10

Beware The Rammies

Meaningful football in December. It’s so lovely.

Now, in reality, because the Redskins came back…and because the Cowboys came back…and because the Vikings beat the Bears…and because the Bears still have eight wins even with that loss…and because the Seahawks were trying to impress voters in running it up against the Cardinals, odds are the Rams have an incredibly slim chance of making the playoffs.

But, it’s still so lovely to have hope, and the Rams’ 15-12 win allows St. Louis Area fans to believe there’s still a chance of making the playoffs this year.

With a few minutes left in a hideous football game in Buffalo, that hope was on life support.

With 4:55 remaining, the Rams took over at their own 16. Considering how dreadful the offense had looked for the previous 55 minutes, there really was little reason to believe the Rams would be able to go 84 yards and win the game.

But, with a combination of Steven Jackson, Sam Bradford being good and hitting receivers, and Sam Bradford being bad and the Bills dropping interceptions, the Rams got the job done when they absolutely needed to.

The offense rewarded the defense after they held the Bills’ offense to the fewest points they’ve scored all season---with the exception of games against two of the best defenses in the league at San Francisco and at Houston. At home, the Bills came in averaging 32 points per game.

The Rams’ defense shut them down. Over their last three games---all wins---the Rams have allowed an average of 14 points.

The scary thing is that without some good fortune in the last couple of games, this 3-0 record would be 1-2. And that is on the offense.

Editorial note: I am now entering into…The Batshit Zone.

Mention Rams’ offense…and the factions in the Rams’ fan base line up and take their sides. Weapons at the ready. Mouths foaming.

“Give us the red meat! Give us the red meant!” They scream.

They want me to do it. They need me to do it.

Win or lose. They want to talk about Sam Motherfucking Bradford.

Well, let’s give the people what they want.


Talking Bradford today is like having a debate on the economy and focusing on gay marriage, but let’s talk about it…because this shit is now beyond fascinating.

It’s unhealthy.

It’s an incredibly odd thing going on. You have a group of people who call themselves Rams’ fans focusing more on their particular pro-Bradford or anti-Bradford agendas, Twitter wars, or message board wars instead of what is in the best interest of the team. It’s a lot like someone calling himself or herself a patriot…all while hoping the country improves or fails based on whether or not it benefits his or her political party.

But, let’s make something clear here: unlike, say, a coaching change, the public has no say in this one. Even if the Rams wanted to get rid of Sam Bradford, because of the size of his contract and the salary cap hit, the likelihood of it happening is slim. So, whether you like him or not…whether you wanted Suh in 2010 or not…whether you wanted RGIII in 2012 or not…it’s irrelevant for the sake of the present. He is the Rams’ quarterback this year…and barring injury…at least into next year.

Now, if your personal enjoyment comes from arguing with strangers online about how well a 25 year-old man throws a football, then that’s a separate discussion. If you get off on that, you have plenty of people to cyberfuck over Sam Bradford.

Love him? Sounds good. You’ll have people who will proclaim his greatness no matter what happens…and people who will blame his missteps on “having no one around him” every time he slips up.

Bradford throws into double coverage? He has no one around him.

Bradford throws the ball five feet over his receiver’s head? He has no one around him.

Bradford holds on to the ball even after the line gives him time? He has no one around him.

Had Buffalo’s George Wilson held on to either of the interceptions sitting in his hands on the final Rams’ drive, I’m certain it wouldn’t have been Bradford’s fault. It would go back to, “He has no one around him.”

On the other hand, in The World of Derpshittery, if you hate him, you won’t be lonely.

Captain Retweet runs a third down route four yards shy of the first down marker? Bradford sucks.

This year’s second round pick is actually in the game…and actually gets thrown to…and then drops the ball? Bradford sucks.

All 11 members of the defense meet in the backfield and bukkake Bradford? Bradford sucks.

The Rams win a road game to improve to 6-6-1? Pay no attention. Bradford sucks.

Now, I’m all for the open marketplace of ideas. I want all opinions heard.

But, in my opinion, if one lines up consistently---regardless of the facts---with his or her political party, or in this case, quarterback party, he or she is doing a disservice to their credibility.

