Monday, November 24, 2008

2-9 Rams have number of concerns

Posted Nov 23, 2008

ST. LOUIS — The numbers don’t lie. Rams coach Jim Haslett won’t lie.

Following the St. Louis Rams’ fifth consecutive loss, a 27-3 drubbing by the 6-5 Chicago Bears on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, Haslett was asked what he could possibly say to convince frustrated Rams fans that his 2-9 team really is not as bad as it seems to be.

“Who would say I want to?” responded Haslett. “They look pretty bad to me. The last three games they haven’t played anywhere like they did the first couple of games.

“That would be hard to convince somebody of that, don’t you think?”

The Rams were 0-4 when Haslett replaced Scott Linehan as coach at the end of September. After winning his first two decisions as coach over Washington and Dallas, Haslett’s Rams reverted to their losing ways in the next five games.

And in the last four, they have been humiliated, blown away before the halftime shows could assemble along the sidelines.

Over their last four games, the Rams have been outscored 123-13 in the first half. And if you think their first-quarter margin of futility — getting outscored 38-7 — has been bad, consider that opposing teams have outscored the Rams 85-6 in the second quarter during that span.

On Sunday, the Bears built a 24-3 halftime lead, and the second half was a mere informality.
“You know what?” snapped Haslett, a former NFL linebacker. “Here’s what it comes down to, and I can’t help them.

“I would do anything I can to help these guys be successful. Anything, to put them in positions to be successful individually and as a team. But I can’t tackle for them. I can’t do it any more. I can’t take care of a football for them.

“And the penalties. Special teams had a bunch of penalties that put the offense in bad field position. And I don’t know if the offense would have scored anyway, as bad as they were playing. We get something going on offense and we get a penalty or turnover.

“So those three things I can’t help them with,” restated Haslett. “We can emphasize it; we can work on it, but if they’re going to go out and they’re going to hold or get a pre-snap penalty, I can’t help them.

“I’m helpless on the sideline with that stuff. That’s what they’re paid for.”

Extremely overpaid, many would argue, because these Rams have become so inept they can even dredge up disasterin the face of prosperity.

Such as on Sunday, when Derek Stanley returned a Bears kickoff 75 yards to set up first and 10 at the Chicago 23. The Rams, trailing 14-0 with a great chance to climb back into the game as the second quarter unfolded, got as close as the 12 before three failed plays resulted in a 40-yard Josh Brown field goal attempt that sailed wide left.

And so it went all day long for the hapless Rams. Even before the game started, center Nick Leckey was lost to an ankle injury during warmups. On the Rams’ fifth offensive play, quarterback Marc Bulger went out for keeps with a concussion after the first of five sacks by the Bears, who entered the game averaging just 1.7 sacks per game.

Then the Rams offense, already without starting tackle Orlando Pace and starting running back Steven Jackson, kicked it into under-drive. The Rams rushed for 14 yards on 19 carries, led by Kenneth Darby’s 10 yards on seven attempts.

Antonio Pittman, who started again in place of Jackson, had eight yards on nine carries. Quarterback Trent Green completed 16 of 30 passes for 219 yards, but in addition to getting sacked four times, he threw four interceptions and had two other passes tipped and dropped by defenders. He finished with a QB rating of 37.4.

And the Rams defense allowed a Bears team that had been embarassed 37-3 last week at Green Bay to total 334 yards of offense, including 201 rushing — 132 by rookie Matt Forte.

So, at this point, exactly what CAN Haslett do?

“Maybe I’ve got to just keep playing guys till I find somebody who’s going to do it,” he said. “I don’t know. The focus is not very good; the execution is not very good. We’ll just keep working on it.

“It wasn’t effort today,” Haslett emphasized. “It had nothing to do with effort today.”
If the effort is there, the talent is not.

And Haslett knows it.

“There’s not much you’ve got to work with now,” he said. “You got what you got, right? I’ve got 45 guys, because we’ve got about eight of them injured. And that’s the guys that are playing. We went through (three) quarterbacks today.

Anybody else got another quarterback?

“It’s not like we’re not trying to win these games, I can promise you that. And I’m not trying to be an idiot — it’s just the truth.”

With Thanksgiving on Thursday, the Rams have at least one thing to be thankful for.

Their season ends next month.

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