Sometimes best-laid plans simply hit a wall. Sunday night, that impenetrable wall was the Seahawks' defense, which limited the Rams to 184 total yards in a 16-6 loss, sending the Seattle to the post-season as the NFC West representative with a 7-9 record.
The Rams reached the red zone twice, but came away with just two field goals. They converted just two of 14 third-down plays and on their 13 possessions had seven three-and-outs plus the final possession when they gave up the ball on fourth down.
Still, the dreadful performance on the stage of Sunday Night Football shouldn't diminish the strides the team made in 2010. The Rams won six more games than last season and two last-minute losses to Tampa Bay and San Francisco kept them from clinching the division earlier.
The future appears bright as a young team continues to improve, but the 2011 schedule will be a challenge with eight games against the NFC East and AFC North and other conference games against New Orleans and Green Bay.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: At the top of the list is quarterback Sam Bradford, who set rookie records for pass attempts (590) and completions (354), and had the second-most passing yards ever by a rookie (3,512). He took every offensive snap, and most notably, established himself as a leader.
Bradford withstood the grind of a 16-game season, and while there were some down moments, most notably the season finale against Seattle, he will only improve as the team gets better players around him.
The offensive line, which had been an unstable group for several seasons, did a solid job of protecting Bradford, and only one game was missed all season by a starter: right tackle Jason Smith. Rookie left tackle Rodger Saffold started every game and he should be an anchor on Bradford's blind side for many years.
Although rookie wide receiver Danario Alexander had a tough night Sunday against Seattle, he showed that he can be a big-play threat in limited exposure after coming back from five surgeries on his left knee. The presence of Alexander will make for an interesting decision when the team decides what personnel moves will be made at the position in the offseason.
In the second season of coach Steve Spagnuolo's defensive system, significant improvement was made. Defensive ends Chris Long and James Hall had outstanding seasons, as did defensive tackle Fred Robbins and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The lack of consistent playmakers at wide receiver reduced the offense to running back Steven Jackson banging frequently against eight in the box and a large number of short passes by Bradford. He often had to check down to underneath routes and averaged 9.9 yards per completion for the season. While Amendola led the team with 85 receptions, he gained just 689 yards (8.1 per catch).
Losing wide receiver Donnie Avery for the season in the third preseason game eliminated the team's best deep threat, and after Mark Clayton was acquired in a trade in the week of the first game, he was lost for the season in Week 5.
The interior line wasn't able to consistently open holes up the middle for Jackson, and the team still lacks a complement to Jackson who could be a threat on the edge.
While the defense was better, strong safety James Butler had injury issues and Craig Dahl was only passable as his replacement. Four different players started at weak-side linebacker, so there was little stability at that position.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
-- QB Sam Bradford had a disappointing end to his rookie season, completing just 19 of 36 passes for 155 yards and a passer rating of 52.4. He was also sacked three times. He did establish rookie records for attempts (590), completions (354) and finished with 3,512, the second most ever by a rookie.
-- RB Steven Jackson had just 11 rushing attempts in the game against the Seahawks and added four receptions for 15 touches. The low figure was largely because the Rams had just 54 plays in the game and experienced seven three-and-outs.
-- WR Mardy Gilyard completed a disappointing rookie season on the inactive list for the fifth time. The team's fourth-round pick, Gilyard was inactive for the final three games of the season.
-- WR Danny Amendola, who entered the game against Seattle as the team's leading receiver with 83 catches, was targeted just four times in the game and had just two receptions for nine yards.
-- TE Michael Hoomanawanui was active Sunday against the Seahawks after missing four games because of a high ankle sprain. However, he played sparingly and was not targeted for any passes.