SAN DIEGO — These are the Monday morning film sessions that the Rams' Todd Kinchen and David Lang dread, the ones that require an extra ration of earplugs because Wayne Sevier turns from a special teams coach into a film critic.
Today's session should produce a brutal review, after a chain of special-teams gaffes cost the Rams momentum, not to mention points, in a 31-17 loss to San Diego Sunday at Jack Murphy Stadium.
It will be especially tough for Kinchen, who will watch replay after replay of his 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown called back because of a holding penalty on the Rams' Thomas Homco.
"Listen, we're all sick of saying, 'almost,' and 'want to' and 'should have' and 'could have,' " Kinchen said. "When you work so hard all week in practice to execute well, and then in the game you execute well, only to have one mistake call it back."
It will be even tougher for Lang, who shouldered the blame for two costly second-half gaffes:
--He beat a double-team on punt coverage early in the third quarter, only to get suckered by a fake by San Diego return man Darrien Gordon, who sprinted past Lang and 10 other Rams for a 75-yard touchdown. That erased a 14-6 Ram lead and left Lang kicking the turf in disgust as he walked off the field.
"That was all my fault and I take full responsibility for it," Lang said. "I had that double-team beat, and I was sure Gordon was coming to the inside. He sold me on that and went outside. Coach Sevier always teaches us to stay on the right and keep him off the sideline. Instead, he ended up on my right shoulder and I got blocked."
--Lang also was called for holding in the fourth quarter, negating Todd Lyght's 27-yard punt return off a lateral from Kinchen. The Rams, trailing, 24-14, at the time, would have gotten the ball at their 48-yard line, but the penalty brought it back to the 38.
"I was trying to get back up and I reached out to grab some grass to pull myself up," Lang said. "When I reached out, I got my man by the shoe and he went down. That was a big play."
So was Kinchen's kickoff return, which came on the heels of Gordon's punt return for a touchdown. The Chargers had just tied the game, 14-14, on Gordon's run, but Kinchen's return suddenly silenced the crowd of 59,579--or at least until the fans saw the penalty flag.
Kinchen, who scored on a 44-yard reverse in a loss to San Francisco last week, didn't notice. He was too busy celebrating with his teammates in the end zone.
But as the Rams started to line up for the extra point, Kinchen noticed the yellow flag 80 yards downfield. Holding on Homco--and a long walk back to the Rams' 10-yard line.
"We must have had 150 yards in returns called back today," Kinchen said. "They crushed our momentum with the punt return, and that (penalty) took everything out of us."
Afterward, Homco pleaded innocent--sort of--by saying the holding call occurred away from the return and therefore shouldn't have been called.
"I was just devastated," he said. "All I want to do is help the team, and then something like this happens. It was a call the officials had to make. My hands were on his (coverage man's) head. Our feet got tangled up, and my hands just went up. It was unfortunate they called it because it was irrelevant to the play."
Irrelevant but costly, the kind of disappointing play the Rams' special teams have made over and over this season.
Seven weeks ago, Green Bay's Robert Brooks returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown in the Packers' 24-17 victory over the Rams. Five weeks ago, New Orleans' Tyrone Hughes set an NFL record for return yardage and scored twice on kick returns in a 37-34 Saint victory.
Three games full of special teams mistakes. Three losses. The difference between 4-8 and 7-5, perhaps?
"We had a real consistent coverage team," Kinchen said. "We had big plays on us every once in a while. But to be great, you have to be consistent week in and week out."