Bryan Burwell - This is how it goes now on football Sundays at the Edward Jones Dome. The fans arrive late and leave early. There was a time in the darkest days of this franchise's decade-long slide into NFL irrelevance when the fans would linger around the end zone tunnel after losses and belch out the worst kind of public frustration at the Rams' failures.But now?Now they just leave. Quietly. It's not with a whimper, but with a disturbing numbness and a conditioned resignation to another lost season.
So here's what it looked like in the closing moments of Sunday's latest failure, a 24-7 loss to the woeful Seattle Seahawks:The public address system pumped out loud rock music and the sounds rattled around all the empty seats as the players marched off the field to the sounds of indifference.No jeers. No cussing. No fussing. No angry mobs or disgruntled season-ticket holders screaming vulgarities. The announced attendance of 56,400 had all but dwindled down to a few thousand by midway through the fourth quarter. They were mostly polite kids looking for autographs, hand slaps or a wrist band or glove that might be tossed their way.Everyone else had already headed for the exits because that's all that can be done now. Shrug your shoulders and move on to the next one.
This is the strangest losing team I've ever been around, because it's not the typical losing team. It doesn't quit. It still fights. And every week it still finds more maddening ways to lose.I want to get mad about this, but I can't anymore.Why? Because ultimately I know this is a team that wants to fight, but quite frankly knows that it's bringing butter knives to a gun fight.Yes, this is a bad team. Yes, this is an unlucky team. Yes, this is a team that has more bad mojo, disturbing karma, buzzard's luck and ill-fated misfortune hovering over it than any other sports team I've seen this side of the historically sorry, no-account Chicago Cubs.
On Sunday, the 2-8 Rams may have hit rock bottom.The Seahawks are a very bad team. They ranked 26th in scoring offense, 29th in total offense, 28th in rushing offense, 22nd in passing offense. Until last week's inexplicable 22-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, the Seahawks managed to score a total of 28 points in their previous three games (all losses).This was one of those games that were circled on the back end of the Rams schedule that they simply had to win. But they never really had a chance to win, because the Rams' offense has vanished without a trace.This is getting stranger than strange. Because of a rash of injuries to this offense that just won't end, it has turned into a stripped-down attack that has only two players who seem capable of actually getting into the end zone (Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd).
But on this particular Sunday the game plan was to turn Jackson into a darned wide receiver instead of the bruising 100-yards-per-game rushing machine he really is."He's the main focus," said Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons. "You stop him and put the ball in the hands of Sam Bradford and the game changes for everyone."Well, the Seahawks' defense didn't really have to stop Jackson, because offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels did that all on his own.The Rams' game plan was to open up in myriad four-wideout, empty backfield sets, spreading out the potent Seattle rush defense and opening up the passing game. Even though Jackson has been on a rushing rampage over the past six or seven games, including three straight over 125 yards. But on Sunday, they didn't even try to establish the run. They just conceded that the Seahawks were too stout up front.
Now in all fairness, I'm sure that game plan would have stood a better chance of holding up if not for one little problem. The offense got whacked with more injuries Sunday. The patchwork offensive line that was already decimated with injuries lost another tackle (Mark LeVoir) and ended up using a guy at left tackle who was activated off the practice squad Saturday (Kevin Hughes), had another wide receiver injure his knee (Austin Pettis), and - here's a surprise - another tight end got hurt, too (Lance Kendricks).You want to know why this offense is so bad? You want to know why it's only averaging one touchdown a game? You want to know why it made all of three trips across the 50-yard line all afternoon and acts like there is football repellent sprayed on the goal line?It's because they're playing with a bunch of strangers.And it doesn't look like it's going to get much better, either.
The margin for error with this offense has shriveled down to the slimmest measure. Even when opportunities are provided for them, it's no guarantee that scoring will happen.Within the first 10 minutes of the game, the Rams' defense provided three splendid chances for the offense to take control of the game. On the second play of the game, the defense picked off a Tarvaris Jackson pass and gave the Rams' offense the ball less than a minute into the contest. The offense never crossed the 50-yard line. The next interception did produce a 30-yard TD pass from Bradford to Lloyd, but after that, the Rams' offense went stone cold. A blocked punt gave them a first down on their 42-yard line. Three plays and zero yards later, they punted.The rest of the game, there was no hope.
It's crazy to imagine how it's going to get much better, either. You don't just find top-notch offensive tackles on the street corner, so the Rams will be playing with a makeshift offensive line the last six games, and whatever hope there was for the big second-half turnaround has all but vanished.After next week's home game with Arizona, there are no victories left on the schedule. Two games with San Francisco home and away? Nope. Seattle on the road? Nope. Cincy? I don't think so. Pittsburgh? Come on.
This looks like a season that will end in complete disaster, and if you think the level of frustration is high among the fan base, it pales greatly compared to the mounting angst inside the locker room."I'm beyond frustrated right now," said Bradford. "I've never been a part of a team that's been in this situation. I don't like it. I hope this is the only time in my career that I'm ever in a situation like this. I do know this: I know we have six games left in the season, and I'm going to continue to do everything I can to help this team win. I'm not going to quit. I'm going to push our guys to continue to work and I think that's all we can do right now. Obviously it's not what we envisioned it to be at the beginning of the year. But that doesn't mean because we are 2-8 right now that we can give up. There are no excuses. We've got to continue to fight, and we've got to figure out a way to win games."
Again, I love this team's fight. I love that it refuses to quit. I just don't love its chances of turning this lost season around.