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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show
    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist | Posted: Monday, January 3, 2011 11:45 am

    Do you want to talk about the seven wins, and the progress that the Rams made in 2010, and how vital it was to establish QB Sam Bradford as a franchise piece? Do you want to talk about how we'll look back on the last few months and realize that this really was a good season for a franchise that went 1-15 in 2009?

    I agree with all of those points. And that would be a good and proper conversation to have. And I am certain we will have that discussion in the coming days. There will be plenty of time for the appreciation that comes with a long-view perspective.

    But that's a separate topic. A separate issue.

    My focus, for now, is specifically on the Rams' 10-point loss at Seattle. I'm talking about this game. We can talk about the other stuff later. But the 16th and final game -- and a failure to take advantage of such a clear opportunity -- warrants plenty of discussion in the immediate aftermath.

    So that's what I'm doing.

    It isn't that the Rams lost by 10 points at Seattle on Sunday night.

    It's the way it all went down.

    I think most reasonable people could accept this with more patience and understanding if the Rams had played well and coached well, only to fall short. But they weren't even close to that. They were embarrassingly bad. Embarrassingly outcoached. Embarrassingly overmatched by a Seattle team that had lost seven of its previous nine games by an average of 22 points.

    It's one thing to lose to Atlanta or New Orleans. But to go to Seattle and pull a no-show?

    It shouldn't have happened this way. Especially to the offense. And to the coaching staff.

    The Rams defense wasn't spectacular. But if you hold the home team to 16 points, three points under Seattle's season scoring average, then you've given the offense a good chance to come out of Qwest Field with a win and the NFC West title.

    Granted, Seattle's first series against the Rams was a nightmare, with the Rams blowing assignments and unable to cover Seattle's receivers down the field. But the defense recovered to control the game for long stretches. The Rams pass defense should have been tighter early in the game, and the run defense should have been tougher late in the game. Giving up 141 yards rushing is too much. But again, I don't believe the defense was the reason why the Rams came up empty.

    There was something disturbing about the Rams' attitude and approach.

    From the beginning, Seattle attacked. The Seahawks came out on the first drive, with the heretofore underwhelming backup Charlie Whitehurst in charge of their fate. And instead of backing away, and playing scared, the home team immediately went after the Rams' necks. On the game's second play, Whitehurst arched one 61 yards down the right sideline to former Rams WR Ruvell Martin to set up an easy TD. With that quick thunderbolt, the Seahawks sent an immediate message: WE ARE PLAYING THIS GAME TO WIN IT, DAMMIT. And that set the tone for the evening. That attitude gave Whitehurst confidence. Heck, it gave the entire team confidence.

    On the other side, the Rams were soft. And confused. And perhaps disoriented. They were a team straight from a Talking Heads' lyric: "You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"

    As for the offense, there's one question: what was the plan?

    Did the coaches plan to attack Seattle's horrible run defense with Steven Jackson? No, that wasn't it. Jackson's magnitude was reduced by his own coaching staff. He had 7 carries in the first half, 4 in the second half, and 11 overall. And this was a close game up until the end. The Rams were within one score, up until Seattle's late FG that made it 16-6. The game -- and the Seahawks -- invited Jackson to run it, to try and take over. Instead, Jackson became some sort of cameo-appearance player.

    OK, so we know the plan wasn't to batter the Seahawks with lots of Steven Jackson. So what was it then? Go after a shaky Seattle secondary with intermediate and long passes? No, that wasn't it, either. Until late in the game, the Rams were content to peck away with 3-yard, 4-yard passes. There was no imagination, no boldness, no form. The Rams were a squeeze tube of paste on offense.

    So again: what was the plan? What was the identity that Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur sought to stamp on their team in this crucial game? What did they Rams want to stand for? Like you, I watched this game for more than 3 hours and never once had an idea of what the Rams really wanted to do, or who they wanted to be, on offense.

    If you aren't committed to running the ball with Jackson against a rushing defense that was ranked tied for last in the NFL over the previous nine weeks, then at least come up with something better. Try to push the ball down the field. Try to come up with some innovative plays. Try to catch the Seahawks off guard. Get "Big Mike" involved. (And where was he, anyway? Why did the Rams activate him?) Do something that makes some sense: hit the Seahawks with "seam" passes down the middle, which they've struggled to cover.

    But if you've decided -- for whatever reason -- not to make Jackson's running a major plank of your game plan, then you'd better have a good Plan B. The Rams had no Plan B, not from what I could tell. They had no plan at all. This was one of the strangest things I've seen in covering NFL football for nearly 30 years.

