As Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, his team got it “handed to them in all three phases of the game” on Sunday in Kansas City. After using trick plays to beat Seattle last week, the Rams once again played a superior opponent, and both teams proved the opponent’s superiority on Sunday.
The Rams have lost five games, and it’s not unreasonable to say they’ve been blown out in four of them. The 34-6 loss to Minnesota, 31-17 to San Francisco, 34-7 to the Chiefs on Sunday, and they did fall behind Philadelphia 34-7 before scoring three fourth quarter touchdowns. Whether you want to include the Eagle game or not, it would seem that the third year of a regime would be able to avoid consistent blowout losses. I understand that injuries happen, but at the same time I see Buffalo lose Kiko Alonso, Chris Williams, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson….yet put up 43 points on the Jets. I see the Lions play in London without Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, and all three of their tight ends, and come back to beat Atlanta. So injuries CAN be overcome. There would seem to be a problem when Fisher has a roster full of HIS players that are coached by HIS staff but they still consistently, as he said after the loss to the Chiefs, “get it handed to them,” with or without injuries.
The Lions have used three kickers with little success this year. The only non-Lion kickers in the NFL with worse field goal percentages that Greg Zuerlein’s 73% are Josh Scobee of Jacksonville and Mike Nugent of Cincinnati. Zuerlein also mis-hit the kickoff that was returned 99 yards for a touchdown to open the second half. Zuerlein must be considered a major issue for the team now. Both of those mistakes dramatically swayed momentum in the game. A kicker can’t keep making momentum-changing mistakes and keep his job, too.
The Rams have invested a lot in their offensive line, but the veterans on the group all got knocked out against Kansas City. The Rams signed a Jake Long that simply couldn’t stay healthy here, and it appears that with another torn ACL, his Rams career is over. The Raiders voided their contract with Rodger Saffold because his shoulder couldn’t pass their physical. He left with a shoulder injury. Scott Wells, who has missed thirteen of 39 games with the Rams, injured an elbow against Kansas City. It’s time to see Greg Robinson at left tackle, Barrett Jones at center and healthy, ascending players on the interior of the line. Joe Barksdale, who had been outstanding until Sunday, had the worst game of his career against the Chiefs’ Justin Houston. He needed to be better, too.
When the Giants had their “Earth, Wind & Fire” backfield of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw there was a clear role for each.
Jacobs would start and pound the opposition down, Ward would come on in the second quarter and run by them, and then Bradshaw would take over in the fourth and use his shiftiness to finish the opposition off. The Rams use three running backs, but there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to how. Cunningham played the first series, Mason (along with Tavon Austin) played the second, third and fifth and Zac Stacy played the fourth. In the second half, each got a series in the third quarter and Stacy was the guy in garbage time. Mason finished with seven carries, Stacy had five and Cunningham had four. There’s no way for a running back to get into a rhythm when used like that. If the Rams are going to utilize three backs, they all need to have a ROLE that maximizes their effectiveness.
Austin had two runs (again up the middle) and was targeted twice in the passing game, even though Brian Quick left with an injury in the first quarter. Why would a team give up a second round pick to trade up and get a guy they don’t use? Austin has 28 touches from scrimmage for 168 yards this season, with fifteen of those touches running plays. He may not be that great, and certainly doesn’t go north with a punt return. But if Austin’s primary role is going to be running up the middle for four yards, why did the Rams really trade for him?
The Rams do a great job of scoring early, as they showed in scoring touchdowns on their opening drives against Tampa Bay, Dallas, San Francisco and Kansas City and their second drive against Seattle. But something happens after the early success. On Sunday, the Rams moved 65 yards on their opening drive and had 135 the rest of the way.
Overall, the Rams have scored 42 points in the first quarter, 38 in the second, thirteen in the third and 43 in the fourth…but if you take away the three meaningless late scores in Philadelphia, it’s 35 in the second half. Is it possible that the creativity of a scripted first couple of series is used up; Brian Schottenheimer just doesn’t have the innate creativity to continue to utilize the Rams offensive talents? Obviously, something is happening after the early going. That’s just a thought on my part.
In my opinion, big plays on defense are quarterback sacks and turnovers. Through seven games, Rams linebackers have no sacks and one fumble recovery (by James Laurinaitis). Three starters in a defense designed to allow linebackers to make plays. No sacks. No interceptions. No forced fumbles. One fumble recovery.
The Rams did have four rookie cornerbacks that dressed against Kansas City. Kudos to the Chiefs, who prefer to run the ball, for adjusting and attacking that group. Alex Smith was 24-28 for 226 yards, with much of his effectiveness coming against the Rams cornerbacks. It was a smart move by Kansas City.
The NFL has a serious problem with officiating. The two calls in the third quarter, unnecessary roughness against Alec Ogletree and a personal foul against E.J. Gaines, were both awful and led to the Chiefs’ second field goal and a 20-7 lead. If the NFL wants to maintain a semblance of integrity in its officiating, it needs to adopt the college rule of using replay for such infractions. Otherwise, the outcome of games will be affected even more by calls that should not have been made.
At 2-5, with their injuries and upcoming schedule, there isn’t much promise for the rest of the season. The best thing the Rams can do is to figure out if Austin Davis is a prospect worth going down the line with, who their running back is going to be, get Stedman Bailey into the lineup so he becomes an experienced regular, watch tape of the way Mike Martz used Az-Zahir Hakim to figure out what to do with Tavon Austin, and determine which young offensive linemen can be a part of their future so that they know what positions to draft early in 2015.