Trust me Rams fans, the picture isn’t as dark as it looks with the team sitting at 3-6 after today’s loss to the Tennessee Titans at home. In a game that the Rams dominated for at least 2 quarters, they simply didn’t get enough from certain players on their team and the defense allowed slumping running back Chris Johnson to rediscover his dominant running days from 3 years ago. Things just got away from our team again. It happened last week against Seattle and again this week. We have a problem finishing. I do refer to the fans and the team in my blogs as “we” a lot. We watch as they play and slump our shoulders when they fail and raise our arms as high as they do when they succeed, thus bringing to the table the slogan, “WE”. Today, a few things went well for the home team and a few others did not. Look, losing your starting quarterback in the middle of a football season that was showing improvement is back breaking for nearly every team in the NFL, so the Rams are merely surviving until 2014. This season will get ugly, but I am here to you it doesn’t have to be if the Rams make some changes. Let’s break it down.
Kellen Clemens fared better than last week but I am sorry this guy still doesn’t stand out as a man who can win games for this team. He completed better than 50 percent this week and threw a touchdown pass and didn’t throw a pick, but is there a stat for overthrowing receivers or simply making horrible decisions? Clemens isn’t terrible but he isn’t good either. He is like a burger at a bar and grill known for its pizza and wings. Editable but not desirable. Late in the game, Clemens did commit a horrible fumble and a play which led to the go ahead winning touchdown for the Titans. Clemens gets a little too amped up out there and seems to rush his decisions. That comes from being a backup most of your career. Thrust into the spotlight, you don’t know what to do. Clemens is your clipboard guy who can come in and mop up a game or make one decent throw per drive. He isn’t a person who can take every series and pull out a win. With him behind center, I don’t see a lot of wins for this team and it could be a 4-12 like finish if he remains the starter. Some players are what their football card tells you. His history explains it. A backup who doesn’t do well in the starting role. Get him out Jeff Fisher. You can only have an obsession with one quarterback on this team and your other guy is more deserving.
Hello Zac Stacy, the new most valuable player on this Rams defense and secret weapon 5th round draft pick from April that people were talking about all year until he finally got the main tailback slot. Once people saw that Darryl Richardson was nothing more than a temporary flash worthy of a few carries, Stacy was given the ball and here is what he has done since getting a bulk of the carries.
Week 5(Jaguars)-14 carries, 78 yards
Week 6(Panthers)-17 carries, 51 cards and 4 receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown(his weakest stats but still a score and a presence)
Week 7(Seahawks)-Stacy’s breakout game on National Television, 26 carries for 134 yards against the tough Seahawks defense
Week 8(Titants)-27 carries for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns
Slowly but surely, the rookie running back out of Vanderbilt is turning into a formidable player and playmaker on this offense. He is exactly what Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wanted after Steven Jackson left. A younger, beastly, low to the ground pound back who will wear down defenses. Stacy is 5 foot 8 and 216 pounds and doesn’t stop running until the whistle blows. Stacy is a grinder and that is a good thing for a team that couldn’t run the ball for its life in the first four weeks of the season and scored its first rushing touchdowns today. The only cruel thing is Stacy’s work twice has gone to waste behind average quarterback play and idiotic fumbles like Benny Cunningham’s on the Rams game opening drive.
The defense was soft against the run yet put pressure on Jake Locker. With Robert Quinn and his 10 sacks garnering an extra set of eyes, other players like Kendall Langford and William Hayes put Locker on the ground. This team is nearing 30 sacks and we are entering the 10th week. A pass rushing attack that couldn’t find traction early on is becoming a dominant force in a defense that shows up yet always springs a leak. Cortland Finnegan collected an interception that went to the wayside because the Leg missed a 40 yard field goal in a dome where he never misses. Get off Greg Zuerlein’s back for missing a 50 yard ball against the Seahawks, but a 40 yard shot has to be made. It wouldn’t play a huge role in the final score but seeing the kid miss ordinary leg boots is a warning sign.
At this point, you may ask who this Rams team can beat. The answer will be close to zero because of the current quarterback’s limited skill set and the offensive coordinator who doesn’t change schemes fast enough. Schotty Jr. either pounds the ball and calls careless passing plays or overthrows his way to failure. He promised a more wide open offensive approach and it was sporadic with Bradford and missing completely with Clemens. All we count on is the continued running success of Zac Stacy, a rookie whose production is astounding because the defense is prepared to stop him and making Clemens beat them through the air. 2013 may go down as the season that we would look back on and wonder what would have happened if Bradford didn’t trip and fall on his own knee. Next week, we head to Indianapolis, where Andrew Luck, Robert Mathis and company will either be angry about losing to the Texans or still trying to put a clamp on their up and down season. After that, the Rams get a bye week to mend their wounds and collect a few thoughts before returning with the Bears at home. Jay Cutler may not play that game but does it really matter at this point who opposes Clemens? The 49ers and Cards host us next and they are followed by the Saints, Bucs and a season finale in Seattle on December 29th. I don’t see a clear winnable game. The Bucs nearly upended the Seahawks today before collapsing late and the Cards are capable of beating us on their own turf. The other games would have to include miracles for us to come out on top. So, 3-13 or 4-12 it is.
In the NFL, effort is nice to see and competing is great but if you lose every week respect goes out the door. If Jeff Fisher can’t make a change at QB and insert a young hungry arm in Austin Davis, a man who was turned away at the end of training game, or even give Brady Quinn a shot, what does he expect to happen from Clemens? Improvement would only exist at the root of insanity, Mr. Fisher. We like your style but won’t hesitate to call you crazy if you let this team sink along with the efforts of Robert Quinn and Zac Stacy.
Also, cool down on Tavon Austin. Yes, he was supposed to light the Dome on fire and empower us after the Rams selected him with the 8th pick in the draft, but look at what he is doing and what Stacy is doing. That’s the NFL for you. It’s full of surprises and production comes in its own time. This isn’t year three with Austin. He is slowly progressing. Sure, he has fumbled three times, started only 2 games, and only has 207 yards and 2 touchdowns but he is about ready to break through on the return game. Austin is a rookie people. He needs time. This goes to the same crowd forming a lynch mob in front of every IHOP looking for Matt Adams’ missing bat in October. Rookies will struggle and fail a lot before becoming good and then ascending to greatness. Give Austin time. He is being thrown to right now by a weak arm and has spent the entire season in a dull offense. He will make plays. Just give him time. This isn’t New England or Denver. In Rams park, they are working with dial up and not broadband speed.
That’s all for now. I will be coming back this week with a first look and impression of the 2013-2014 St. Louis Blues. Sure, they are 7-2-2 but showing some cracks. More to come this week.
Thanks for staying to the end,
Dan L. Buffa
@buffa82 on Twitter