Through the season's seven forgettable games, there's been an undercurrent of debate around how much the injuries have tanked the season versus the other factors. Early on the play calling damaged the team, and poor execution has given way to turnovers and lost opportunities on almost every offensive drive. Let's look at some stats:
- For the season, the Rams have 46 penalties for 385 yards. The league average is 37 for 290, and Rams opponents have 38 for 309 yards.
Obviously, that's a problem. Although it's not measured in the official statistics, look at those 46 penalties and think of the opportunity costs to the Rams. For an offense struggling, each penalty moving them back makes it that harder to gain the momentum they've so desperately lacked this season, not to mention the penalties that have torpedoed a third down conversion or even the rare scoring opportunity. On the other side of the ball, those penalties, especially some memorable pass interference calls, dig a deeper hole for the offense to climb out of. The injuries and the penalties intersect to some extent as week in, week out replacements on the line at other positions aren't as practiced in the counts and play calling.
- The Rams have a turnover differential of -12 (11 takeaways and 23 giveaways), the worst in the league.
This really needs no explanation, does it? You can't win games when you can't hold on the ball. Give the Rams back all the incompletes in the end zone, it's still not a stretch to think that they'd still be 0-7 based on this number alone.
What's it all mean? Simple, execution as much as anything has dogged the Rams this season. For a team as banged up as the Rams, these things become more important. If they were moving the ball downfield at will, you might notice the penalties as much. There's a mathematical correlation between turnovers and a team's record. I'm not smart enough to figure it out, but I'm assuming that it would nicely predict the 0-7 record.
If there's a key to victory this week, or any week for that matter, it's fixing these two simple things. Do that, and the rest will fall into place.