    And since we're on the topic ... attacking with Jackson wouldn't have meant that the Rams were playing it safe, or going too conservative. Not at all. Here's the difference: you are guilty of playing it safe and being overly conservative when your passing game is lighting it up, and you pull the plug on it for no logical reason. Playing it safe and conservative is when you force the run and taking the ball out of your quarterback's hot hands when he's really moving the team through the air. It's when you force the run when the run is not working in a game that's been taken over by your QB.

    And that wasn't the case in Seattle. The Rams' passing game was dull. Rookie QB Sam Bradford didn't have anything close to his best stuff. It just wasn't happening for him. And on a few occasions when the Rams had a chance to make plays downfield, the receivers couldn't catch the ball. And that's why Jackson had to be a central figure in this NFC West title game.

    You see, coming out in a hostile stadium and (metaphorically) punching a team in the mouth by loading up and grinding away with a 235-pound running back is one of the strongest, powerful and confident statements a team can make. In that context it isn't conservative; it's an undeniable mission statement. It's a show of force.

    But SJ39 had 11 carries against a team that had yielded nearly 5 yards per carry over the previous nine games. Why did the Rams' coaches shy away from rushing the football on a night when the running lanes were open? Why did they not make full use of Jackson on a night when Bradford and the receivers were malfunctioning?

    Pete Carroll and Seattle didn't make that mistake. Heck, the Seahawks' running game has been weak all season -- only 3.4 yards per rush -- and they never abandoned the run against the Rams. Even after the Rams plugged the run in the 1st half -- Seattle averaged only 1.8 yards per carry -- the 'Hawks stayed with it.

    Jackson has started 88 games for the Rams. Only six times has he carried the ball fewer times than he did Sunday in Seattle. And he's their only Pro Bowl selection in 2010. It doesn't add up. If you're going to take the hit and fail on the big stage, shouldn't you at least try to resist by making extensive use of your most decorated offensive player and team leader?

    I'm not saying that the Rams should have run Jackson 35 times, regardless of game situation. If Seattle is stopping Jackson and taking him away, then you have to try something else. You can't be stubborn. But Seattle didn't stop Jackson. He had ample running room when the Rams explored Seattle's defense with him. Look, when plays are being set up for pedestrian fullback Mike Karney in key situations, then you know that something had gone wrong, terribly wrong, with the Rams' coaching acumen.

    How do you manage only 184 yards and 10 first downs against a Seattle defense that was ranked 29th in scoring defense and 31st in yards allowed from scrimmage? Look, we know this isn't a glamorous, jazzy, high-octane St. Louis offense. We know the Rams lack big-time playmakers. But really, now: 184 yards against Seattle? Those 184 yards were the fourth-lowest total by a visiting team at Qwest Field since the place opened in 2003.

    I'm thinking Rams owner Stan Kroenke will have some serious questions to pose to Spags when they get together to review the season. And the 16th game.

    Spags had at least two chances to challenge some calls made by an officiating crew that was just as bad as any team in the gadawful NFC West team. Spags didn't challenge. It's almost as if Spags and a lot of his players froze in this game. And I don't know why.

    It wasn't all just the coaching. The wideouts dropped passes. The Rams' interior line allowed penetration in the pass rush, and Bradford had multiple passes batted down. The outside linebackers got run over. And Bradford didn't play well. He was outplayed by C. Whitehurst. Sheesh. But Whitehurst had a lot more help from his coaches and receivers in this one. (And it's not as if Seattle has some formidable group of receivers. Not at all.) And by the way: let's not have any more talk about the Rams being OK at wide receiver, and not needing to make an aggressive offseason move or two to upgrade the position. This debacle was an urgent plea for assistance. Unless, of course, you want to waste Bradford's peak years.

    The Rams -- painfully -- were not ready for prime time. They were not ready for their close-up. Not ready for this moment.

    Again: I realize that this is a building year, and that most people picked the Rams to win 3, 4 or 5 games. The Rams weren't supposed to be playing for a division title. I realize Peyton Manning won three games as a rookie QB so we shouldn't be too hard on young Sam. Got it. Know it. Said it myself. It's been established. The future is promising. There was a lot to like in 2010. That's all understood.

