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  • Once first, now last

    Once first, now last
    BY BILL COATS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/25/2009

    In the span of a decade, the Rams' offense has morphed from the "Greatest Show on Turf" into what a Washington Post columnist declared after Sunday's 9-7 loss to the Redskins is the "Most Miserable Mass on Grass."

    That might seem harsh. Still, a team averaging 3.5 points per game really has no grounds for complaint. As coach Steve Spagnuolo acknowledged, "On offense, you're judged on how many points you score."

    In a way, the deck is stacked against the regrouping Rams. They're trying to scratch out a productive attack under a first-time head coach whose background is entirely in defense, a first-time coordinator who brought in a new offense, and with an overhauled roster that is young and inexperienced in some key areas.

    Heading into Sunday's home-opener against Green Bay, the Rams rank last in the 32-team NFL in scoring and 31st in total offense.

    "There's numerous reasons why you don't score," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.

    Here are the major reasons why the Rams aren't putting points on the board:

    RHYTHM AND TIMING

    Just as the team was adapting to the modified West Coast offense that Shurmur imported from Philadelphia, quarterback Marc Bulger missed 3½ weeks of the preseason with a broken pinky on his throwing hand.

    Shurmur's scheme demands precision and timing from the quarterback, and Bulger still is smoothing out the rough edges.

    In the same vein, the offensive line — with new starters at three of the five positions — was hit with early injuries and was intact for only about a week before the season-opener at Seattle. "It's very important that linemen work together" to develop familiarity and achieve synchronization," Shurmur explained.

    Now, that unit will be without right tackle Jason Smith (knee) on Sunday, and perhaps next week's game at San Francisco.

    MARCHING BACKWARD

    The offense has committed 13 of the Rams' 16 penalties, setting the team back 100 yards — the length of a football field. "It's tough enough to win in this league without going backward," Spagnuolo grumbled.

    Several calls came at highly inopportune moments, including guard Richie Incognito's two personal fouls vs. the Seahawks. "It seems like when we do get a big play, maybe the next play we'll get a penalty that sets us back and stops our drive momentum," tight end Randy McMichael said.

    GOOFS AND GAFFES

    Penalties are mistakes; so are inaccurate throws, dropped passes, fumbles, erratic blocking and poor reads by ballcarriers. The Rams have been blameworthy in each area.

    Bulger has hit on 50 percent of his passes, far below his career average of 62.6 percent. That's due partly to the pressure he's faced as well as receivers struggling to get open, forcing him to throw the ball away. Plus, some on-the-money passes have been flat-out dropped; other incompletions came on balls that were slightly off-target yet still catchable.

    McMichael has committed three drops. That's especially disturbing, because Shurmur's offense requires production from the tight end.

    The Rams have lost one fumble on offense, and it was a doozy: Avery coughed it up inside the Redskins 10-yard line with the Rams driving for the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.

    GIMME THE BALL

    The Rams have run 107 plays, compared with 140 for their opponents, a hefty disparity. The time-of-possession deficit also is gaping: a total of 14 minutes, 40 seconds.

    For various reasons, the Rams also have failed to achieve their desired balance: Shurmur has called 68 pass plays vs. 39 runs. The result is that running back Steven Jackson isn't getting the ball enough.

    "He needs to be the focus of this team and this offense," Shurmur said. "We're constantly going to make an effort to give him the football."

    In the first two contests, Jackson had 37 touches — 33 carries and four receptions. Those numbers would be higher if the Rams were more successful stretching the field.

    They went downfield a few times vs. the Seahawks, and wideout Laurent Robinson hauled in a 45-yard catch. But they've come up with only one other pass play of at least 25 yards.

    Without that deep threat, defenses are able to stack the area between the tackles and press the receivers at the line of scrimmage, limiting the Rams' options.

    That's been particularly true on second and third downs. The Rams' average down and distances are second-and-8.9 yards and third-and-8.4. Such long-yardage situations are hardly conducive to sustained movement on offense.



    CLOSE THE DEAL

    The Rams put together three drives of 10 or more plays vs. Washington. That marked considerable improvement from their 28-0 spanking at Seattle, where they had 10 possessions that lasted six plays or fewer, and just one of more than 10.

