The St. Louis Rams got good news on wide receiver Donnie Avery, who underwent an MRI exam on his hip that revealed a bruise. They can’t afford to lose any more players at a position that’s been thin since training camp.
Avery’s injury early in Sunday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars deprived the winless Rams (0-6) of their only player able to stretch the field. Without him, the running game got shut down, especially in the second half, and the untested wide receivers the Rams had left weren’t able to make enough plays.
The Jaguars eventually wore down the Rams‘ defense, which protected a slim lead until the fourth quarter. Jacksonville had the ball for 22:45 in the second half, and ran 84 plays to only 53 for St. Louis.
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“Even though they were fighting their butts off the whole time it’s hard to play that many plays and hold up at the end of the game,” Spagnuolo said Monday.
That overwhelming advantage in ball control was just enough to saddle the Rams with their 16th straight loss, the longest in the NFL. They almost ended the slump. Almost.
“Every week is tough,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that this one is a little bit tougher. It’ll be even tougher when you watch the film and see the opportunities we left on the field.”
It didn’t help matters that Torry Holt was one of the players helping beat them. The Rams released Holt, a seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver in 10 seasons, in the offseason and he had five catches for 101 yards against his old team while also drawing two pass interference calls against Ron Bartell.
The 100-yard game was Holt’s first since Dec. 2, 2007.
“That’s absolutely terrible,” Holt said. “That’s not all my fault. You can’t say that’s all my fault.”
The decision to release Holt left the Rams lean at wide receiver entering training camp, with Avery coming off a nice rookie season and others with plenty to prove. Laurent Robinson was the team leader early in the season before a broken leg and ankle injuries landed him on injured reserve after three games.
After Avery was hurt in the first quarter, among Bulger’s targets were Tim Carter and Danny Amendola – the former re-signed only last Monday and the latter with the team only three weeks.
Given a do-over, Spagnuolo said he’d structure the roster the same way, with emphasis on the defensive line and fewer wide receivers. The Rams have dressed four wideouts all season, and if they have to go without Avery against the unbeaten Colts on Sunday, the coach said the next player on the list would simply have to step up.
“There are teams that are deeper than others,” Bulger said. “We’re a young team and ask a lot out of our younger guys.”
Spagnuolo refused to second-guess his decision to go for a tying field goal with 7 seconds left instead of taking one more shot from the Jacksonville 9, leaning on research from the other NFL teams he’s coached for. He had a good feeling about the offense after the tying drive, if only the Rams could win the coin flip.
Bartell called tails, it came up heads and the Rams never got the ball back as the Jaguars drove for the winning field goal. Bartell (mild concussion) and linebacker Will Witherspoon (hip, back) were hurt on the same play early in Jacksonville’s final possession, leaving St. Louis short on defense.
Bartell will undergo medical tests Tuesday. An MRI exam showed Witherspoon has a bruise, but Spagnuolo said the linebacker had trouble getting on and off the team plane Sunday night.
Spagnuolo thought the Rams had enough urgency in their final drive, even though it took them 1:07 to run the first two plays. The Rams ran a no-huddle offense, but with plays still being relayed from the sideline.
“I guess I’d have to watch the TV copy to determine if it was fast enough,” Spagnuolo said. “I don’t remember thinking it was too slow.”