12

The Monday Morning Scrappy Utilityman

Rams

I’m in shock.

It’s difficult to even pick out where to start.

It’s difficult to even make sure that I include everything in it.

But, I know this: just like Missouri going into Gainesville and outplaying Florida…only failing to win…the Rams went into San Francisco and outplayed the 49ers and failed to win…or lose.

Tie.

I suppose one can argue the 49ers had this thing wrapped up before David Akers failed to kick a 41-yard field goal…but I think even 49ers’ fans would say their team is fortunate to have gotten out of that game with a tie.

Rams’ fans?

Beyond frustrated.

And that’s saying something, considering the Rams were close to a two-touchdown underdog at kickoff.

Where do you want to start?

How about before the game?

Janoris Jenkins---living up to his pre-draft reputation of lack of responsibility---and Chris Givens are suspended by Jeff Fisher for violating team policy.

Out goes your starting CB and your deep-threat WR.

Self-inflicted.

Indefensible.

13 penalties.

Self-inflicted.

Indefensible.

What about Fisher calling a timeout with 1:13 left in the game and the Rams having the ball 1st and Goal at the 49ers’ two?

The Rams had three timeouts and were down 21-17. A touchdown could/should win it. No need to give San Francisco time. They may have struggled offensively initially, but they had just moved the ball with no problem on the defense twice in the fourth quarter.

If you just want to get the guys together and make sure everyone is on the same page for the upcoming critical goal line series, I get that. But, let that clock grind down.

Instead, the Rams score right away, and they give the 49ers 69 seconds to move down the field and either tie it or win it.

The result is San Francisco going 73 yards and kicking an easy game-tying field goal.

Self-inflicted.

Indefensible.

On to overtime, where the knife turns in the gut over and over again.

The Rams’ first play from scrimmage had all the makings of a highlight you’d see for years to come. It could’ve been the moment the ship turned around. Sam Bradford---with a beautifully thrown ball---to Danny Amendola for 80 yards to the San Francisco two.

Nope.

Brandon Gibson failed to line up on the line of scrimmage. Illegal formation.

It’s all erased.

Infuriating.

Self-inflicted.

Indefensible.

And then my personal favorite: the delay of game on the game-winning field goal.

I was listening to Jim Hanifan on the 590 The Fan KFNS Rams’ Post-Game Show, and he said in all of his years of watching football---and we’re talking about a lot of years playing, coaching, and broadcasting---he said he has never seen a delay of game on a field goal.

Well, the Rams made some history then.

4th and 4 at the 49ers’ 35. Fresh off a run---following use of their first of two timeouts---the Rams were well within Greg Zuerlein’s range. Steven Jackson lost a couple of yards on the previous third down play, but that was no problem. Zuerlein and the field goal unit trotted on to the field to win the thing.

Now having gone back and watched this sequence three times---just to see how the fuck it could’ve happened---it’s easy to get wrapped up in seeing how casually the field goal unit made its way to the field.

But, in reality, they had plenty of time to line up and kick the ball…with no issues whatsoever.

So the casual approach as they made their way to the field is neither here nor there.

What happened once they were set up---with six seconds on the play clock---is.

I don’t know about you, but as I’m watching the Rams set up to win what would’ve been their biggest victory since beating Seattle in the playoffs nearly eight years ago, I was watching the play clock. And I saw the thing ticking  down…six…five…four…three…two…one…zeroes. Then the kick. It’s perfect. But, I’m screaming before it’s even kicked that the damn thing isn’t going to count, because they didn’t get it off in time.

What was holder Johnny Hekker thinking?

What was Jeff Fisher thinking?

Hekker just needed to get the damn ball in his hands, and once Fisher saw it wasn’t happening, he’s in a hell of a spot. If he calls the timeout---right as the ball is being snapped should they get it off in time---and the ball is kicked perfectly, he’s just iced his kicker…and taking a win away from his team.

This one is on Hekker…unless some other information comes out explaining it.

And it was sickening.

It really was.

Fox cameras caught Danny Amendola slamming his Gatorade bottle down on the sidelines. How can you blame him? The guy had busted his ass all day---after busting his ass to come back from a serious injury---and he saw a terrible mental mistake cost him an 80-yard reception…and just minutes later…he saw another terrible mental mistake cost his team a win.

Self-inflicted.

Indefensible.

I’m curious how the Rams react to this one.

It’s a game that fans won’t forget. In what’s been about seven years of inept football chock full of forgettable games, this one won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

Had they won it---as they most definitely should have---they’re sitting at 4-5. And, yeah…they’re still not a likely playoff contender. But, if you can win at San Francisco, the confidence level skyrockets. And, I assure you, there’s no game more difficult the rest of the way than at Candlestick against a Super Bowl contender.

Instead, they pissed away chance after chance…and not with the usual missed red zone opportunities…but this time with glaring, stunning, vomit-inducing mental errors.


Missouri

Let’s get this out of the way: Tennessee is not a good football team.

Let me also get this out of the way on the off chance that what will follow will somehow be misconstrued by angry Illinois fan, angry KU fan, or just angry guy trolling the Internet because of personal or professional failure: Missouri is not a good football team.

