By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Sep. 23 2007

TAMPA, FLA. The skies over this muggy tropical city were filled with gray
clouds and soft rain showers as the Rams arrived here Saturday afternoon. But
way off on the horizon near the team's bayside hotel, there was this brilliant
explosion of sunlight trying mightily to peek through the angry storm clouds.

Was that brilliant setting sun the omen the Rams are looking for as they
scramble for ways to end this depressing 0-2 start?

They come here to the Florida Gulf Coast with precious little time to fix
whatever it is that ails them. After blowing a two-game, season-opening home
stand, this struggling team will spend six of the next eight weeks (minus the
bye week) on the road, and the hard road back to glory has to begin here and
now.

We are on the verge of discovering a lot of truths about this football team,
and I'm not sure if any of us ultimately will like the answers. It's time to
find out which players can really play, which coaches can really coach. We
won't get all the answers this afternoon at Raymond James Stadium, but if this
team falls to 0-3, you might want to start subscribing to those Mel Kiper NFL
draft updates.

"There is a great deal of talent in this locker room," wide receiver Torry Holt
said. "You don't want to panic, but as a player you are concerned; you are
aware of the situation of where we are. We're 0-2. You don't want to go week
after week with a loss. We're human. You can have a tendency to lose some guys
(if they fall to 0-3). Hopefully, we can go down to Tampa and play well and get
out of there with a win. If we can do that on the road, that will be a great
confidence-booster for us."

I can't believe the Rams are as bad as their record. I still think they will
win the NFC West, because on paper they have improved in several critical areas
from last year's 8-8 outfit. They're better defensively, they're better on
special teams, and they've added several big-play weapons on offense, and even
with the rash of injuries to the offensive line, they have no business being as
inefficient as they have been.

So it's time to wake up. If the special teams and defense can maintain the same
intensity of a week ago, then the only problem is this confounding offense that
sputters at all the wrong times. It's time to put together a game plan that
accentuates the weapons the Rams have (and there are plenty of them) and stops
exposing the weaknesses (the battered offensive line). If Marc Bulger can't
expect to sit in the pocket all day because his linemen can't handle a vicious
blitzing onslaught, then shorten the pass routes and use the tight ends and
running backs as first options in the offense. Attack the middle of the field
and stop wasting time with those fruitless passes into the flat. It might be
nice every once in a while to go back to that smash-mouth, power rushing game,
too, and ditch the stretch runs to the edge that haven't worked at all this
season.

"It'll be up to the coaches to see what they put in for us," Holt said. "I'm
sure they have some (quick-hitting plays) for us to try to get the ball out of
Marc's hands so he doesn't take such a beating and try to get it in our hands
and allow us as playmakers to do something with it after we catch it. We'll
pick our spots, but most importantly we need to take it back to the run game
getting established and the presence of the run game and getting Steven
(Jackson) going."

There's no more time to waste. Somehow, the offense has lost its personality
just as the reconstructed defense seems to be finding its heart and soul. The
Tampa Bay Bucs have a porous run defense that can make an ordinary offense
healthy and a talented one explosive. Like Holt says, there are a lot of
weapons in that Rams huddle, particularly a workhorse running back who gets
stronger the more he touches the ball. For whatever reason, the Rams
play-calling has not taken advantage of any of its strengths as these games
drag on.

That bit of offensive amnesia can't last much longer or this season will be
over before the next brilliant Florida sunset.