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With new regime, Rams still aren't fixed
By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday at Rams Park, head coach Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett brought back the echoes of another time, and the previous coaching regime.
Yes, they appeared to be channeling Mike Martz.
And it was spooky.
I'm not joking. Both leaders came very, very, close to saying: "Shoot, we'll fix that."
When asked about his team's penalties and mistakes, Linehan said, "You've got to fix them."
When asked about his defense's chronic weakness against the run, Haslett said, "We're going to get that corrected. It's my responsibility to get it corrected. We're going to get this thing rightÂ…— we'll get it fixed one way or another."
Nine games into the inaugural journey, four games into the current losing slide, and that's the best they can come up with?
Learning on the job is never easy, and this is Linehan's first head-coaching gig. Linehan has gotten a quick education in the fickle nature of the media. For instance, I've dinged Linehan for being too methodical and contained on offense. He's turned feared game-breakers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce into Mike Furrey; they catch a bunch of dink passes for short gains. But as soon as Linehan breaks free from his conservatism, takes a bold gamble, and goes for it on that controversial fourth down Sunday in Seattle, he gets blasted by my buddy, Bryan Burwell.
What's a coach to do?
Easy: just win.
And if Coach isn't winning, he'll get dogged. Martz's eccentricities were cute until he lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots. And then Martz's quirks became annoying to the point of driving his critics into obsession and insanity.
I could talk about all of the things the Rams are doing well. And there are positives. The physical play of running back Steven Jackson, the precision of quarterback Marc Bulger, the disruptions caused by defensive end Leonard Little, the potential of rookie defensive end Victor Adeyanju, and the reliable right foot of Jeff Wilkins. The Rams play hard, don't roll over, and fight back — they fight a little too hard at times; just ask Richie Incognito.
And I could tell you about how the Rams are still in relatively decent shape to make a playoff run, even without injured offensive tackle Orlando Pace. It's because the Rams are in a pack of eight wild-card contenders bunched with records of 5-4 or 4-5. And the NFC is weaker than ever.
But when a team has lost four consecutive games, the creeping, expanding darkness eclipses the sunshine.
No one wants to be reminded that the Rams had fallen into the losing habit long before Linehan and Haslett got here. But they're in charge, and so they're responsible. The NFL is all about immediacy. It's a hard-core, results-oriented business.
Linehan's offense reinforces the point. This offense controls the ball (fourth in the league in time of possession) and is No. 8 in total yards. But if the offense can't get into the end zone with more regularity, the stats amount to fluff. Sunday in Seattle, the Rams ventured inside Seahawks' territory on eight of their nine possessions and scored only one touchdown. The impressive yards totals and the rankings don't mean much.
Haslett's defense was superb during the second half in Seattle, limiting the Seahawks to 40 yards. And overall, the defense had six sacks, forced two turnovers and scored a TD. But hold the confetti; Haslett's small defense was stomped again on the ground, and couldn't stop the Seahawks on the final, game-winning drive.
And both coaches put heat on themselves with their stubborn ways.
Finally, Linehan should come up with something more inspirational than an updated version of "shoot, we'll fix that."
Fellas, if you must borrow, then go with the old Vince Lombardi quotes.