Ooooh…one more to get out of the way: James Franklin is not a good SEC quarterback. He had a good 2011, but this year has been a mess---some of it his fault…some it the circumstances surrounding his injuries and the injuries on the offensive line. I’d be quite disappointed if Franklin is the starter in 2013, because that means Maty Mauk wasn’t able to win what should be a rather winnable “open competition” at Spring practice, as Gary Pinkel called it this week.

So, with disclaimers now officially filed, I will say this:

That was a hell of a win Saturday in Knoxville, and considering how absolutely horrible he was in the first half, it says a lot for James Franklin that he was able to come back and lead the team in the second half and overtime.

I fancy myself as being able to gauge the outcome of a football game based on the tone set in the first quarter. In what was a rather shocking development considering how bad the Vols’ defense is…and considering how good the Missouri defense is…Tennessee was carving up the Tiger defense at will, and Dave Yost and Franklin had no answer on offense.

You didn’t need to be a soothsayer to see which direction this thing was headed at the half. Outside of a 21-7 Tennessee lead, the Vols had outgained the Tigers 383 to 64.

James Franklin was 2 of 8 for 18 yards at the half.

Here’s what former Missouri Tigers Byron Chamberlain and Tony Temple were tweeting at the half:

byron chamberlain ‏@bc_chamberlain
#Mizzou fans that might be the worst half of QB play I have ever seen. #TruthTweet
 
Tony Temple ‏@TonyLTemple
Mizzou needs to make a change I'm sorry. Someone needs to say it.

A change at QB was not an option, since Corbin Berkstresser showed in September and October he’s not much better. But, a change in both the offensive and defensive game plans were necessary. Halftime adjustments haven’t exactly been considered a strong suit in the Pinkel Era.

But, they adjusted Saturday in Knoxville.

And the players delivered.

After getting owned by the Vols’ offense in the first half, the Tiger defense held them to just seven points in the second half.

Say what you want about Tennessee, but that offense put up 44 at Athens against Georgia and 35 at Columbia against South Carolina. To hold them to seven points in the second half---before the flood of overtime points come raining down---was one hell of an accomplishment.

And then there’s the justifiably so oft-criticized Missouri offense and James Franklin.

After a monstrosity of a first half, which keep in mind followed a monstrosity of a game in Gainesville, James Franklin responded.

He made some brilliant throws before that final drive and overtime.

And, because of the fact that he was able to right the ship, Tennessee had to once again respect the Tiger pass game---and that opened up the run game.

While many will understandably focus on Franklin’s game-tying pass to DGB on fourth down…or his touchdowns in overtime…remember that before any of that could happen, Franklin had to execute a play on 4th and 9 to keep that drive alive.

And, unlike the game-tying touchdown pass to DGB, this completion wasn’t the result of that shitty Tennessee defense leaving a receiver wide open.

Franklin had to remain poised under pressure and lead Marcus Lucas perfectly…or else that ball was getting batted down either at the line of scrimmage or by the defender covering Lucas.

He executed…and did so with a brilliant throw.

That kept the drive alive.

That allowed Franklin to have the opportunity to tie it as time ran down on 4th down…and that allowed Franklin and Missouri to have their most dramatic win of the season.

While I piss on the bowl system, and I sure as hell don’t consider getting to a bowl a mark of success, the Tigers now have a chance to get their sixth win Saturday against Syracuse. Considering where this season was just a couple of weeks ago---teetering on the brink of a loss to Kentucky before pulling away---that part would be not an accomplishment…but rather an illustration of resilience.

Saturday’s win sure as hell was.


Quick Hits

-Missouri opens up as a 6.5 point favorite over Syracuse.

-They finish the regular season at Texas A & M. Yeah…they better beat Syracuse if they want to go to a bowl. Johnny Football and company are now ranked 8th in the BCS Standings after going into Tuscaloosa and stunning the Tide. How about the BCS Standings and the SEC representation?

-4th: Alabama

-5th: Georgia

-6th: Florida

-7th: LSU

-8th: Texas A & M

-9th: South Carolina

-Meanwhile, K. State and Oregon are in the top two spots with also-undefeated Notre Dame third. My wager is that Kansas State and Oregon will not wind up playing for the BCS Championship. K. State only has to dodge at Baylor and at home against Texas (no sure thing with the way the Longhorns have been playing recently). Oregon still has Stanford, at Oregon State, and the Pac-12 Championship Game against USC or UCLA. Notre Dame could also lose a game with their trip to USC still lurking. Alabama could still wind up winning this thing. Hell, Georgia could wind up winning this thing. But, as far as the eye test goes, the best team I’ve seen play this year is Oregon. If Alabama couldn’t stop Johnny Football, and if they had trouble with LSU’s offense the week before, they’d have a hell of a time with Oregon.

-And, finally, if you ever think you take sports too seriously, rest assured you likely don’t take them as seriously as this gentleman. He’s a Tennessee fan who posted this reaction to the Vols’ loss to Missouri on YouTube. Enjoy:


Log-in to post your comments, or you can email me at tmckernan@insidestl.com.

SHARE: E-mail | Permalink | | | |