Week Thirteen: Post-Game Observations
Well, this was ugly.
The Rams’ first 2011 contest against the San Francisco ***** was brutal enough to watch the first time. I wish this article wouldn’t give you flashbacks to this miserable context, but I’m afraid we may be in for a bumpy ride. Needless to say, the Rams once again failed to show much life or fight, leading fans to continue to wonder just when the plug would be pulled on this comatose season of football.
There’s no denying that San Francisco has had an incredible year this season. The Rams certainly helped them continue their momentum, allowing them to lock up the NFC West title over the weekend. Alex Smith looked like the second coming of Joe Montana, completing 17/23 for 274 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams made it look easy for Smith, as they blew coverages and missed tackles. Frank Gore didn’t explode for the kind of yards that Beanie Wells did against St. Louis last week, but he certainly gained enough to become another Rams opponent to enter the record books. Gore earned franchise rushing records with his 73 yards on the ground.
Offensively, this machine was out of gas. Even Steven Jackson (11 touches for 30 yards) couldn’t make much of an impact on this day. Those who thought that back-up quarterback A.J. Feeley might be able to provide some kind of spark to the Rams’ offense found themselves sorely mistaken, as Feeley was largely ineffective. He failed to lead the Rams on a scoring drive, and turned the ball over twice.
The Rams’ best offensive play may have been a nice sideline catch by Brandon Lloyd, who climbed over a defender to pluck the ball at its highest point. It was Lloyd’s only catch of the day, as the ***** rolled coverage towards him and essentially shut him down. The remaining Rams’ receivers didn’t do much to take advantage of the opportunities; Brandon Gibson hauled in four passes for 42 yards with a long of 14. Austin Pettis averaged 11 yards on three receptions. The rest of the hapless crew had a catch apiece and minimal impact.
The Rams’ new look offensive line – Goldberg, Bell, Wragge, Brown, and Dahl – sputtered and fell on their faces, failing to open holes for Steven Jackson and protect Feeley very well. At this point, this group is what it is. Losing the starting two offensive tackles is a big blow, and the Rams simply didn’t have the kind of depth to recover from that. Voluntarily benching a third starting lineman in Brown shook things up even further. The Rams under Billy Devaney should get credit for at least attempting to bring in some quality offensive linemen, which is more than you could probably say for most of Mike Maftz’s tenure here, but the meter is starting to lean towards the notion that they whiffed on a number of them.
Only when mirrored against such an anemic offensive performance does this defensive effort appear solid. Holding Frank Gore to 3.5 yards per carry is praiseworthy, but allowing Alex Smith to achieve the highest passer rating of his career is a big one in the minus column. Stud defensive end Chris Long added two more sacks, bringing his season total up to 12. This ties him for third in the league, behind only DeMarcus Ware and Jason Allen. He’d likely be getting some heavy Pro Bowl consideration if he didn’t play for such a stinker.
In the back seven, what can you really say? We know James Laurinaitis is going to come to play every week. He finished the day with ten tackles, two assists, and a sack. Ben Leber, praised during the offseason as a shrewd signing by this front office, was waived so that the Rams could promote a back-up quarterback, which adds yet another failure to the Rams’ attempt to address the outside linebacker position. As for the secondary, it wouldn’t be a Rams game if Justin King didn’t allow a touchdown reception. This time, it may have been more Craig Dahl’s fault, who continues to look like a marginal starter at best. This is one area of the roster that, like the offensive line, has just been depleted of its top talent and it shows week in and week out.
With all that being said, I think it’s fair to ask exactly what the coaches were doing in this game. When you look around the league, there are other down-and-out teams with questionable talent and injuries at least competing with their opponents. The winless Colts were never really in their game against New England, but they at least made a valiant push in the fourth quarter to make it close. The Tebow-led Denver Broncos, thought to be out of any contention once they made the switch from Kyle Orton to Florida’s golden child, achieved their sixth win with Tim at the helm, kicking two field goals in the fourth quarter to take the lead over Minnesota. The Houston Texans, despite being on their third quarterback, losing their best defensive player, and having a gimpy stud receiver, still managed to take down the Atlanta Falcons. The Seattle Seahawks stunned the Nightmare Philadelphia Eagles, and the Arizona Cardinals took down the Dallas Cowboys. Other teams are putting up a fight. Where is the Rams’ fight?
To me, it starts from the top down. Steve Spagnuolo’s decisions against the Cardinals were questioned by many, and it looks like the Rams had little plan when it came to competing with the ***** this week. Offensively, they couldn’t get much out of anyone and no idea how to adapt. Defensively, they basically were content just trying to stop the bleeding. This team’s lack of leadership starts at the top, and will likely cost Spags if not Billy Devaney his job.