford's performance, who had to keep a cool head after taking a series of hits in the second half from an amped up Lions defense. We have to consider Brandon Gibson's redemptive performance after taking a boneheaded penalty in the first half. And we have to consider a series of shots to the gut delivered by the Rams defense to the Lions and their crowd.

Jeff Fisher made a statement to his defense from the start, putting them on the field to open the game against Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Naturally, Stafford put the offense in gear and motored them down the field, mixing runs and passes as they worked into goal-to-go territory. But Janoris Jenkins snuffed the drive with a brilliant little gamble, abandoning his trail position to step in front of a Stafford pass at the goal line, and claim it as his own.

Jenkins' pick was the first of three first-half interceptions that the Rams suckered Stafford into throwing. Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Cortland Finnegan provided the other two, with Finnegan running his in for a go-ahead touchdown that put the Rams in control of the game at halftime.

For most of the first half, a healthy offensive line featuring Robert Turner at left guard was able to fend off the Lions' vaunted front four and give Sam Bradford plenty of time to find receivers downfield. Bradford showed poise and efficiency, keying long point-scoring drives of 8 and 10 plays, but was unable to connect with rookie Chris Givens on his deepest strike of the day, and unable to get the Rams into the end zone.

Nevertheless, this was a game being patiently managed into a viable upset bid. But in the second half, things started to go haywire.

First, the Rams offense took the field without their starting center. Scott Wells was on the sideline with some sort of foot injury, putting Turner in the center spot and powerful-but-raw rookie Rokevious Watkins in at left guard. I'm a fan of Watkins, but the dropoff in pass protection against veteran DT Corey Williams was immediate and steep. Twice, Williams single-handedly blew up Bradford's protection to deliver a big hit, forcing a fumble on one that the Rams were lucky to recover.

Second, Matthew Stafford made a simple adjustment - he stopped throwing the ball to the men in white jerseys. The Lions offense sputtered for several drives, but managed to tie the game on a short field goal drive set up by a brilliant punt return by Stefan Logan.

Danny Amendola returned the favor with a nice return of his own, setting up Bradford with a short field. Five plays later, Bradford took a quick step back from under center and launchd a snap throw down the sideline to a streaking Brandon Gibson, who had just enough separation on the Lions' rookie corner to make a brilliant catch in the end zone.

The 20-13 lead was the Rams' third of the game, and the biggest. However, it was also the shortest-lives, and it came at a high cost, as Rodger Saffold collapsed mid-block after taking an inadvertent shot to the crown of his helmet.  Stafford came roaring back to answer with a touchdown drive of his own, taking just five plays and 2:26 off the game clock.

Sam Bradford got the ball back with an improbable mission: bleed the remaining time off the clock with a wheezing offense that was now starting two of the game's pariahs in Barry Richardson and Wayne Hunter at tackles, a career backup at center, and a rookie beyond his depth at guard.

Amazingly, that's exactly what he did over the next eleven plays and five-plus minutes of game time. With the Lions defense keying on Steven Jackson (as they had all day), Bradford completed four of five passes, each one for a first down, moving the chains and bleeding the clock and sucking the life out of the Ford Field dome.

One more completion, one more pass on a third and five, and the Lions would be unable to stop the clock, and would no longer be in control of their fate. The Rams would have consummated their upset bid and given Jeff Fisher a rare commodity as St Louis coach - a first-game win. The last coach to do that in St Louis, Scott Linehan, now stood across the sideline hoping to get his offense on the field one last time.

As we know from the game's outcome, Bradford couldn't complete that pass. Greg Zuerlein was brought onto the field to give the Rams one last lead, but the Lions cruelly took it - and the rest of the clock - away.

Instead of a win, we got the wrong end of a thrilling game. We got 58 minutes of excitement followed by a two-minute flashback of the last five years of futility. We got a loss that almost, but not quite, feels like a victory.

Almost, but not quite.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Trent Richardson has 50-50 chance at making Raiders roster

Rex Ryan takes subtle jabs at Jets' upper management

Everett Golson responds to Paul Finebaum's criticism

Mark Sanchez says it ‘crazy’ to call Chip Kelly racist

Malcolm Butler daring Brady to throw his way in practice

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Geno Smith confident worst is behind him and the Jets

Ronda Rousey knocks out Bethe Correia in 34 seconds

Von Miller earns dismissal from NFL’s drug program

Ian Kennedy watches birth of daughter on FaceTime before start

Matt Williams wants Bryce Harper to stop getting ejected

Five most underrated players in the NFL

WATCH: Dez Bryant throws punches at training camp

There's no need for Notre Dame to join a conference

WATCH: Benches clear during Royals-Blue Jays game

Jim Harbaugh gives Nicki Minaj a shoutout on Twitter

The Kardashian sisters still call Caitlyn Jenner 'Bruce'

Tennessee fan recreates Neyland Stadium in backyard

Lolo Jones: I could last at least a minute against Rousey

Bears have very strict rules for media during training camp

Jamaal Charles: I feel like I'm the LeBron James of football

Ronda Rousey: I'll fight Cyborg if she stops taking steroids

Danny Garcia beats Paulie Malignaggi, remains undefeated

Bobby Wagner, Seahawks agree to contract extension

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Notre Dame doesn't need a conference

Rex takes jabs at Jets' management

Sanchez: It's 'crazy' to call Chip racist

Ronda Rousey calls out Cyborg

Five most underrated players in the NFL

Five potential NFL salary cap casualties this preseason

Winners and losers of the 2015 MLB trade deadline

Pirates do Pirates at deadline: Neat little moves

Mets acquire Cespedes from Tigers

Ranking the NFL’s 32 head coaches

Five worst baseball trades since 2000

Examining the state of the NFL

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker