It doesn't get any easier for the Rams, who now go on the road to play Tampa Bay and Dallas after suffering two excruciating home losses to Carolina and San Francisco.
In each game, the Rams led 13-7 in the third quarter and had an opportunity to seize control. But, two turnovers in the third quarter of both games gave the momentum back to their opponents and allowed each to take 14-13 leads.
A Steven Jackson lost fumble at the Carolina 26-yard line led to a 68-yard touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme to Steve Smith. Against the 49ers, wide receiver Torry Holt caught a 20-yard pass from quarterback Marc Bulger, but had the ball punched out of his grasp at the San Francisco eight-yard line. The ball went out of bounds in the end zone for a touchback. Nine plays later, 49ers running back Frank Gore ran 43 yards for a touchdown on 4th-and-1.
Said coach Scott Linehan, "We haven't been able to finish for two weeks in a row and that falls on the head coach. We have to find ways to win. When we lead at halftime and lead in the third quarter, we have to find a way to sustain it and finish out games. It is my responsibility and it is on my shoulders, period."
Of course, Linehan had a lot of help. Protection issues against a shuffled offensive line led to six sacks of Bulger, and he admitted often throwing to his primary receiver because there wasn't enough time to go through his normal progressions.
"It's an issue," Bulger said of his protection. "There's definitely some things we have to shore up."
Fixing the problems will be more difficult on the road, where crowd noise and good defenses can affect the communication on a line, especially one as young and inexperienced as the Rams'.
Against San Francisco, the Rams' offensive line had three players in positions they didn't play the week before. Left tackle Orlando Pace was lost for the season because of a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff. Right guard Richie Incognito remained out with an ankle injury.
Right tackle Alex Barron moved to the left side, Brown switched from right guard to right tackle and Claude Terrell was at right guard. Brown had played tackle only briefly in just one game in his NFL career. Barron was a left tackle in college, but had worked almost exclusively at right tackle since being selected by the Rams in the first round of the 2005 draft.
Still, despite the rough start, safety Corey Chavous scoffed at suggestions the season is lost.
He said, "The bottom line is when you look at football, the one thing you have to be aware of when you are evaluating a season in totality is to not look too far down the road or too far behind. We can't do anything about this week. It is over with. We have to get ready for the next game and the only thing we can control (is) the next game, the next practice and the next meeting. We'll be fine."
DE Leonard Little had X-rays on a hyperextended toe but they were negative. Little suffered the injury against San Francisco.
RG Richie Incognito missed his second game of the season because of an ankle injury and his return date is unknown.
RG Claude Terrell briefly left the game against San Francisco because of a thigh injury. He did return later in the game.
OT Alex Barron made the move from right tackle to left tackle and appeared to play solid against the 49ers.
RT Milford Brown struggled at times with protection, a result not unexpected when the decision was made to start him at a position he has rarely played.