Seattle - What would have been an incredible worst-to-first turnaround for St. Louis fell short.
The Rams, who finished last in the NFL in 2009 with a 1-15 record, missed out on claiming the NFC West division title when they lost, 16-6, to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night at Qwest Field.
“Always disappointing when you come into a game that’s a must-win, winner-take-all (game) and you just come up short,” Rams running back Steven Jackson said. “For whatever reason we came up short. It’s very difficult and now the season’s over. It ends so abruptly.”
St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo refused to get into specifics about what his team could have done differently to win its first NFC West title since 2003 until he reviewed video of the game, but he admitted the Rams blew some opportunities.
“Credit Seattle and wish them luck next week,” the second-year coach said. “They played better. They won and we lost. A lot of things we should and could have done better.”
Poor field position helped keep St. Louis’ offense in check. The Rams started inside their own 19 six times. Just once did they begin a possession in Seattle territory.
“Field position was an issue,” Spagnuolo said. “It seemed like we were always coming out of our own end zone.”
St. Louis’ 184 yards of total offense was, by far, its lowest total this season. Jackson, named to the Pro Bowl last week, was held to 45 yards on 11 carries. He caught four passes for 39 yards, too.
“For the most part, we were out of sync,” Jackson said, “but I don’t think they completely shut down the offense.”
The Rams and Seahawks finished with identical 7-9 records, but St. Louis lost out on qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2004 because Seattle had a better record against division opponents. That the Rams, who endured the worst three-year stretch of any team in NFL history from 2007-2009 when they went 6-42, were even in postseason contention was a step in the right direction.
Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, the top pick in the 2010 NFL draft, played a big role in the turnaround this season. He completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Having a young quarterback of Bradford’s caliber gives the Rams a jump on division rivals Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle – none of the three teams have solidified long-term solutions at quarterback – heading into the 2011 season.
“He’s a very good quarterback.,” Jackson said. “He’s going to be the quarterback that leads this team for a long time. If you want to look for positives in this situation, I think he’s a very bright spot.”
Bradford didn’t play poorly against Seattle, but he couldn’t come up with a big play when the Rams needed one. He completed 19 of 36 passes for 155 yards and threw an interception in the fourth quarter that led to a Seahawks field goal.
Bradford was one of 20 players on the Rams’ roster with two or fewer years of NFL experience. Jackson said he didn’t believe St. Louis’ inexperience played a role in a poor performance on the big stage of a nationally televised contest that was essentially a playoff game.
“I thought emotionally guys were jacked up and ready for the moment,” Jackson said. “Seattle did a good job and they outplayed us today. We knew what was at stake.”