Ram Bytes: Our list of demands
BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
Here's what I want to see from the Rams tonight in their game against the *****:
1. Accountability: Where was this team in Dallas? The Rams need to make a statement tonight. They have to show us that the no-show in Jerry World Stadium was an aberration that didn't represent who they are or what they stand for. They have to play in the manner that you'd expect from a Jeff Fisher team. Namely: physical, ferocious and proud. Without that, they get clobbered by a San Francisco team that's coming to St. Louis to make a stand.
2. Eliminate the numbskull penalties: My friend Randy Karraker of 101 ESPN offered a great statistic this week. Minus the fair catches, Tavon Austin has had the chance to return seven punts this season. And the Rams have committed penalties on six of his seven returns. That's unacceptable. Since the start of last season, the Rams have 37 special-teams penalties, and 308 special-teams penalty yards - the most in both categories by an NFL team over those 19 games. This season the Rams have the most special-teams penalties (9) and only Cincinnati (by one yard) has more ST penalty yards.
3. Run the damn football: No, I'm not asking for the Marty Schottenheimer offense, or the Chuck Knox offense. But at some point this offense has to give the opposition a reason to bother defending against the run. According to STATS the Rams have rushed the football on only 26.7 percent of their snaps. That horrible imbalance makes the offense one-dimensional and easy to control. By failing to establish the threat of the running game, the Rams have removed the play-action pass as a possible strategy. It would be easy for me to dog the team's unproven running backs, but they haven't really had the chance to show what they can do. Last season the Rams churned 244 yards rushing in their two games against the *****, and ran the ball on roughly 45 percent of their snaps. That's healthy. No, they don't have Steven Jackson. But without the Rams making an effort, we'll never know if they have a back capable of truly replacing SJ. And not that this will carry over into tonight, but the ***** were stomped for 356 yards rushing and five rushing TDs in losses to Seattle and Indianapolis.
4. Wake up and clean up on third down: I talked about this on my "Breakfast with Bernie" video and it's worth repeating; I'll add some new stuff here. This team is doomed unless it can quickly improve its third-down performance on each side of the ball. This is the Rams' 19th season in St. Louis. Among the 19 STL Rams teams, this one ranks 18th in third-down conversion percentage (an abysmal 29.3 pct.) and is 19th and last in stopping third downs, allowing opposing offenses to convert at a rate of 50 percent. You just can't win many football games when getting trounced so dramatically on third down.
5. Better coaching: Yeah, it's on the players to step up and make plays and find ways to compete and win. But they aren't getting much help from the coaching staff. Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's bizarre obsession with chicken-scratch passes is killing the offense. Defensive coordinator Tim Walton can't seem to get his guys — especially the defensive backs — aligned properly. The Rams continue to allow quarterbacks and receivers to play a simple game of pitch and catch against a soft "off" coverage. And there's no justifiable excuse for the constant mistakes being made by John Fassel's special teams. And then there's Coach Fisher. He stubbornly refuses to view the no-huddle offense as a legitimate option when the Rams offense is dragging and napping. Is Fisher too rigid?
Or as Ryan Van Bibber wrote at Turf Show Times:
"Have this coaching cadre been around so long that they're set in their ways, too stubborn to embrace the evolving nature of the game? It's fair to wonder, especially when you have the head coach talking about things like the no-huddle offense the same way your aunt criticizes television shows that aren't on CBS."
6. Boldness from Sam Bradford: As I wrote in the Bytes earlier this week, 81.5 percent of Bradford's passing attempts this season have traveled 10 yards or fewer in the air. Nearly 30 percent have been thrown to a receiver who has set up behind the line of scrimmage. I understand that Sam is running a Schotty Offense. I know he's following orders -- at least to a point. The best quarterbacks take control of the offense. They press the coordinator to implement new plays, consider a different strategy. And when the ball is snapped, it's in Sam's hands, which means he has control. Bradford shouldn't be so quick to check down as often as he does.
7. Make Jim Harbaugh unhappy. I just enjoy watching the facial expressions coming from the *****' coach when his team is getting pounded.
8. Proof that the Rams know what to do with their flex tight end Jared Cook. OK, so the defense has made it a priority to stop him the last two weeks. But aren't their ways to get him open? Cook has got to be more of a factor than, say, Joe Klopfenstein.
9. Tavon Austin: please refer to No. 8 on our list, and substitute the name of any nondescript wide receiver in place of Klopfenstein.
10. Release the hound (Alec Ogletree) on Colin Kaepernick: it's one of the main reasons why the Rams drafted Ogletree -- the fast rookie outside LB and former Georgia Bulldog -- in the first round. To chase and trap Kaepernick, the 'Niners elusive QB. Let's see some creativity here.
Enjoy the game ... I have a feeling it'll be crazy.
Thanks for reading...
Re: Ram Bytes: Our list of demands
You know what I want?
Along with all the other benefits of a win, a victory tonight will guarantee that I won't have to read any more articles like this (a combination of "duh!" observations and inane "demands") for at least a week and a half.