ST. LOUIS – Just a few more steps and Clifton Ryan scores a touchdown for a St. Louis Rams franchise starved for success.
Don't think the defensive tackle isn't beating himself up about how a play that would have been a career achievement turned out so sour.
"In this business, you've got to accept it when it's your fault," the 324-pound Ryan said Wednesday. "That was a mistake on my part. It could have won us the game, it should have won us the game."
Ryan missed practice Thursday after being hospitalized due to illness Wednesday night. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Ryan had undergone tests.
"Not really sure what he's got going on," Spagnuolo said. "I talked to him this morning. He woke up and had a headache and didn't feel good."
A big-body type who usually does the dirty work inside, Ryan had a dream opportunity late in the third quarter of what turned out to be a 17-13 loss to Arizona on Sunday. C.J. Ah You sacked and stripped Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson for a 9-yard loss at the Arizona 36, Ryan scooped up the ball and was rumbling toward the end zone.
The score would have put the Rams ahead 20-10. Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston spoiled it, racing in out of nowhere and karate-chopping the ball free at the 5.
Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein recovered the ball in the end zone for a harmless touchback.
For the Rams, Ryan's blunder came on a play that could have sealed a win, a rousing moment that would help distance the team from last year's 1-15 record and maybe previous years of misery. After all, fans are already excited about the potential of rookie quarterback Sam Bradford.
On the flip side, as Ryan pointed out, it was a great hustle play by Breaston as part of an excellent all-around game. Catching seven passes for a career-best 132 yards wasn't enough for a wide receiver playing in Larry Fitzgerald's shadow; Breaston also ran down cornerback Brandon Fletcher on a 43-yard fumble return that could have gone the distance in the first quarter.
The Rams ended up with nothing out of that big play, too, when Adrian Wilson blocked Josh Brown's 43-yard field goal attempt.
"I know that's a 4.3 speed guy with a full head of steam coming from 30 yards away, so he had a lot of torque and a lot of force coming down on that ball," Ryan said. "In my opinion, he doesn't get the respect he deserves in this league.
"Anytime a guy makes a guy like Anquan Boldin expendable, he's a good player."
So is the affable Ryan, who led the team with nine tackles for loss last year. He's just not that fast, declining to reveal his 40-yard dash time.
"I have a hash to hash time," Ryan said. "How many times do you expect to run 40 yards on the field. Not very often."
Ryan refuses to duck revisiting the play that he didn't quite make, and readily blames himself for not better securing the ball. But he promises it won't carry over to Week 2 at Oakland, crediting teammates and coaches for helping him move on.
"No hangovers, we've got 15 more to go," Ryan said. "We can't get down on ourselves. We're going to win some games."