Another Offensive Rams Outing

Dec 6, 2009 at 6:52 pm
Another Sunday, another Rams' loss, another brutal performance by the St. Louis offense. Nine possessions inside Chicago territory, and exactly three field goals to show for all that trouble. 

I have to say, it didn't surprise me to see the Rams' offense struggle. Let's face it, folks: anyone surprised by seeing the Rams play poorly on the offensive side of the ball just isn't paying attention. They're short on talent and short on experience, and it's going to take at least another year of buildup before the offense has enough of either one to be considered much of a threat. That's just the nature of the beast when you're talking about a team so far down. 

But that's not what I'm really worried about at the moment. After watching the Rams play, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe the talent level isn't the only thing wrong with the offense. I'm beginning to wonder if maybe there's something else dragging this team down. 

I'm not going to beat around the bush here, so I'll just say it: I think a big part of the Rams' problem is the awful play-calling. Never in my life have I seen an offense so completely devoid of anything creative or unexpected. 

Time after time after time, we saw the Rams run the ball right up the middle on first down. And to be honest, it sort of worked. After all, the Rams do have one of the best running backs in the game, and Steven Jackson is capable of making things happen where virtually anyone else would get nothing. But at some point, doing the same thing again and again becomes more than a game plan; it becomes a tendency. And then it becomes a pattern. And then it stops working altogether, because everyone knows what's going to happen. I don't care if you've got the ghost of Red Grange in your backfield. If the defense knows what you're going to do, he ain't going nowhere. The old saying about the definition of insanity most definitely applies. 

Where are the play actions? A simple fake handoff now and again would force the defense to at least consider the idea of a pass down the field. Or hey, if you don't like play action, how about just a pass downfield? You don't even have to employ any sort of trickery if you don't want to, guys! I mean, sure, it would probably help to disguise your intentions, but if you don't feel comfortable operating that way, I can live with that. I didn't realise one of Steve Spagnuolo's four pillars involved refusing to deceive your opponent, but still. 

Seriously, is Pat Shurmur aware of the fact you can throw the ball forward? Yup, legal and everything. I honestly question whether he has that bit of information, considering the constant checkdown routes we saw Kyle Boller throw to yesterday. He attempted exactly two passes of over 20 yards, and one of them was intercepted. (Hmm... maybe the Rams do know something I don't...) Everything else was a screen to Steven two yards past the line of scrimmage. Or an out pattern to someone three yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Or a slant pattern just barely to the line of scrimmage. 

Look, guys. This isn't Ohio State in the 50s, okay? Woody Hayes isn't standing behind you, staring daggers into your skull every time the ball is put in the air. You're allowed to at least try some different things. 

The ultimate, of course, was the third-down pass to Jackson. Second drive of the second half for the Rams, third down and eleven to go. Boller drops back, takes a single glance downfield, then dumps a quick pass to Steven about two yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Jackson fights for a couple extra yards, but he had absolutely no chance of getting even close to the first down. So I have to ask the question: why did the Rams' coaching staff decide to concede they couldn't get the first down? When you have eleven yards to go and you throw a two yard pass, you've already given up. 

There are three ways to succeed in the game of football: you can have more talent than the other team, you can work harder than the other team, or you can be smarter than the other team. The talent ship sailed long ago for this squad. The hard work I see on the field, but it doesn't seem to be making much difference. I still see defensive backs not turning to face the play and bad penalties being taken. So that leaves being smarter. Unfortunately, while the Rams desperately need to be smarter than the other team to try and make up for their other shortcomings, I see nothing in this coaching staff to suggest they're even as smart as anyone else, much less smarter. The offense is painfully conservative, overly simplistic, utterly predictable, and less imaginative than a television repair manual written by a mental defect. 

I don't like to call for coaches' heads. I generally tend to think most of a team's failing can be explained on the field, rather than on the sidelines. But I will say this: the Rams simply aren't good enough to overcome Pat Shurmur's absolute lack of creativity. And until the Rams do something to spice up the offense, even if only a little, we're going to see a whole lot more performances like the one we just saw in Chicago.