There isn’t much we know about the NFL these days. During our Rams pregame show on 101 ESPN, I mentioned that I thought the Giants, since they had beaten top contenders Green Bay and San Francisco, were the best team in the NFC. The Giants were going to take on Atlanta, and after hammering New Orleans last week, I thought they were on their way. Result…Atlanta-34 New York-0.
There is something we DO know about the NFL, though, and that’s that turnover ratio matters. At the moment, six teams have clinched playoff spots. Division winners New England, Houston, Green Bay and Atlanta, along with Baltimore, are all in the top eleven in turnover ratio. The only playoff team so far that ISN’T in the top eleven is Denver. Moreover, if the playoffs started tomorrow, nine of the twelve playoff teams would be in the top thirteen. Only Denver, Minnesota and Indianapolis wouldn’t be in the top thirteen in giveaway/takeaway.
I bring this up because the Rams didn’t have a takeaway and were minus-2 in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings. You’ll recall that the Rams went through five games in the middle of the season without a takeaway. In those games, the Rams went 0-4-1. Then they had a three game stretch in which they had a takeaway, and won all three.
Against Minnesota, Sam Bradford mishandled a snap, which coach Jeff Fisher defended by saying “The ball slipped. The ball never got to Sam. When I asked Scott (Wells), Scott said it slipped before it got there. It was sideways before it got there.” That turnover led to a field goal, and then Bradford threw an interception when Minnesota dropped a defensive tackle into coverage…turning a 14-7 Viking lead into a 24-7 lead.
One of Bradford’s strongest traits is that he generally doesn’t turn the ball over. But, he can’t. The Rams don’t score enough points to be able to overcome turnovers, and if Adrian Peterson wasn’t enough to change the momentum of the game, those turnovers did.
The Rams simply don’t have the firepower to overcome crippling turnovers, and they certainly need to take the ball away and get field position. That didn’t happen enough against Minnesota.
Speaking of field position, the Rams had two possessions that started at their 30 and their 27. The other ten started at their own 20 or deeper, with their average starting field position the Rams 19 yard line. Minnesota, on the other hand, had three drives that started in Rams territory, and two more that started at their 47 and their 40. Those five possessions resulted in a touchdown, three field goals, and a punt. Minnesota’s average was its own 33.
As it turns out, everything else the Rams needed to happen in the playoff hunt didn’t on Sunday. I was on record as saying I would have been shocked if the Rams could win six in a row to close out the season. But even then, the Rams would have needed help. They needed Seattle, Washington and Dallas to all lose, and they all won. Either Dallas or Washington is going to win at least nine games, and Seattle is already at nine. Even with a win over Minnesota, the Rams wouldn’t have controlled their own destiny.
Think about all the running backs you’ve seen through the years. Of all those guys, Steven Jackson became the 27th to gain 10,000 yards in a career. He’s had a magnificent career under very difficult circumstances. 10,000 isn’t a magic number for the Hall of Fame like it used to be; O.J. Anderson, Corey Dillon, Tiki Barber and Thomas Jones are among the 10,000 club. But none of those backs had to endure a 15-65 run that reflected the talent level on the team. Remember at the end of Emmitt Smith’s career, when he said he was a diamond among trash in Dallas? That’s been the case for half of Jackson’s career here.
Notes from around the league…
Hating Bradford? How about these numbers?
QB A-12-21, 135 yd., 1 TD, 1 INT.
QB B-26-47, 279 yd., 0 TD, 4 INT.
QB C-13-25, 161 yd., 0 TD, 2 INT.
QB D-13-27, 186 YD, 2 TD, 0 INT.
QB E-35-55, 377 YD., 3 TD, 1 INT.
The first four were A-Jay Cutler, B-Josh Freeman, C-Eli Manning and D-Andrew Luck. The last one is Bradford. Plus, Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception that set up Dallas’ overtime win. It’s simply a weird, inconsistent league, especially at the quarterback position…
Seattle took advantage of eight Arizona turnovers in piling up 58 points on the Cardinals last week. In scoring 50 against Buffalo, Russell Wilson led the Seahawks on drives of 76, 58, 65, 58 and 72 yards…and none of them started with a turnover. Buffalo did score off a couple of turnovers in the third quarter, but overall scored on nine of their first ten possessions. And this is a good one…in their last twenty possessions, the Seahawks have scored on fifteen of them…
Those Arizona Cardinals still have some fight. And I found it incredibly easy to root for San Francisco against the Patriots. Sorry, D’Marco.