    Still, they got into the end zone just once, on Bulger's 2-yard fade pass to Robinson. That's all the Rams have mustered in four red-zone trips.

    "We made strides last week, but we didn't finish" drives, Bulger said. "We just have to be more consistent and keep going at it to finish."

    Jackson and Bulger both suggested that the Rams' tense up as they near the goal line.

    "You have a lot of guys out there trying to make a play, a lot of guys that have good intentions," Jackson said. "But for whatever reason, we're a little antsy, especially when we get in the red zone."

    Added Bulger: "We're trying anything we can to get a win right now, and we're pressing. We can't play tight; we've got to play loose.

    "But that's easier said than done when you're 0-2."
    :ramlogo:

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  • eldfan
    Rams running back has nowhere to run
    by eldfan
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/20/2009

    Even on a day when Marc Bulger had only 17 handoffs, Seattle's strategy in dealing with Steven Jackson and the Rams' running game was painfully obvious.

    Time after time, in those critical final seconds before the ball was snapped, the Seahawks would creep a safety toward the line of scrimmage, an eighth defender to help keep Jackson bottled up.

    "There were eight down there quite a bit," Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "With a running back like we have, I think that's something we're going to see. And I would anticipate that Washington will do the same."

    It's simple gridiron math. By sending a safety into the box — the area roughly from offensive tackle to offensive tackle along the line of scrimmage — the defense is committing eight players to stop the run. In base formations, most offenses have only seven blockers in that same area: five offensive linemen, the tight end and the fullback.

    So in what's commonly described as a game of inches, having an extra body to tackle the running back can make a huge difference.

    Jackson expected a lot of "eight in the box" against Seattle. Ditto for Washington on Sunday at FedEx Field, and really for every Sunday.

    "That's just going to be my mindset for all 16 games that we have," Jackson said. "I anticipate for the rest of the year that defenses are going to put eight men in the box because we're just so young at the wide receiver position."

    It makes all the sense in the world for defenses to gang up on Jackson.

    "I mean, right now he's our best football player on offense," tight end Randy McMichael said. "A lot of teams know that, and they want to take him away. We've got to find a way as receivers and tight ends to make plays.

    "And even if they do have eight-man fronts, we need to get seven guys (blocked), and let Steven make the one guy miss. It's all about just staying on your man a little bit longer and helping 'Jack' find somewhere to run."

    Easier said than done, particularly in more obvious running situations. Against Seattle, Jackson gained only 19 yards on eight carries on first down, a traditional running down. That's only 2.4 yards per carry. But on second and third downs, when defenses have to be more concerned with the pass, Jackson averaged six yards per carry (eight carries for 48 yards).

    Jackson should see plenty of Washington middle linebacker London Fletcher, the former Ram, on Sunday. "He's a tackling machine," Jackson said. "From what I see on game film, he kind of mirrors the running backs. So it should be a good matchup with myself and him."

    Fletcher had 18 tackles last week in the Redskins' season-opening loss to the New York...
    -09-20-2009, 08:06 AM
  • eldfan
    St. Louis Rams' offense is a perfect fit for Steven Jackson
    by eldfan
    St. Louis Rams' offense is a perfect fit for Steven Jackson

    By BILL COATS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/09/2009

    There certainly were question marks. But Pat Shurmur knew when he accepted Steve Spagnuolo's invitation to become the Rams' new offensive coordinator that the key elements for the scheme he wanted to run already were in place.

    Sure, Shurmur would have to reconstruct a much-abused offensive line, and assemble a cache of sure-handed wide receivers and tight ends. But he felt that quarterback Marc Bulger and running back Steven Jackson provided a solid foundation around which to build.

    "Marc is very precise, an extremely accurate quarterback — attributes that are very fundamental to being successful," Shurmur said.

    And Jackson, Shurmur added, "is such a magnificent player, it's silly not to give him the football."

    Jackson, who will be happy to take it, said, "It's a fun offense, and it's a proven winner. As we see time and time again, teams that run this kind of offense are among the tops in the NFL when it comes to offensive statistics."

    So, just what is "this kind of offense?" Opinions vary.

    Backup quarterback Kyle Boller calls it "the true West Coast." Other observers see it as a hybrid incorporating West Coast principles. Still others say it only marginally resembles the original West Coast offense that Bill Walsh helped cultivate in the 1970s.

