Rams Fall Flat In Oakland

Steven Jackson (Getty/Thearon W. Henderson)

The St. Louis Rams season opener against the visiting Arizona Cardinals last week offered signs of hope for a football team that 1-15 last season.

But Sunday's 16-14 loss on the road against the Oakland Raiders, after leading 7-3 at halftime, showed that the Rams still have a long way to go.

"In this football league, you have to play a full game," rookie quarterback Sam Bradford told reporters. "You can't come out and play a half and expect to win. I felt like as an offense, we played good in the first half. You'd like to have more points than seven, but we got into a rhythm and I think everything was rolling smooth. Then we came out very flat in the second half."

The Raiders (1-1) made a change at quarterback, going from Jason Campbell to 27-year-old journeyman backup Bruce Gradkowski after halftime, and it provided a spark as Gradkowski led Oakland to three scoring drives.

"They called my number and I just said I'm just going to do my thing, go out and have fun," Gradkowski said. "We did that the second half. ... It was exciting to get a win. We're just looking forward to moving on."

The Rams (0-2), who lost for the 27th time in 28 games, will be looking to forget Sunday's game and move on as quickly as possible. St. Louis hosts Washington (1-1) and Seattle (1-1) the next two weeks.

But after losing against Derek Anderson and Gradkowski the last two weeks, the Rams will face Donovan McNabb and Matt Hasselbeck the next two weeks.

The Rams are still a work in progress offensively behind their No. 1 overall draft pick Bradford, which means that coach Steve Spagnuolo's squad needs to play better defensively and on special teams to pick up the slack for an offense that figures to be up and down all season.

After throwing 55 passes in the opener, Bradford completed 14 of 25 passes for 167 yards on Sunday, with two touchdowns to Mark Clayton and an interception.

Running back Steven Jackson rushed for 75 yards on 19 carries and also caught four passes for a team-high 50 yards. But when the Raiders keyed on Jackson in the second half, the offense struggled to move the ball.

The Rams gained 210 total yards on just 49 plays, with just 19 plays in the second half. The Raiders gained 404 yards on 79 plays and dominated the time of possession — 36:49 to 23:11.

St. Louis took a 7-3 lead into halftime after Bradford connected with Clayton for a 7-yard touchdown pass with 12:04 left in the second quarter and Oakland got a 38-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski with 3:22 left.

But the Raiders, behind Gradkowski, scored twice in the third quarter —Janikowski kicked a 41-yard field goal and Louis Murphy caught a 4-yard touchdown pass — and again early in the fourth on a 22-yard field goal.

The Rams, who missed a 36-yard field goal in the first quarter, cut the deficit to 16-14 on Clayton's 17-yard touchdown reception with 3:18 remaining.

St. Louis was never able to get the ball back.

The Rams had a roughing-the-passer penalty on defensive tackle Fred Robbins following an incomplete pass on second down and later allowed a 13-yard pass on third down to keep the drive going.

"The disappointing thing is that I have not seen or felt that this was an undisciplined football team," Spagnuolo said. "But how can you not think that after a game like that? I think we have just got to learn that you can play tough and physical football and be smart doing it. I did think we played tough and physical and I think Oakland played tough and physical. That's the kind of game it was. But it's too hard to win when you are giving up free 15-yard plays. It's too tough."

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