Same Problems Plague Rams in Loss
Sunday, December 18, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
It’s a story that has been told too many times for Rams’ fans to count and too many times for anyone to care to remember.
St. Louis’ 17-16 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday didn’t have any meaning in the playoff picture. It wasn’t going to determine which team would be playing in late January. It was a game for pride and a testament of character.
Which of these 5-8 teams would be able to correct the mistakes that have plagued them all season and do enough to walk away with its sixth win? While neither team played like a Super Bowl contender, the Rams were plagued again by the same problems that bruised and beat them in the first place.
“The penalties are disappointing, 15 penalties, eight false starts, that’s just unacceptable,” interim coach Joe Vitt said. “The big yards in the return game, unacceptable. The one big run, the play they had in the first half, we missed four tackles, had him for no gain, that’s unacceptable. Until you correct those things, every man has to take account of himself to get it corrected. You have no chance. I don’t care how hard you play, when you keep shooting yourself in the foot, which is the same old story, the same old broken record, you don’t give yourself a chance.”
All of those problems have reared their ugly heads before. In fact, they have happened so much this season that it seems like in this very space, the words stay the same with only the names changing.
The Rams didn’t have much to play for heading into Sunday’s game, but this loss drops them to 5-9 on the year with no hopes of salvaging a .500 record for the year.
Nothing hampered St. Louis more than the penalty problem that has been the bane of Vitt’s existence since he took over as the interim coach in October. In an all-around ugly game, the Rams committed 15 penalties for 115 yards.
Those penalties allowed the Eagles to come up with easy first downs and to get off the field in important situations.
The eight false start penalties were spread among the various offensive linemen and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, with left guard Claude Terrell guilt of three infractions.
The Rams’ first drive stalled on a false start on right guard Adam Timmerman at the Eagles’ 8. St. Louis had to settle for a field goal, something that would become another recurring theme for the rest of the day.
“When you make mistakes like that they come back to haunt you,” Timmerman said. “They are drive stoppers and they keep you out of the end zone and that’s really what hurt us today. We got some field goals and not touchdowns.”
That was disappointing for a team that ran the ball with as much commitment as it had all season. The Rams finished with 178 yards on 36 rushing plays for an average of 4.9 yards per carry.
Running back Steven Jackson was dominant in the first part of the game, but suffered a stomach illness and then a hip pointer which caused him to miss the majority of the second half. When he exited, he had 82 yards on 16 carries.
Marshall Faulk more than ably replaced Jackson, running for 87 yards on 16 carries and showing the burst and moves that have made him the ninth leading rusher in NFL history (he passed Marcus Allen on Sunday).
The added dimension of a strong running game had the Rams rolling as they took a 13-7 lead into the locker room at halftime and a 16-7 lead going into the third quarter.
“The runs were there,” Jackson said. “At times, we didn’t take advantage. It’s all about taking advantage of your opportunities. That’s what we didn’t do.”
While the running game was in business, the Rams defense was also doing its part. For the second week in a row, the defense was more aggressive, blitzing more consistently and even forcing turnovers.
Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa’s second quarter interception set up receiver Torry Holt’s 5-yard touchdown catch for a 10-7 lead. Leonard Little had a fumble recovery and free safety Mike Furrey and cornerback DeJuan Groce had interceptions.
But while the defense was getting takeaways, the offense was unable to convert them into points.
“That’s probably about a 90 percent chance of winning when you are plus three,” Timmerman said. “We just didn’t get down there and get enough points off turnovers. I thought the defense did a good job of creating those turnovers and we didn’t go down and stick it in the end zone. That is what hurt us in the end.”
The defense was certainly improved Sunday, holding the Eagles to a meager 201 yards of offense, but it was by no means perfect. For a group that has made superstars out of the likes of Aaron Stecker, Nick Goings and Rock Cartwright in the past two seasons, it wasn’t much of a surprise that rookie Ryan Moats broke a 59-yard touchdown run in the first quarter for a 7-3 lead.
Once again, the reason for those failures can be traced back to simple fundamentals.
“We got them tackled in the back field, we missed it at the line of scrimmage and we missed it twice in the secondary,” Vitt said.
Although the tackling was better after that play, the Eagles still racked up 125 yards on 4.5 yards per attempt.
In spite of those miscues, the Rams seemed to be in control of the game or have a shot at the win as late as the fourth quarter. With Philadelphia making adjustments to stop the run, the Rams asked rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to get the job done.
After a difficult five-interception performance against Minnesota last week, Fitzpatrick was unable to get much of anything going through the air.
He was 10-of-24 for 69 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a rating of 45.8. Fitzpatrick struggled so mightily that he was replaced late in the game by Jamie Martin.
After the Eagles took the lead on Mike McMahon’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Mike Bartrum in the fourth quarter, the Rams still had four opportunities to take the lead.
On the game’s final drive, though, Faulk – who was the Rams’ best offense Sunday – was nowhere to be found. Arlen Harris took his spot.
The final drive came to an end when Martin couldn’t hit Shaun McDonald on fourth-and-7. The Rams had lost their third straight game, third consecutive home game and were left without much else.
Although the Rams once again played hard, it didn’t do much for the mood of an obviously frustrated Vitt.
“We are paid to play hard,” Vitt said. “We are paid to coach hard. Anybody that doesn’t play hard or coach hard, you are a fraud. Take a walk or take a hike. This is a great league. This is a great profession. We are not getting any gold medals for playing hard. That’s expected, that’s what you are supposed to do. Now give yourself a chance to win by playing smart.”
Re: Same Problems Plague Rams in Loss
Blitzing for the team has made a difference like some of has said on here!.....Not patting myself on the back at all! it just makes sense to try and get pressure on the QB.........i also noticed that they have been dropping Little and Hargrove more!!!!
I wished they woul;d try just for a couple of series to play them both at outside LB and pisa at middle and start Green Dlew Kennedy and Pickett on the Line of scrimmage! Hargrove and Little have more than enough speed to cover a TE..... Then line them up outside the tackles and let them pin their ears back on passing situations! can you imagine what havoc theyd put on the opposing offense having really 6 dlinemen coming after you?........LOL............I'd have to change my pants if i were a opposing QB!............Little could put the heat on just like Kevin Greene used to do!
Re: Same Problems Plague Rams in Loss
Not many Olines could stand up to that kinda rush!!!!!!!!!
Re: Same Problems Plague Rams in Loss
the main problem is no defensive toughness arch used to be my fav player now hes soft.