Letters to Gordo: Linehan takes a licking from fans
BY JEFF GORDON
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Columnist Jeff Gordon
(E-mail a "Letter to Gordo")
As you can imagine, citizens of Rams Nation are in an uproar. Their heroes have lost four games in a row and a fifth consecutive “L” -– at Carolina on Sunday -– is a distinct possibility.
Here is a sampling of what STLtoday.com readers are saying about all this:
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“Stick a fork in them they are done, turn out the lights the party’s over. Wow, I also was on the ‘Larry Marmie is an Idiot bandwagon,’ but now I see this defense is even more ineptly coached than last year’s. It’s pitch-and-catch for opposing quarterbacks and receivers and every running back runs for career numbers every game and they are getting worse with every snap. The Rams defense is offensive to watch!”
GORDO: This defense HAS made a number of big plays by blitzing aggressively, so the unit is much improved from last season.
Jim Haslett’s guys led the team to a nice 4-1 start. Unfortunately, inability of this “D” to stop the run this season undermines those gains.
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“Nothing has changed with Scott Linehan as head coach; an uninspired defense is still getting pounded and special teams are still making game-killing mistakes. The play-calling in the red zone was absolutely terrible Sunday, and I am not just talking about the fourth-down call. I was physically ill after watching the game. If there was such a thing as a ‘must’ win this early in the season, this was the game and the Rams choked. I am thoroughly disgusted!”
James Greenlaw, Salt Lake City
GORDO: The loss was disappointing, but playing the Seahawks on the road in a chore. They will beat a lot of teams there, even with Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander down.
So I don’t know if this goes down as a ‘choke.’ To me, it means the Rams just weren’t good enough.
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“Am I wrong or do the Rams have the worst defensive backs in the business? I never see then turn and look for the ball, I never see an interception and most of the time, they are nowhere near the wide receivers.”
GORDO: We’ve seen some tragedies in coverage, for sure. Linebacker Will Witherspoon got burned in a couple of tough match-ups. Tye Hill has learned a few tough lessons. Travis Fisher was a frequent victim since getting hurt. O.J. Atogwe takes some odd angles to the ball.
Now the Rams will plug Ron Bartell into a bigger role and use safety Corey Chavous to cover the slot receiver. So things could get interesting Sunday.
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“Do me a favor; ramp up the ‘Fire Linehan’ stories. I’m a Dolphins fan suffering with Mike Mularkey’s play calling. He’s just awful. Write stories about how Linehan isn’t capable of being a head coach. Please, do whatever it takes. If the Rams fire him then maybe we’ll have a chance at getting him back. From a suffering Dolphins fan,
GORDO: It’s way too early to beat the “Fire Linehan” drum . . . although some of our readers are trying to pound away. Funny, isn’t it, how the play-caller gets hammered when his team can’t execute?
As for the Rams, I like the way Linehan has utilized more three- and four-receiver sets as the season progressed, using more of the looks Mike Martz used. He had to adapt to the talent here, just as the talent had to adapt to the scheme.
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“Why is everyone focused on crucifying Linehan for the play he called on fourth and one? The real point of contention should be why he challenged the third-down play to Kevin Curtis in the first place. It was clear on the replay that, even if the call was overturned, the Rams would have been well short of the first down. Up by two in that situation, the smart call on a fourth and two is to kick the field goal and force the other team to score a TD to take the lead. Yet, Linehan challenges the call (which ended up going his way but could have been deemed inconclusive judging by the replays I saw) and is then forced to go for it on fourth down to lend credibility to the challenge.
"Is it possible that the Rams coaches watching the replay in the box missed the fact that the play would not result in a first down? Linehan waited until the last possible second to throw the flag, so he may not have ever received this information until the challenge was made.
“We are letting Linehan off the hook by castigating him for the play he called, as any play that did not work would draw similar criticism. Instead, we should be asking for answers as to why the play was challenged and how the fourth down play could have gone off without a key route runner not knowing what play was called. When it comes right down to it, one red flag and one yellow flag (Incognito) cost the Rams the game.”
Peter J. Batchelar
GORDO: No, Linehan didn’t know exactly where the appeal, if successful, would put the ball. He was confident in getting the catch, based on what his eyes in the booth told him, but he didn’t know where the spot would be.
And I agree, the real issue isn’t the gamble -– it is that one of the two pass targets on the called play didn’t know what was going on. That can’t happen at such a critical point in such an important game.
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“Someone should tell Linehan to lose the gum. He looks like Nervous Nellie on the sideline.”
GORDO: Wouldn’t you be edgy watching these guys attempt to stop the run?