So, in this case, if one honestly is running around today waving the Bradford flag and saying he’s the reason for the Rams’ victory---all while going 19-39 for 209 yards, a touchdown, an interception, fortunate not to have another interception on two drops by Buffalo on the final drive, and a 62.9 quarterback rating---my guess is you’re in the “He Has No One Around Him” Party.

And, on the other hand, if you are focusing on the above statistics and not the leadership of pulling off a game-winning drive on the road and the throws made in the red zone to do so---much less the victory itself---then my guess is you’re in the “Bradford Sucks” Party.

Here’s my analysis: the Rams don’t win that game without their defense. Period. And, the Rams don’t win that game without Buffalo’s George Wilson dropping two interceptions on the final drive. And, the Rams don’t win that game without Captain Retweet making a great catch on a ball thrown well behind him on fourth down. But, the Rams don’t win that game without Bradford’s completion under incredible pressure to Brandon Gibson on third and 10. And, the Rams don’t win that game without Bradord “laying it in there,” as broadcaster Mike Martz said, to Gibson in the end zone.

The Rams won despite Bradford. The Rams won because of Bradford.

Both are true.

Most importantly, the Rams won.


Pacquiao-Marquez

Over the last few years, I’ve found myself buying PPV’s of “big” boxing events. As far as being a mark, that makes me the Larry Nickel of boxing. But, I’ve enjoyed it.

Notice the past tense.

I was turned off---badly---by the mess that was Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley in June. So, I hadn’t bought a PPV since that disaster.

But, because I was bored out of my mind on a (basically) football-less Saturday, I decided to buy the Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight.

I purchased it at 10 p.m. I thought I’d be a matter of moments away from the start of the main event. Instead, I caught the end of one of the fights on the undercard…with another fight on the undercard still to come.

Clearly, this night in Las Vegas had been dragging on a little too long. The Great Larry Merchant said, “This undercard has been going on for two hours…but it feels like a week.”

Yep, that confirmed it wasn’t going well.

And, in a rather odd moment while I was barely paying attention, the cameras cut to Ron Artest/Metta World Peace in the crowd, and Jim Lampley began telling a story about how Artest had gone out of his way to go over and talk with Mitt Romney ringside.

What. In. The. World.

A Ron Artest-Mitt Romney conversation?

That wasn’t the only strange conversation of the night at the MGM Garden Arena.

Romney had gone back to meet Pacquiao.

TMZ reported Romney introduced himself this way: “Hello, Manny. I ran for president. I lost.”

After that conversation, Romney returned to his ringside seat. Larry Merchant said that he hoped this wasn’t Romney’s first fight, because if it was, he was being treated to a painfully boring undercard. The only hope was that the main event would deliver.

And, man…did it ever.

I realize the vast majority of you didn’t buy this PPV…and I sure as hell don’t blame you.

But, by the third round, I was already thrilled that I had bought the fight. Marquez caught Pacquaio with the kind of punch you usually see a guy wind up and throw in a bar fight at closing time. They rarely land in bars. They land even less often in the boxing ring. This one landed. And Pacquaio was down.

But, like one of the many fights in the Rocky movies that you usually think can’t possibly really happen…because both fighters are dishing out and taking too much punishment, Pacquiao got back up and fired shots right back at Marquez…with Marquez firing right back until the bell sounded to end the round.

They were right back at it going Rocky Balboa-Apollo Creed in the fifth round. This time Pacquiao knocked down Marquez. And while Marquez was vulnerable, Pacquiao couldn’t finish him off, and the two fighters traded blows in jaw-dropping fashion until the bell.

Just when you thought they’d take it easy in the sixth after the absurd pace of the fifth, they brawled once again. Big punches were being thrown by both fighters as the round wound down.

And with one second left in the sixth…

…the boxing world changed.

Marquez caught Pacquiao with a right.

Flush.

As flush as you will see a big time fighter get caught.

And Pacquaio, with Romney right there in the background of the first couple rows, was down and done.

The referee didn’t even bother with a count.

Pacquiao was out cold.