    Spagnuolo pleads that the West Coast label not be applied at all.

    "I know everybody's putting that tag on it because Pat came from Philadelphia and their quote, unquote West Coast," he said. "I think this offensive coach and this team will develop their own kind of offense. Will there be elements of the West Coast? Yeah. Will there be elements of some other things? Yeah.

    "It's going to be a mixture. I think it's unfair to tag it anything."

    Unlike Walsh's prototype, a pass-first, run-second approach, Shurmur seeks the kind of parity that was displayed in the four preseason games, when the Rams rushed 122 times and passed 123 times.

    "What you hope to be is balanced enough where people can't get a bead on you one way or another, creative enough where you take advantage of some things that they give you, and sound enough that when you get in those situations where you've just got to have something — whether it's a long throw or whether it's just 2 yards on a running play — that you're able to do that," Spagnuolo explained. "When you get to that point, you can be pretty good."

    The Rams aren't near that point yet. They averaged 271 yards in the four outings, the second-lowest norm among the league's 32 teams.

    Bulger asks for patience.

    Shurmur, who had been a...
    -09-09-2009, 07:30 AM
  • clarasDK
    Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?
    by clarasDK
    Long but interesting article from Rams on Demand - St Louis Rams Message Board • Index page
    Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?
    Filed in St Louis Rams on Oct.29, 2010
    By: Joey Bittick
    Week 8 of the NFL season is nearly upon us, and the Rams will enter Sunday after a painful loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coming off of what I believe will go down as a landmark victory for the boys in blue and gold against the San Diego Chargers in Week 6, the Rams lost in confounding fashion to the Bucs. Entering the second half with a 17-3 lead against the Buccaneers, the Rams were shutout following halftime and lost 18-17 on a last-second touchdown throw by Tampa’s Josh Freeman. I must admit my spirits have been down all week following such an exasperating loss by the Rams, and I know I am not alone. So I will refrain from examining that game, but what I do want to look at are some of the criticisms being discussed ad nauseam by Rams fans. These criticisms are mainly aimed at Rams second-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo, and more specifically, his offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur.

    Thus far in the Spagnuolo era, the Rams have simply struggled to put points on the scoreboard. Last season, the Rams offense was historically bad due mainly to injuries and poor play at the quarterback position, which led to the drafting of Sam Bradford. Bradford entered the season with rather low expectations; people mainly just wanted him to get through the season healthy and show a few small signs that he is the man to help the Rams reclaim their former glory. However, with Bradford and the Rams looking good in the preseason and getting a few regular season wins under their belt in the early matchups, Rams fans have gotten a bit greedy. We want to see wins…and now please.

    However, being fanatics (defined as “a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal”), we tend to… well not so much forget, but overlook the fact that this is a team that went 1-15 in 2009 and was just dreadful on both sides of the ball. But due to some key offseason acquisitions, this team is suddenly in the race in the weak NFC West, and people are already expecting them to win games. One thing that has not changed, though, since last season is the condemnation of the Pat Shurmur offense. Coordinating an offense that scored less than 11 points per game in 2009 will certainly not endear a coach to fans, especially fans that were treated to the greatest offensive juggernaut in NFL history just a few short seasons ago during the Greatest Show on Turf.

    Some are not willing to accept the fact that Shurmur had almost nothing to work with in ’09. To say that team was short of playmakers would be a major understatement. Outside of Steven Jackson, I truly believe there were NCAA offenses out there that would have fared better in the NFL than the Rams. Shurmur has better pieces to work with in 2010, but this is not a team
    ...
    -10-30-2010, 12:48 AM
  • RamWraith
    On offense, Rams' show is a big dud
    by RamWraith
    By Bryan Burwell
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/17/2007

    There were no human weapons of mass destruction aimed at Marc Bulger's chest anymore. The mad procession of blitzing cornerbacks, stunting linebackers and snarling defensive linemen who spent most of Sunday afternoon taking turns propelling themselves into Bulger's tender ribs had mercifully come to an end.

    At the end of another awful day at the office, Bulger limped slowly across the near-empty locker room, gingerly weaving between shredded bits of discarded tape, heavy bags of equipment and soiled uniforms and towels. He'd already guzzled some painkillers on the sideline, done the ice bag dance in the training room, then moved on to the soothing waters of a hot shower. All that was left now was the simple task of putting on his street shoes.

