posted on September 22, 2013 23:59
Considering it’s likely that most Rams’ fans had the team at 1-2 through three games when looking at the schedule when it was released, the 1-2 record isn’t shocking.
The manner with which it’s come about is.
Yesterday’s ass-kicking by the Cowboys was indefensible. 31-7…and it wasn’t even that close.
The Rams were outgained 113-2 in the 1st Quarter.
It got to 180 to 2 before they picked up some more yards.
And, through three games, the Rams have been outscored 51-13 in the first half.
The offense---once again resistant to picking up the tempo---was dreadful. I couldn’t be any more confused by Brian Schottenheimer’s play calling if you told me Dave Yost was going to team up with Pat Shurmur for a weekend.
Of course, even if Schottenheimer had elected to go to the no huddle before the 4th Quarter, Sam Bradford was running for his life from the beginning.
The smoke And mirrors statistic about Bradford not being sacked since last season was misleading, because a) he had been under plenty of pressure in each of the first two weeks, and b) he checks down constantly.
Bradford didn’t even have time to check down Sunday. The Cowboys sacked him six times.
Of course, it’s not like he was great. He wasn’t. But, his receivers didn’t help. There were drops galore.
“Maybe this is a good reality check for us,” Bradford said.
I guess…but was anyone under the impression this was a hell of a football team before today…and they needed a reality check?
If anything, offensively, they were dreadful for the first three quarters for the third straight week. The only difference this week is that they were awful all four quarters in Dallas as opposed to just three like they were against the Cardinals and Falcons.
And what in the world has happened to the defense?
The Rams have allowed the fifth-most points in the NFL with 86 through three games.
Keep in mind: in two of the three losses, the Rams’ opposition took their foot off the pedal to grind clock in the second half after they had run away by halftime.
Demarco Murray went off for 175 yards on 26 carries…or nearly seven yards every time he ran the football. He now has 428 yards on the ground in two starts against the Rams…or nearly 25% of his career total.
And Tony Romo---easily forgotten considering Murray’s clinic again against the Rams---enjoyed picking apart the Rams’ defense. He was 17 of 24 for 210 yards and three touchdowns. That gave him a QB rating of 137.2.
Romo didn’t experience much pressure…but even if he did, defensive co-ordinator Tim Walton had his corners lined up so far off of the Dallas receivers, it didn’t matter.
3rd and 6 early in the 2nd Quarter: Janoris Jenkins is lined up so far off of Miles Austin that it becomes a passing drill…giving Romo an easy throw on the slant route to Austin for a first down.
This has been a problem for each of the last three weeks.
Speaking of consistent problems…#specialteamsdontforgetaboutthespecialteams.
The penalties on special teams---a horror show in Atlanta---carried over to this week in Dallas.
Tavon Austin had a punt return for a touchdown called back for a potpourri of flags against the Rams. But, that wasn’t the only time they botched a return with a penalty. It just keeps happening…and it’s just as inexcusable this week as it was last week.
Special teams coach John Fassel is under the microscope after another week of this.
But, considering how big of a step back it was, I’m certain many fans are wondering just how big of a step forward the organization has made under Jeff Fisher.
The Rams have played 12 quarters this season. All added up, about nine of them have been terrible. Not just average. Terrible.
I didn’t buy in to the hype two years ago…and happened to be right. I did buy in this year, and I’m wondering what the hell is going on.
It’s on the coaches---Fisher, in particular---for not calling a timeout as Will Witherspoon is running on to the field late…and then burned for a touchdown.
It’s on the coaches when the Rams are moving the ball late in the first half down 17…and with all three of their timeouts…they just let the clock wind down casually before getting another play off.
And, it’s on the coaches that they went into the season with this incredibly questionable situation at running back. Defenses can just sit back and not even fear the run against the Rams. And it’s not like there appears to be a solution in the mix on this roster.
It’s a bad mix right now. I expected some growing pains with a young roster, but I didn’t expect them with the veteran Head Coach and his staff.
Following the fair dialogue about the light turnout of 55,000 for the opener against the Cardinals, I said on the show that I was quite confident that The Dome would be packed for the Thursday night game against the 49ers.
Well, I’m not sure anymore.
Here’s one thing I’d bet heavily on: if the Rams have another crappy performance this Thursday…and if the Cardinals have a home playoff game on Sunday the 6th, that Rams-Jaguars’ game is going to look like an Expos’ game.
Seeing as the 49ers haven’t looked particularly great in their first three games...and seeing as there’s a world of difference between 1-3 and 2-2, Thursday’s game becomes a monster.
The players have a lot on the line here. How will they respond? Schottenheimer, Walton, and Fassel have plenty to prove. And, will Jeff Fisher get his team ready for this stage…or will he lose the equity the new administration built up last year?
Yesterday was the first swing game of the season for the Rams. Thursday is a night game, but it’s high noon for the 2013 team.
The Cardinals are in the playoffs…which is something that’s been a foregone conclusion since early August in this top heavy 2013 National League, but they get in yesterday with a Nationals’ loss…and not a victory of their own.
Disappointing to lose last night in Milwaukee, but in the big picture, the Cardinals took two of three from the Brewers, and if they do that the rest of the way against the Nationals and Cubs, they’ll likely be National League Central Champions.
The Magic Number sits at five with six games to go, and the Cardinals lead both the Reds and Pirates by two.
While the Cardinals get the Nationals starting tonight, the Reds get the Mets. The Pirates get the Cubs. The weekend wraps it up for the regular season with the Cardinals and Cubs here…and the Pirates and Reds in Cincinnati.
