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Thread: Rams ground game runs empty
Rams ground game runs empty
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
It's a simple game, really, and when you can't run the football - or stop the run - you're not going to win many football games.
The Rams did neither Sunday, in a 24-9 loss to Washington that effectively ended any hopes of reaching the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.
While Clinton Portis and Rock Cartwright - yes, Rock Cartwright - were both topping 100 yards rushing for Washington, Rams running backs managed only 27 yards rushing on just 12 carries.
Take it from straight-shooting interim head coach Joe Vitt: "I think the big difference in the game was their ability to run the football on us, and we couldn't get any running game generated."
In short, the Rams got bullied by classic NFC East-style football at the Edward Jones Dome. It was as if Redskins coach Joe Gibbs was still stuck in the '80s, loading up with three tight ends and running right at the Rams.
It worked back then, when the Redskins were on a run that brought them three Super Bowl titles from 1982 through 1991. And it worked on Sunday, to the tune of 257 yards rushing against a sloppy-tackling Rams defense, particularly in the secondary.
The end result was that the Rams (5-7) were dominated by a mediocre Washington team (6-6), one that had lost three consecutive games prior to Sunday. Although the Rams mathematically have a shot at the playoffs, for all practical purposes they are done. It almost certainly will take 10 victories to earn a wild-card berth, and the best the Rams can do is 9-7.
It will be the first time in a while that the team isn't playing meaningful football in December - or at least much of December.
"It's going to be a test of character and pride," offensive guard Adam Timmerman said. "Pride in this team. Pride in this season to finish off and see who's going to keep playing - playing hard. And who's going to hang it up."
Sunday's loss did mathematically eliminate St. Louis from NFC West title contention. On the fourth day of December, Seattle clinched its second consecutive West title without even playing. The Seahawks play Philadelphia tonight.
"This is a devastating loss for our football team, obviously," Vitt said. "We let it get away from us in the fourth quarter."
That they did. St. Louis trailed only 10-7 entering the fourth quarter. But completions of 29 yards to tight end Robert Royal and 30 yards to Santana Moss put Washington on the doorstep of the end zone at the end of the third quarter.
Rookie strong safety Jerome Carter, starting in place of the injured Adam Archuleta (concussion), missed a tackle on Royal that would have stopped him for a short gain.
On the pass to Moss, both Carter and nickel back Corey Ivy had good coverage, but Mark Brunell's pass still made it to Moss.
"We had him doubled," Vitt said. "We didn't make the play. ... We had some missed assignments on defense where we did not rotate the secondary. Our young safeties struggled a little bit."
Moss' play carried to the St. Louis 9, and three plays later Portis was in the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the day. Hopes for yet another comeback victory were revived early in the fourth quarter, when Brunell fumbled out of his own end zone for a safety.
The two points narrowed Washington's lead to eight - 17-9 - and the Rams took over with good field position at their 37 following the free kick. But on second and 3 from the 44, rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick missed connections on a handoff to Steven Jackson.
"I was going back to give Steven the ball," Fitzpatrick said. "I knocked against the fullback's side. Completely my fault."
Washington defensive end Renaldo Wynn recovered on the Rams' 45. The Redskins pounded away with eight consecutive running plays to either Portis or Cartwright. Then, on third and goal from the 4, Brunell passed to a w-i-d-e open Chris Cooley for a TD and a 24-9 lead with 5 minutes 50 seconds to play.
There were no miracle comebacks on this day. The botched exchange typified what was a tough day for Fitzpatrick in his first NFL start after his stellar work a week ago in the comeback victory in Houston.
Harassed immediately by the blitzes of Washington defensive coordinator Gregg Williams - who's a candidate to replace Mike Martz in St. Louis - Fitzpatrick never got in rhythm.
He completed 21 of 36 passes, but for only 163 yards on a day when the Rams didn't have a completion longer than 19 yards or running play gain more than nine. Although he scrambled his way out of several predicaments, including a seven-yard dash for the Rams' only score, Fitzpatrick was high and off-target on several throws.
"It's disappointing," Fitzpatrick said. "The worst thing about this, it's just such a bad feeling because you feel you disappointed your teammates and let them down a little bit. And that's not a great feeling."
The Rams were simply smothered all day by a Washington defense that was strong up front but featured speedy linebackers, particularly the underrated Marcus Washington. For the third week in a row, the combination of a defensive front stacked against the run, and a blitz-heavy scheme, proved troublesome for the Rams.
Despite ranking fourth in the league in total offense entering the game, the Rams finished with only 191 yards in offense Sunday - their 10th-lowest total since the move to St. Louis in 1995.
"We knew coming in, they were going to challenge us," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "But we still felt like we could move the ball consistently in the air."
Not even close.
"We've had a lot of successes on offense," Holt said. "So anytime anybody slows us down we wonder what's going on."
Re: Rams ground game runs empty
It's pretty sad when you have 5 RB's on the active roster and you can't establish the run.:down:JUST WIN ONE FOR THE FANS
"HIT HARD, HIT FAST, AND HIT OFTEN"Adm. William "Bull" Halsey
Re: Rams ground game runs empty
That's cause Running backs don't establish the run.