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ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH: Rams attempt to regroup as gloom, doom set in for fans


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09/25/2007

Bryan Burwell

Outside the iron gates of Rams Park, the natives were restless.

News flash: The St. Louis Rams are 0-3.

Outside the gates, the fans who die a thousand painful deaths every time their favorite football team takes the field were positively panic-stricken.

News flash: Your Pro Bowl quarterback has broken ribs and about 30 pounds of ice bags on both his knees.

Outside the gates, the talk-radio shows were full of gloom and doom, agony and despair, deep dark depression and excessive misery.

News flash: Another starting offensive lineman suffers a season-ending injury. And oh, by the way, did I mention that Steven Jackson has a groin injury and won't be playing this week?

Arrrggggg!!

Yes boys and girls, outside of Rams Park the sky is falling, the world is coming to an end, the ship is sinking, the season is ruined, and Britney Spears is your new baby sitter. It couldn't get worse in this snake-bitten, ill-fated nightmare of a season. Yet inside Rams Park, Scott Linehan did not look or act like the captain of the Titanic. Instead, the coach of the winless, last-place Rams sounded like a combination of Norman Vincent Peale, Dick Vermeil and Al Michaels.

"You gotta look at it like we've got an insurmountable challenge (on paper) this week," he said. "We're sitting here with no wins in three games and we're playing probably the hottest team in the NFC and probably all of football (the undefeated Dallas Cowboys). If we can keep our minds right, it will be the greatest win we've had since we've been here. There's a side of me that relishes this opportunity that we'll be able to put 11 guys out there regardless of the situation and do what no one expects us to do, which is come away with a great victory."

I hope that means part of the miracle will involve taking the reluctant play calling and "prevent" offensive game planning and tossing them into some gigantic shredder. In so many ways, it has to be easier for Linehan and his play-calling tag-team partner Greg Olson now that they are 0-3, ravaged by injuries and in such dire straits.

They're officially in the "what do we have to lose?" phase of the season. If the Rams fall any deeper into this winless hole (and with a wicked stretch of five out of the next seven games on the road, that is not only entirely possible, it is unfortunately expected) the season is over anyway, and the résumés start going into the mail. So why not try to shock the world?

Linehan and Olson admitted that they have been utilizing a "close to the vest" offensive approach that basically leaves them with little margin for error. What they have been doing is playing not to lose instead of playing to win. They're afraid that the offensive line is too beaten up. They're worried that QB Marc Bulger is too banged up. They're worried about all the things they can't do offensively instead of concentrating on all the things they can do.

My old man always taught me that if you're in a fight with a bigger man, hit him first and let him know you're in the room. The Rams haven't been doing that offensively. Instead, their attitude has been to tip-toe around the bully, then maybe try to trip him when he isn't looking.

OK, the offensive line is beaten up badly. But it still run-blocked well enough to spring Jackson for 115 yards Sunday, and no one expects the line to hold off a pass rush for 25 seconds. But it certainly can keep Bulger (or a healthy Gus Frerotte) long enough to complete some midrange dig routes to the Pro Bowl receivers and talented tight end.

Linehan wisecracked that the staffers got criticized for not running the ball enough, and when they finally did run it, now they're getting ripped for not passing enough. Of course the problem with this play selection is that it's all or nothing. There has to be a happy medium somewhere that uses all the weapons they've spent so much money and draft picks collecting.

Yes, there are a lot of players on that injury report. But the last time I checked, there still are some fairly decent athletes who aren't on crutches, in casts or on an operating table.

They're easy to spot. They're the frustrated ones who are silently scratching their heads, rolling their eyes, cursing under their breath and wondering how they ended up missing in action.

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if not careful could be a trap game

Could be?...it is! They're 0-3 looking for their first W and who else to get it from other than hottest team in football? The Rams are going to go all out in this game, despite not having SJ. Expect Bulger to toss it up atleast 35-40 times because they will not have a running game this week against the Boys.

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