    But sorry, this isn't the St. Louis Junior Football League. And the Rams didn't play Sunday's game at Pittsburgh, or Atlanta, or New England. Seattle had lost seven of its last nine and was ripe for a beating. And you don't know when the Rams will get a chance like this again; the schedule will be more difficult in 2011.

    And I also think the Rams deserve to be treated like a team that has gotten better, a team that is capable of playing better, a team that has earned all of these kudos and gestures of respect in recent weeks. They deserve to be viewed as something more than a charity-case, sad-sack, sorry outfit. So I wouldn't insult them by giving them a free pass for what happened in Seattle. These coaches and players have higher standards than that.

    And after the advances the Rams made in 2010, there's really no excuse for coming into a 16th game with everything on the line and striking out as feebly as the Rams did in Seattle.


  2. #2
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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    It's almost like they didnt want to win the game. It was a horrid display by the men running this team. It scares me for the future all this conservative mindset stuff.
    To top everything off is the fact that there is no more football next week to redeem ourselve's. It's beyond belief really, Ill remember this season for the Seattle game, not the improvement this team has made.
    Hopefully this will teach a lesson to Spags about going out and winning football games, instead of not playing to lose. At least we get a draft position which better reflects our football team.
    GO RAMS

    GO RAMS

  3. #3
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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Well its been a common theme all season , never playing to win and unfortunately that was the ONLY Game i watched live this year of the Rams ... I was mad & and a little bitter at the coaches for this one. Spags is still the man but these guys need to get a clue how to stamp their authority on games.

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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Hate to say it, but he's right. It's time to move on though...

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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Plain and simple. They weren't ready.

    They being the players and the coaches. Hopefully they will improve next year. HOPEFULLY they will get a play maker receiver. Cause even with Avery/Clayton, we don't have much.

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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Hopefully this game serves as motivation for EVERYONE on the Rams to work hard this offseason.

    This team was 20 times better to watch than the last few have been though, good year.

  7. #7
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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Excellent write up by Bernie. I just wish it wasn't true... What a bitter way to end an other wise enjoyable season.

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    Rampingitup is offline Registered User
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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Really terrified. Once again I agree with Bernie. <Shudder> But I can't wait to see what else they do in the off season now that we have more evidence of what we still need.

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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Quote Originally Posted by supachump View Post
    Plain and simple. They weren't ready.
    I said this to myself at the end of the first quarter, they just didn't seem to come out with any momentum or any clear idea how to approach the game.

    Whist I'm hesitant to pile into Shurmur, primarily because I think that Spags is a conservative influence, our offense was predictable and dull in this game. It was in many others of course but this game seemed to present a surfeit of Ram offensive dullness that was hard to watch.

    6 game turnarounds don't happen too often in the NFL and for that, as well as the much-improved defensive performance, Spags deserves the credit but if he's going to propel the Rams into the playoffs, the offense needs either his whole attention this off-season or a lot less of it.

    Not sure which.

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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    several shots of Spags all with the same look:

    "I'm lost"

    "Dammit Pat, come in"

    "I shouldn'ta had the clams"

    "Should I be taking the itemized deductions"

    "Holy hell. I need four recievers, four linemen, two tightends, a halfback, a fullback, two linebackers, a safety, a cornerback and an offensive coordinator"
    Kiss my ass, football gods

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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    The point about not using Jackson in the running game more hits home with me. So the Seahawks had eight men in the box alot. SO WHAT!!! Run Jackson right at them, wear them down.....make the Seahawks adjust to what we're doing. Oh No not that....we'll go to the 3 or 4 yard passes with 8 men in the box! Sheeesh!!!!

    I feel better now......

    NEXT!

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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Quote Originally Posted by Supachump View Post
    Plain and simple. They weren't ready.

    They being the players and the coaches. Hopefully they will improve next year. HOPEFULLY they will get a play maker receiver. Cause even with Avery/Clayton, we don't have much.
    The Rams were not ready, plain and simple. Unfortunate reality. Totally agree w/you Supa.

    No, it is not an "excuse" for the no-show but it sure is an explanation! We looked bad, insecure, especially -- and again, unfortunately -- at offense.

    I really look forward to next year. A better Bradford and The Boys team, a better D as well (it burns me to see opponents make 1st down after 2nd and 17, 3rd and 14, etc.). A more confident Spags and coaching staff.

    A better record: 11-5.

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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Just to put the "Rams were not ready" reality on the back burner, I would like to say that the night simply was not theirs to have. From the ridiculous officiating, to dropped passes and epic fails by the O line to prevent those batted balls, all of a sudden that one pick thrown by sam wasnt the deciding factor, not by a long shot.