The only thing with less movement at that moment was the one-time hope of Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather getting in the ring.

It was a furious battle that ended in an even more dramatic fashion.

The question is---even though he said he’d like to fight Marquez for a fifth time---whether or not that knockout was the end of Manny Pacquiao’s career.


Quick Hits

-Undefeated Illinois pulled off a hell of a win Saturday night at #10 Gonzaga. They beat the previously undefeated Bulldogs 85-74. An 11 point win on the road against a Top 10 team is impressive enough. Considering Illinois was down 31-20 in the first half and then outscored Gonzaga 65-43 the rest of the way, it's even more noteworthy. Barring an upset, both Missouri and Illinois have a great shot at being in the Top 10 when they meet on Saturday December 22nd for the Braggin’ Rights Game.

-I can’t imagine there’s a worse team to ever start 4-0 than the 2012 Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks could’ve scored 80 on them yesterday. But, once they kicked the field goal in the first quarter, the game was over. That offense is historically bad. They’ve rendered Larry Fitzgerald completely useless.

-The Rams’ three-game winning streak is their longest since 2006. What about the last time they won four in a row? You have to go back to 2003.

-Steven Jackson had a relatively quiet day against a bad Buffalo run defense, but his 64 yards on 19 carries moves him to within 164 yards of the 1,000 yard mark again. Unfortunately, the Rams finish off the season against three top 15 run defenses (Minnesota 14th, Tampa Bay 1st, and Seattle 12th).

-How about Michael Brockers? He forced a fumble and had a hand in two sacks. Brockers presence on the defensive line is being felt, and it showed in the Rams keeping the Bills’ fourth-ranked running game in check. Buffalo had just 16 yards in the first half and a total of 61 for the game.

-It may not have been pretty, but at least it wasn’t penalty-filled. The Bills had two, and so did the Rams. But, the Rams have had all kinds of problems with penalties this year, and they were able to put on that kind of defensive performance with just two penalties all game.

-So, that brings me to my final point: Jeff Fisher and his coaching staff have done wonders with this team. The talent wasn’t particularly top of the line anyway, and that limited talent has taken hits all year long. Whereas the injuries were justifiably discussed at length 125 miles to the west with Missouri’s mess of a season, the Rams have had their fair share as well. The offensive line has been patchwork all year long. Rodger Saffold can’t stay healthy…but he did his damndest to stay in there. The Rams’ best receiver wasn’t in there again…but Brandon Gibson did his best to fill the void with a 100-yard day. And on the defensive side of the football, for the first time in forever, the Rams can stop the run. The defense has allowed a total of 12 points after the half in the last three games combined. Meanwhile, the offense, which has looked horrid in the first half in the majority of the last three games, has made adjustments and scored 46 points after the half in the last three games combined. That’s coaching. That’s the work of the staff. But, it starts at the top. And even if this year ends without a playoff appearance, it’s clear that the team is moving in the right direction. They’re not there yet---especially on the offensive side of the ball---but there’s reason for hope. And after years of despair and/or thinking about April’s draft in October, you can’t put a price on hope.

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

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freaknastysugarcookies
# freaknastysugarcookies
Monday, December 10, 2012 8:16 AM
Being an Arizona Cardinals fan I am compelled to defend them even though I do agree they are so bad it is comical. I actually laughed watching them play last week against the Jets, and didn't bother watching this week or I may have laughed myself into a coma after the 8 turnovers and 58-0 worst loss in franchise history.

However, before anyone thinks it will take years or decades to be good again please remember, the Cardinals whose Oline was mediocre at best to begin with, lost both starting offensive tackles in the preseason, and have since lost, after game 4, their starting center, their top 2 runningbacks, (got Beanie back now), their starting tightend.........their 1st string QB, then their 2nd string QB, they got Skelton back, but still without the 1st stringer who started them off 4-1. Tell me a team in the NFL who would do much better with all those injuries? So with simply having some health next season could be as competitive as the rams.
Z-Bomb
# Z-Bomb
Monday, December 10, 2012 10:17 AM
Can we stop using the 1000-yard season rushing stat as some meaningful piece of information? 1000 yards = 62.5/game.

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