When a first year coach of a team that was 5-11 last year takes his team on the road to face a fourth year coach of a team that’s supposed to be ascending, and his team drills the opponent…that should be bad news for the fourth year coach.
The last NFL coach to make it to a fifth season without making the playoffs was Gary Kubiak of the Texans, who started in 2006 and didn’t make the playoffs until 2011.
It looks like Jeff Fisher is on a similar path.
The lack of consistency on the part of the Rams is troubling, and the fact that they are two games behind the last wild card team in the conference pretty much eliminates them from the playoffs. The last two games were not only winnable for the Rams, but the home game against Chicago was a must win, and they got hammered 37-13.
And with that, ten takeaways…
1) The Rams got off to a terrific start on offense, driving eighty yards in seven plays (11.4 per play) to a touchdown that put them ahead 7-0. After that opening drive, the Rams ran 25 plays the remainder of the first half, and picked up 66 yards. In the second half, they gained 139 yards on 29 plays. Breaking it down, the Rams amassed just 205 yards after their opening drive, averaging 3.8 yards per play.
2) The Rams defense was killed by big plays, which is awfully unusual for them. Before Sunday, the only play over fifty yards the Rams had allowed was a 65 yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to James Jones. The second biggest play was a 39 yard run by Matt Jones of Washington. The 87 and 83 yard touchdown passes by Jay Cutler to Zach Miller and Jeremy Langford, respectively, were more than enough to get the defense on its heels, and it never recovered.
3) We wondered during the pregame show if the absence of Matt Forte might cause the Rams to concentrate too much on Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, the two biggest remaining playmakers for Chicago. Sure enough, Jeffery was held to 23 yards on three catches, and Bennett had three grabs for eighteen yards. The Rams covered those guys, but saw their stout run defense disintegrate, allowing 153 yards on 37 carries. In week nine of year four, more is expected of a defense working against Jeremy Langford and Kadeem Carey.
4) Meanwhile, the Rams running game has fallen back to its old ways. Running backs had eighteen carries for 76 yards, but before a garbage time drive that featured Trey Mason, they had thirteen carries for 48 yards. The running game certainly wasn’t up to winning NFL standards. Teams are stacking the box against Todd Gurley and daring the Rams to throw, and the Rams simply aren’t efficient enough in the passing game to make them pay.
5) The Rams coaching staff hasn’t adapted to Nick Foles’ limitations. Of course, one of those limitations is the talent level of his recievers, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that.
But Foles also has real trouble throwing effectively outside the numbers, and the Rams continue to try plays on the perimeter.
They MUST work inside the numbers if they’re going to have success, because he simply can’t make the intermediate-to-long throw on the sideline.
6) At this stage of the game, it’s more than fair to question whether or not Fisher is up to the job of winning a championship, which should be the ultimate goal of any franchise. His Rams record now is 24-32-1. He has his coaching staff and his players. Any suggestion of injuries being an excuse are diminished by the fact that he’s has four years to build the roster and the depth is his.
On Sunday, Fisher had his hand-picked quarterback, running back, receivers, tight ends, tackles, center, one guard, defensive tackles, one end, two linebackers and secondary. No excuses. In game nine of year four, there is no excuse to lose this game. Try to think of a circumstance under which Fisher would lead the Rams to a championship. I can’t.
7) Left tackle Greg Robinson is playing far from the quality of a 2nd pick in the draft. After committing three holding penalties, Robinson leads all NFL offensive players in penalties with nine, an average of one per game, and is tied with Jason Kelce of Philadelphia with eight offensive holding penalties. He had two more holding penalties against Cleveland that were declined.
On Sunday, one of his holds nullified a Tavon Austin touchdown that would have made the score 14-7 Rams, but instead they kicked a field goal. That was a devastating penalty. Another third quarter hold nullified an Austin catch that would have provided a first down at the Bears’ 40. The second tackle taken in the 2014 draft, Jake Matthews of Atlanta, has committed three penalties, two of which were holding, and has been a much more effective pass blocker than Robinson. Robinson is still very young, but the lack of progress is alarming.
8) On the bright side for Stan Kroenke, with dynamic pricing for the Bears game, the Rams distributed more than 60,000 tickets and collected more revenue for a home game than they ever have. The Rams were able to get more people into the building than for any game this season, and collect the biggest gate ever. And almost half the crowd went home happy.
9) Down 27-13 early in the fourth quarter, the Rams tried a fake punt deep in their own territory, and Johnny Hekker’s pass fell incomplete. While Jeff Fisher was asked about it after the game, it was a non-factor. The Bears kicked a field goal after the failed attempt, and the Rams offense wasn’t going to produce two touchdowns anyway. The failed fake was a non-factor in the defeat. By that time, the game had been decided.
10) Foles is 28th in passer rating and 28th in yards in the NFL. His play simply isn’t up to a level that’s going to help a team win, let alone make a team win. His 186.4 yards per game are 34th in the league, and as Kevin Wheeler mentioned in the postgame show on 101 ESPN, three of the seven touchdown passes he’s thrown in nine games came in one game, at Arizona. He needs to have more good games if the Rams are to have ANY chance to win.
Next week the Rams are at Baltimore. Since they’ve lost two in a row and aren’t in a position to put anything positive together, they have a shot against the Ravens. But in terms of having a playoff shot in 2015, that likely went by the boards with the blowout loss to the Bears on Sunday.