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Rams’ loss indicative of season-long problems

January 3, 2011

By almost all means the St. Louis Rams had an exceptional season, especially compared to where they were last year at this time.

Coming off the heels of a 1-15 season, and a 6-42 stretch dating from the 2007-09 seasons, the Rams were selected by most experts to finish dead last in the NFC West. But lo and behold the 2010 No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford wouldn’t let it happen. Bradford put together one of the more impressive rookie seasons in NFL history for a quarterback and led the Rams to a 7-8 record heading into a Week 17 showdown against the Seattle Seahawks with a division title and a spot in the playoffs at stake.

But the Rams could not overcome a problem they’ve been facing all year long – stale playcalling and a lack of offensive firepower – and they fell to the Seahawks 16-6 in front of a national crowd on Sunday Night Football.

Same story, different city. The Rams defense, which finished a respectable 12th in points allowed per game on the season, held the Seahawks to only 16 points, which is over three points less than what the Seahawks have averaged on the season. And the lone touchdown the Seahawks managed was after a defensive holding call that negated a third-down sack by the Rams, which would’ve led to a Seahawks field goal.

But either way, whether the ‘Hawks scored 12 or 16 points, the Rams should’ve and could’ve scored more than six points against a defense that gave up over 25 points on average this season.

Where to begin with the Rams’ offensive woes? In a game in which the Rams were within four points for a majority of the game All-Pro tailback Steven Jackson only carried the ball 11 times. No, not 11 times in the first half. Eleven times total. Yes, Mike Karney had more carries than Jackson did in the first quarter.

Jackson’s 11 carries were his second-fewest on the season, with his fewest (10) coming in a blowout win against Washington. Jackson averaged 4.1 yards a carry last night, and the Rams’ refusal to give Jackson the ball against the league’s 21st-ranked rush defense is inexcusable and indefensible.

One would think with the lack of elite (or marginal) wide receivers on the Rams’ roster offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur would’ve fed Jackson the rock at least 30 times in this game. But no, he put the game into Bradford’s hands and had Bradford throw 36 times for an average of only 4.3 yards per attempt, which, if you don’t understand football, is TERRIBLE. Bradford attempted seven passes of at least 15 yards and completed none of them, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The Rams’ lone big-play threat, Danario Alexander, dropped a third-down pass, and on the only long pass attempt for Bradford on the night a diving Alexander let the ball go through his outstretched hands.

So if Bradford didn’t complete any long throws, what would be the best way for him to complete passes while trying to gain the most yards? Apparently not quick slants, which I don’t recall seeing at all last night. But quick lateral passes to wide receivers who were blanketed and couldn’t get any seperation all night that led to 2nd- and 3rd-and-longs.

If the Rams’ receivers couldn’t catch the deep ball and couldn’t create seperation at the line of scrimmage why not give the ball to Jackson more? No one will ever know. The Rams’ career leader in rushing yards was under-used by this coaching staff – one whose conservative playcalling cost the Rams at least two wins during the year (at San Francisco and at Tampa Bay) and, ultimately, a playoff spot.

Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo and Shurmur came into this game hoping to get a couple early scores and then somehow win by scoring 10 or 14 points. That’s been their offensive game plan the entire year, and somehow it’s worked a few times. Even if the defense can hold its opponent to 14-17 points a game, which is asking a lot from a defense with a bunch of inexperienced youngsters and journeymen on it, you can’t go into a game playing so conservatively that you’re satisfied once the offense gets a couple field goals, and then go into protect-the-ball mode.

It didn’t work last night; it barely worked throughout the season; it won’t work next year when the Rams (hopefully) play a tougher schedule; and it won’t work with the same receiving corps from this year. The Rams need to man up and take a stud wide receiver in the first round of April’s draft, without care of any character concerns, which is what cost them on the Donnie Avery over Desean Jackson pick in 2008. AJ Green is the preferable pick, although he should be selected by the Rams’ 14th pick; Justin Blackmon and Julio Jones have better shots of being around when the Rams are on the clock.

The Rams have only two or three more prime years left of SJ39, and that’s only if he already hasn’t began his decline – Jackson’s 3.8 yard per carry average is the worst of his career. But the Rams have Bradford, who’s shown this year that he can be everything the Rams imagined him being when they made him the top pick last April. The Rams need to surround Bradford with playmakers, and that process begins now with scouting and the combine coming up. I wouldn’t be against the Rams going out and trading for or signing a free agent wide receiver either.


From → NFL

One Comment
  1. Nate-Dawg permalink

    Randy Moss is going to be a free agent

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