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[Burwell]: Rams offense: improving, or dysfunctional?
Rams offense: improving, or dysfunctional?
By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Sep. 19 2006
By late Monday afternoon, Scott Linehan was armed with all sorts of empirical
evidence to prove that things were not as bad as they seemed. He stared out at
a room full of puzzled inquisitors with their "the glass is half empty"
attitudes, rattled off a few interesting statistical tidbits and tried to
persuade us to believe him and not our lying box scores.
"To be sitting here (with a 1-1 record) and acting like we're in a state of
dysfunction on offense, well, I really don't feel that," Linehan said,
continuing his season-long theme that prosperity is just around the corner.
While everyone else in the room wanted to dwell on the Rams' struggling
offense, which continues to treat the end zone with an allergic aversion,
Linehan preferred to point out the more subtle enhancements that may have gone
unnoticed in Sunday's 20-13 loss in San Francisco.
"As I talk to players I want to make sure that the emphasis is on improving,'
So as he talked about improved completion percentages and better third-down
conversions, it probably sounded like the new guy's grasping at straws. Well,
maybe that's because he is, and I really don't blame him. He keeps talking
about taking time to get better, and the truth is, Linehan's off-kilter offense
really does have time on its side.
The NFL scheduling gods have provided the Rams with exactly three weeks to work
out their glitches, because the schedule makers laid out three consecutive NFC
lightweights as sort of a "get-well-soon" gift. So if Marc Bulger and company
keep making mistakes in the short term, what better environment to do it in
than against the woeful Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers,
who last year had a combined winning percentage of .281 (18-46)?
But time is of the essence, because lurking just beyond that soft underbelly is
a beast of a six-week stretch that could make or break the Rams' season. If the
battered, patchwork offensive line can't work out the mental mistakes in pass
protection by then, I suggest that Bulger get more insurance.
If Bulger can't work out his timing problems with Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce in
this stretch, the rest of the road could get awfully uncomfortable, with two
games against NFC champion Seattle (13-3 last year), and one each against
Carolina (11-5), Kansas City (10-6) and San Diego (9-7). That's a five-game
stretch against teams that last year had a combined winning percentage of .716
The funny thing is, there's some truth to support Linehan's theories that the
offense is gelling. Let's go with the improvement in third-down-conversion
rate, which jumped dramatically from 20 percent to 41 percent in a week's time.
The secret to their success hinged on a dramatic improvement on second-and-long
situations. Of the 17 second-and-long plays against the *****, Linehan called
11 running plays and Steven Jackson (49 yards on nine carries) and Steven Davis
(6 yards on two carries) produced 55 yards (5.0-yard average) on those plays.
That echoes the belief that Jackson is a runner who can get the tough yardage.
Of his 22 carries against San Francisco, 10 went for 5 yards or better, and
only five were for no gain or negative yardage.
Whoever thinks Jackson is tap dancing behind the line of scrimmage doesn't have
a clue, because he dug into places where there was no hole and constantly
managed to grind those carries into 3- or 4-yard gains.
More good news: I've watched this team get off to 1-2 starts in 2003 and 2004
and reach the playoffs in dramatically different ways (12-4 division winner in
2003, 8-8 wild card in 2004). And as sluggish as the Rams offense has been,
there are six other teams in the NFC that have scored fewer points. The Rams
are also in a division with two teams (Arizona and San Francisco) that should
scare no one. And who knew that NFC East -- "The Greatest Division in
Football!!" -- would turn out to be just as mediocre as the NFC West? The only
thing that is more exaggerated than the NFC East's exhibition-season power
ranking is Notre Dame's.
So what do these comparisons mean? It means that there's no sense making
definitive proclamations about the Rams' fate after only two weeks, much less
Re: [Burwell]: Rams offense: improving, or dysfunctional?continuing his season-long theme that prosperity is just around the corner.
Re: [Burwell]: Rams offense: improving, or dysfunctional?
Ha! That's what I thought too, RnD! Besides, do writers expect a brand new HC to be insisting that the season, all of it, will be full of doom and gloom?
Imagine the articles on that one!
No, I say that up to this week 3, Coach SL has and deserves, for the most part, the fans support.
And BTW, Rams offense is dysfunctional BUT improving! :r