In other words, at least for the first part of the week with the buttasses the Reds and Pirates are playing, the Cardinals likely won’t be getting help elsewhere, so they’d be best served to take care of business on their own. Courtesy of a split with the Marlins in a doubleheader yesterday, Washington is all but doomed in the National League Wild Card race. They’re five back with six to play.
How motivated will the Nationals be?
That’s to be determined. But, they will be sending some damn good pitchers to the mound. You know about Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman. The guy Washington’s starting tonight is not well known, but he’s been dealing this September with a 0.92 ERA and a 3-0 record. Tanner Roark gets the ball for the Nationals, and this could be a hell of a challenge for the Cardinals…especially if Matt Holliday has to miss another game because of back spasms.
I’m quite anxious to see what happens this week with the closer spot. Mike Matheny, who was quite fortunate to survive a mess of a 9th inning Friday night, says he’s going to go with the best guy for the situation after demoting Edward Mujica.
Personally, I have the most confidence in Kevin Siegrist. I’m not sure Matheny will give him the chance, but then again, I didn’t think Matheny would pull Mujica out of the closer’s spot at this point in the season, so maybe I’ll be proven wrong again. I hope I am. Trevor Rosenthal would be next up, but I just worry about a couple of recent shaky outings from him. I don’t want to see John Axford in the 9th inning…especially if the playoffs take the Cardinals through Cincinnati. The Great American Ballpark (matter of opinion) has been Axford’s personal hell in his career.
Six games left…and lots of questions.
Who will close games out?
Who will win the National League Central?
Who will have home field advantage in the National League?
Considering all that’s up in the air, a lot of focus will be on the managers of the five playoff teams.
How will they position their rotations? Will they play for home field advantage? Will they pull the right strings in the late innings?
Outside of Dusty Baker who’s taken the Giants, Cubs, and Reds to the playoffs, there’s not years and years of postseason experience among the managers.
This will put them to the test.
With all the decisions to be made among five teams that appear to be pretty close, this will be a baseball nerd’s heaven over the next few weeks.
The Rams couldn’t win their swing game. Missouri did. And, in impressive fashion by a final of 45-28.
Of course, after watching a full four quarters of Indiana football, it’s pretty clear why they’re a perennial Big Ten doormat. But, Missouri looked good…on both sides of the ball.
Despite two really questionable decisions early that led to two interceptions, James Franklin had another good game. The Missouri QB finished with 343 yards passing, which is a career high.
This offense is starting to look like it may have a number of different ways to beat teams. Yes…it’s only been Murray State, Toledo, and Indiana’s awful defense, but the Tigers have used their running backs to beat the Racers, Franklin’s legs to beat the Rockets, and Franklin’s arm to beat the Hoosiers.
"The good news is we're getting better," Gary Pinkel told Joe Walljasper of the Columbia Daily Tribune. "The best news is we're not even close to as good as we can be. I really believe that."
The fact that the Tigers put up big numbers offensively isn’t a surprise. The fact that they held Indiana to just one touchdown in the second half until a cosmetic score with 10 seconds left was a surprise.
And, for all the hell Gary Pinkel and his staff have caught for not making second half adjustments, it was the specific second half adjustment by defensive co-ordinator Dave Steckel that appeared to confuse the hell out of the Hoosiers.
Missouri implemented a three-man front going to a 3-3-5 to start the second half when Andrew Wilson returned from his suspension, and Indiana had no answer for it.
The Tigers’ defense had just as many touchdowns as the vaunted Indiana offense until that cosmetic score in the final seconds. Kony Ealy picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown to break it open.
Barring a shock at home against Arkansas State Saturday night, the Tigers will go into the SEC schedule 4-0 when they head to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt. Heading into the season, I considered that game a loss. After watching Missouri Saturday night…and after watching three different Vanderbilt games in which the Commodores have looked rather shaky…I’m not so sure.
In quite a surprising development, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Missouri heads down between the hedges undefeated and ranked to take on Georgia.
As Walljasper wrote in the Tribune, “this might not be a season about coaching survival. It might be about revival.”
-Fun with degens: The game the public liked the most Saturday? Michigan (-20) at UConn. The Wolverines were on 85% of sports book tickets per RJ Bell of ESPN and Grantland. They had to come back to avoid a huge upset and squeak out another bad win against a bad opponent, but they didn’t cover. The game the public liked the most Sunday? The Vikings (-7). Minnesota didn’t even get a chance to cover that touchdown. They lost by four to the Browns after the Trent Richardson trade drove the number up from 3.5 to 7.
-Former Ram Brandon Gibson has 14 catches and 137 yards for the undefeated Miami Dolphins.
-Former Ram Donnie Avery has 14 catches and 190 yards for the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
-The 49ers won’t have Aldon Smith Thursday, but Las Vegas still has them as a 3.5 point favorite.
-I’m not a big country music fan---although I’ve become a bigger fan in recent years---but we went to the Jason Aldean concert Friday night at Verizon. Good stuff. Perhaps it’s an illustration of how out of touch I am, or perhaps it was an illustration of being mildly intoxicated, but when Aldean performed that duet “Stay Awhile” with Kelly Clarkson, I was all but certain the star of From Kelly To Justin---or was it From Justin To Kelly---was up on stage making a cameo. About a minute in, I realized it was a hologram. It looked 100% like her and like she was there. I’m embarrassed for myself that a) I was tricked by it, and b) that I spent that much time studying a hologram of Kelly Clarkson.
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