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St. Louis Rams: Five Things We Learned From the Team’s Week 4 35-11 Loss to the 49ers

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COMMENTARY | A once-promising season is falling apart quickly for the St. Louis Rams.

The team lost its third consecutive game in a devastating 35-11 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday, September 26, to fall to last place in the NFC West. The Rams are now 1-3 as they look toward Week 5.

Here are five things we learned about the Rams in the 49ers game:

The Rams aren't ready

The signs were there following the team's 31-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3, but it's clear that the Rams aren't ready to compete with the NFC's best. The Rams had a chance to make a statement about their future in front of a national TV audience. It was an opportunity to show the entire country that the franchise has turned it around. Instead, the young Rams fell apart before our eyes. They simply aren't ready for primetime.

Brian Schottenheimer's play-calling is hurting Sam Bradford more than we thought

Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was brought in to revamp a Rams offense that had struggled throughout quarterback Sam Bradford's time with the club. It was his chance to both develop Bradford and to move past his disappointing tenure with the New York Jets.

Unfortunately, Schottenheimer's play-calling has hurt both Bradford and the entire offense. He often chooses to settle for short passing routes to receivers and running backs underneath instead of taking advantage of the Rams' speed and throwing down the field. This allows opposing defenses to crowd the line of scrimmage and pressure Bradford. Schottenheimer was guilty of the same thing in New York, and we're now seeing the same results: a rattled quarterback and a confused offense.

Schottenheimer must adjust his offense or the Rams should consider letting him go. Otherwise, the Rams will see another repeat of what happened to Mark Sanchez with the Jets.

Big issues with the Rams' running game

It's easy to blame the Rams' running backs alone for the team's problems on the ground. They've been ineffective across the board. However, the offensive line has consistently failed to open up holes for them. A unit built around tackle Jake Long, center Scott Wells and guard Harvey Dahl should be creating space in the trenches. Instead, the entire offensive line is consistently getting out-muscled by opposing defensive lines. The Rams could have Steven Jackson, Eric Dickerson or Marshall Faulk in the backfield right now and it wouldn't matter. The offensive line isn't doing its job.

Problems at the top of the payroll

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan and tackle Jake Long have two of the highest salaries on the team, and both players have been incredibly disappointing this season. Finnegan, in particular, has struggled in coverage against receivers he's matched up well with in the past. The veteran was brought in to provide stability and leadership to this team, and right now that's not happening.

Long was the Rams' costliest acquisition over during the 2013 offseason, and for good reason. The team desperately needed a top left tackle to protect Bradford and open up holes on the left side of the line. However, Long hasn't done much protecting thus far in 2013. Opposing defensive ends have been more than a handful against Long, who appears to be a step slower than he ever was during his career with the Miami Dolphins.

The Rams paid big money to Finnegan and Long, but neither player is earning his keep. If this trend continues, the Rams will regret signing both players for years to come.

Talent doesn't equal winning when it comes to the Rams

There aren't many teams with more defensive talent than the Rams. There are potential Pro-Bowlers littered throughout the defense, including linebacker James Laurinaitis and defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Yet the unit has struggled in all four of the team's games this season. There isn't enough pressure coming from the middle of the defensive line, nor is there much production coming from the Rams secondary. The defense is the heart and soul of the Rams. It's going to be a long season if the unit doesn't pull it together quickly.

Derek Ciapala has been following the Rams since childhood and is the managing editor of Rams Talk. You can follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @TalkRams.

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