Originally written on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 10/3/13
A month ago, excitement was at an all-time high in St. Louis for the St. Louis Rams. Sure they lost three of their top offensive weapons in Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson, but with the same offensive coordinator as last year for Sam Bradford, new rookie playmakers on both the offensive & defensive ends of the ball, and momentum built up from a 7-8-1 2012 season, the Rams were the sexy pick to be a dark horse in the NFL. Fast forward to last Thursday, and St. Louis had fallen to 1-3, after an ugly 35-11 defeat to division rival San Francisco 49ers, their second blowout loss in a week. The Sunday before, they laid an egg against the Dallas Cowboys, losing 31-7. In two weeks prior to the game versus the Cowboys, the Rams had not allowed Bradford to be sacked. In the next two weeks, Bradford was sacked 11 times. They gave up over 150 yards rushing in successive weeks. The Rams have averaged 210 yards in those games, scoring only 2 touchdowns combined during those games. That optimism has now flown out of the window. They've been dominated in every game since their home opening win against the Arizona Cardinals. That offense that was supposed to be prolific is abysmal. The defense, which was the team's strength last season, is playing softer than wet toilet paper. The Rams are a 53-man penalty machine, ranking fifth in the NFL, with 29 penalties through four games. All that could go wrong has for St. Louis, and though they look to bounce back at home versus Jacksonville on Sunday, the question remains: what is the problem in St. Louis? The problems start on the offensive side of the ball for the Rams. Sam Bradford, in his fourth season, is in a make-or-break year and is not performing as well as pundits figured he would. Although his stats look decent (1093 yards, 7 TDs, 3 INTs), he averages just 6 yards per completion. Much of that could be due to the lack of dynamic playcalling by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. That offense that was supposed to be prolific is abysmal. The defense, which was the team's strength last season, is playing softer than wet toilet paper. Schottenheimer has been given many weapons to work with, yet the offense has been stagnant the last 3 games. With newly acquired Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, the offense should be more effective. Also, the running game has been awful. The loss of Jackson has been more of a negative impact than the Rams anticipated, as St Louis's group of backs have teamed up to average 47 yards per game, ranking them dead last in the NFL. Maybe more surprising than the poor offense is how ineffective the defense has been. Through four games, the Rams have given up 24, 31, 31, and 35 points, respectively. After two weeks of doing well against the opposing team's running game, they have given up an average of 206 yards on the ground. The team that tied for the NFL lead in sacks last season has only 9 this year, with third year defensive end Robert Quinn chipping in 5 of them. And the Rams are 29th in the NFL in stopping opponents on 3rd down, allowing nearly 50% of opponents' 3rd downs to be converted for first down. The re-signing of linebacker Jo'Lonn Dunbar, who was 2nd on the team in tackles last season, should help bring the edge back to the defense that has been missing this season. St. Louis has to clean it up soon, starting with 0-4 Jacksonville on Sunday. Their schedule doesn't do them many favors. After Sunday's tilt at home vs. the Jags, their next home game is against the dominant Seattle Seahawks. Those games sandwich road contests against the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers. The team already has to play in a brutal division, and surprisingly, they are at the bottom of it. The Rams must find the winning track soon. If not, they could be looking at another frustrating season in which they entered with much excitement and promise.
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