By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Nov. 03 2008
Jim Haslett's first month on the job had been good for the Rams. The team
surged under their new head coach, winning his first two games. The energy
level was up, the vibe was positive, and Rams Park became a happier place.

Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, reality checked back in and slapped the Rams
upside the head. The Rams were picked apart by old friend Kurt Warner and
humiliated 34-13 by the marauders from Arizona.

Bill Bidwill's first-place Cardinals haven't lost at The Ed since 2004; they're
more successful in St. Louis as the visiting team than they were as the home
team from 1960 through 1987.

With a few minutes left, The Ed had all but emptied out, and the Rams' second
straight loss drained the optimism that had gotten frothed up by the wins over
Washington and Dallas.

At halftime Sunday the Rams honored their beloved former coach, Dick Vermeil.
But instead of playing like DV's inspirational 1999 Super Bowl champions, the
Rams looked more like Vermeil's listless, disoriented 1998 squad that went 4-12.

The Rams defense was plundered for 510 yards by Warner and a bullish Arizona
running game. After an 80-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown by young wide
receiver Derek Stanley, the Rams offense disappeared into a deep and depressing
funk.

Quarterback Marc Bulger slipped further into his extended state of mediocrity,
and in the second quarter the Cardinals exploited Bulger's two ruinous
turnovers to take command of the game and the NFC West. The Rams had no
blocking and no ground game; Steven Jackson tried to play hurt but wasn't
effective.

It made for an ugly day. Once upon a time, Rams fans engaged in a good-natured
debate about the team MVP: was it Warner or running back Marshall Faulk? It was
a difficult decision. But nowadays there's a different kind of debate over the
quarterback and running back; fans can't decide whether they want to boo Bulger
or Jackson.

Those harsh sounds of discontent returned to the Ed in full throat, creating a
homefield disadvantage for the Rams.

"Hopefully we can do better and keep them in their seats," rookie defensive end
Chris Long said.

That's going to take a while, Chris.

The Rams are 2-6 and must face up to a disturbing truth: There are no quick
fixes to remedy this depleted roster. Yes, there is some talent in the house.
There's Long. The young wide receivers are exciting, and Jackson can be a force
on occasion. There's some speed on the defense. And when everything flows, and
the defense is forcing some turnovers, the Rams can be competitive.

But the number of holes are glaring:

The offensive line, ripped apart (again) by the Cardinals, must be rebuilt. It
is overmatched on too many Sundays.

The defensive line needs an anchor inside, in the soft middle. And having more
defensive ends is always a necessity.

To repeat: Will Witherspoon is not a middle linebacker.

There's an obvious need for a true shutdown cornerback. And a strong safety who
can run faster than Corey Chavous, who no longer can get to the ball.

This team doesn't appear to have a legitimate tight end, or a blocking back.

And what's the point of playing fullback Dan Krieder, age 31? He whiffed on a
block Sunday, letting Arizona safety Adrian Wilson push by for a sack and a
fumble.

There is no justifiable reason for having Dante Hall — age 30 and slowing —
returning kicks and punts when there are younger, faster and more dangerous
options on this roster.

The Rams have to find a more viable, ready backup for Jackson. Obviously the
Rams have more voltage when Jackson is healthy, so when he's hurting, there has
to be a more attractive alternative than Antonio Pittman.

And it's increasingly obvious that this franchise must prioritize the goal of
drafting and developing a young quarterback who will take the team into the
future.

After taking so many beatings, Bulger is in an advanced state of decline as a
quarterback. Through three quarters Sunday, Bulger completed only nine of 23
passes with an interception returned for a touchdown and a lost fumble that was
cashed in for a field goal.

Backup Trent Green is old and vulnerable to concussions, so he isn't a real
long-term solution.

The larger issue is the future of the leadership at Rams Park. Who will be
empowered to guide the personnel planning?

Billy Devaney, the VP of personnel, certainly is worthy of that opportunity.
And he's got a load of work to do.

The Arizona Cardinals made that abundantly clear on another bloody Sunday for
the Rams.