    "Eehhhhh," he groaned.

    "Argggggh," he sighed.

    Nearly 90 minutes after the Rams had lost 17-16 to the visiting San Francisco *****, Bulger struggled with the simplest tasks. He could hardly slip into that shoe. He could barely put on his cufflinks. Bulger had been pounded all afternoon by a relentless San Francisco defense that sacked him six times, but also tortured him with countless other direct-hit hurries and near-miss assaults. As the 30-year-old quarterback tried to make his way out of the locker room, he moved with the uneasy motions of an arthritic 60-year-old.

    "I can promise you that on Wednesday, I'll be fine," he said, the grin trying to cover up the grimace.

    Don't bet on it.

    If the first two weeks of this early 2007 season are evidence, then there's no way Bulger can possibly remain in one piece for 14 more games. How do you expect to win games with an offense that seems hellbent on getting its quarterback dismembered and its featured running back stark raving mad over his inexplicable lack of use in the crunch?

    How do you expect to win games with an offense that managed nearly 400 yards of offense, but only came away with one touchdown and 16 measly points?

    Near the end of a game that the Rams could have — and probably should have — seized control of maybe five different times, the enduring images of the day were these two disturbing scenes:

    — A woozy Bulger sitting on the bench with a phalanx of medical folks cluttered around, examining him as if he was a punch-drunk boxer.

    — A seething Jackson storming off the field after another failed fourth-quarter drive, cussing up a storm at the head coach and several other folks on the sidelines because the pass protection stunk and the Pro Bowl tailback had touched the ball only once on the drive.

    Welcome to the Nightmare on Broadway, a recurring horror story filled with rotten pass-blocking, incomprehensible play-calling decisions and Sunday afternoon bouts of amnesia...
    -09-17-2007, 05:11 AM
  • RamWraith
    Offense Looking to Break Out
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    During the heyday of the Greatest Show on Turf, the formula was simple. Take the Rams’ total yards gained, add in the points the team scored and the results were wins, lots of wins.

    But the first two weeks of this season have exploited a glitch in the old Rams’ formula. Against San Francisco in week one, St. Louis put up plenty of yards (405) and a decent amount of points (25), but left with a loss. Last week against Arizona, the Rams posted just 297 yards with 17 points and found a way to win.

    Of course, the circumstances for each game were far different. For instance, St. Louis had all kinds of trouble converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns against the *****, which kept its point and win total down in that game. Against Arizona, the Rams struggled to sustain success after a dominant opening drive.

    “If the stats are there great, if not and we’re winning then that’s great too,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “I feel like I know what I’m doing; it’s just a matter of how the game progresses on how much we are going to throw the ball for what the stats will be. I’m not worried, but I’m not extremely happy. There’s room for improvement, but we’re not too far off.”

    Fortunately for the Rams, the defense has been good enough to keep the offense in a position to win games at the end. St. Louis allowed just 217 yards to the *****, allowing the Rams a shot to win at the end. Against the Cardinals, the Rams actually put the game in the hands of their defense and came out on top when that group came through with a stand in the last minute.

    “These games are different,” Bulger said. “You get behind, you throw the ball a lot and last week with the heat we seemed out of sync. We’ll get there. We have got to help the defense out. Fortunately they have been bailing us out a little bit.”

    There is no doubting the offensive talent the Rams have. Bulger ascended to near the top tier of quarterbacks in the league last year. Steven Jackson is one of the most exciting young running backs in the league and the emergence of Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald gives the Rams a pair of sidekicks for star wideouts Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
    Combine those skill position players with a veteran offensive line and the offensive outburst many are expecting should be coming soon, shouldn’t it?

    “I believe it’s right around the corner,” Bruce said. “We’ve been moving the ball pretty easy. We’ve been in the red zone a lot. We just haven’t capitalized with touchdowns.”

    With a home opener against a young and injured Tennessee defense on the slate this week, the chance for that outburst would seem to be there. Then again, you never know if or when it will happen.

    “I think it could happen at any given time,” Holt said. “It could happen this weekend,...
    -09-23-2005, 04:18 AM
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