    The Rams were not the only culprit in their own lose, it seems that this lose was for a reason, we all know how football goes, we will be back next season and if this year was any indication, we are to going to tear the lid off of the NFC west.

  14. #14
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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Quote Originally Posted by RealRam View Post
    The Rams were not ready, plain and simple. Unfortunate reality. Totally agree w/you Supa.

    No, it is not an "excuse" for the no-show but it sure is an explanation! We looked bad, insecure, especially -- and again, unfortunately -- at offense.

    I really look forward to next year. A better Bradford and The Boys team, a better D as well (it burns me to see opponents make 1st down after 2nd and 17, 3rd and 14, etc.). A more confident Spags and coaching staff.

    A better record: 11-5.
    I've been lying low since the game on Sunday because quite frankly, I was so pissed off about that display of football I needed calm down a bit to gather my senses.

    But I cannot properly (or at least, use words that can be printed here) describe the disappointment I have in Spags after that game. Now, I've been a supporter of Spags since his hiring. He was the right guy to bring in at the right time. He was the right guy to get this franchise turned around.

    But is he the guy to move them on to the next step?

    Not yet, not from what I saw Sunday.

    Before you get all excited and start blasting me, read everything I have to say. I totally and completely agree with Bernie on this. What the hell was Spags thinking? Where was he during that questionable call that should have been challenged? With the offense running about as vanilla as you could get an offense, why didn't he step in and take control. This was the Rams most crutial game in years, and he (or his staff) had NO answers for anything. Anybody with any eyes could see what was happening, but Spags and his crew could not? Really? They couldn't see that the Hawks were compressing towards the LOS and STILL he throws nothing but short passes? He's playing against the WORST run defense in the league and Jackson isn't getting the ball? In two of the more critical plays in the game, he hands the ball to someone not named Jackson?
    I understand and agree that Shurmur was out of his mind for calling that lackluster game. But Spags is the head coach. And as the head coach, its' HIS responsibilty to run the team and control what is going on.

    I know this Ram's offense has holes. I know the Rams offense isn't the GSOT. I know that the Rams would not have gone far in the playoffs. But this Rams offense should have scored more than 6 points against that team. The week before they spread the ball around and open it up a bit against a much, much better defense and then they go into a "protect Bradford" mode? WHY? The Rams coaching staff made Braford look awful. Granted Sam made a few bad throws and some bad decisions, but the game plan, of lack thereof, didn't do the Kid any favors. They failed him.

    No, I don't buy the "we had a bad game and oh well" mentality. This game was the Rams to lose, and by God, they did.

    ...and that falls on the Rams coaching staff. They did not get this team ready for the biggest game to-date in their pro careers. They were outplayed, outhustled, and definitely outcoached. That job, and that responsibility falls squarely on Spags shoulders. He failed miserably in doing his job.

    I was afraid about hiring a defensive minded coach because as Chris Collinsworth pointed out during the game, they tend to be a "bit" conservative in their offensive approach. Well, Spags did that in spades Sunday night and it cost his team a chance at doing something truely wonderful. A playoff spot and a chance to beat the Saints in a rematch.

    If Spags doesn't fire Shurmur or make it clear to him that next year's offensive game plans will involve something more than a quick 3 yard pass to a tightly covered WR, then HE needs to lose his job.

    In my opinion, that coaching job by Spags on Sunday night was as bad as any game I ever watch Mike Martz coach, including the SB game MM lost.

    I didn't mind losing that game as much as HOW they lost it. For years, the Rams have been called a "soft" team by many people. A team that had a reputation for not getting it done when the going got tough. On national TV, in the biggest game of the season, the Rams proved the critics right. They earned the nickname "Lambs" on Sunday night.
    Faithful Rams fan since 1968

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    Re: Bernie: No excuse for Rams' no-show

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie
    There was something disturbing about the Rams' attitude and approach.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie
    On the other side, the Rams were soft. And confused. And perhaps disoriented. They were a team straight from a Talking Heads' lyric: "You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"
    If there was ever a game to go into attack mode, Sunday night was it. The uber-conservative stance the coaching staff took had to give the players on offense little or no confidence. It's like Spags and Shurmur didn't trust Jackson, Bradford, or anyone, and I wouldn't be surprised if that attitude got into the players heads early on. There was simply no fire, no emotion and no rhythm from the get go, and I think the coaches helped to create that atmosphere.

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