Today, I took a day off of watching football. Of course... since I'm an admitted "NFL junkie", I couldn't lay off. So, the only game I DID watch, was the Sunday nighter pitting the Patriots against the Falcons. And the reason I swore NOT to watch, was the same reason I really wish I had stuck to my self imposed moratorium.
"Good football" has become painful for me to watch.
Maybe it's just me... but I find it very difficult to watch teams actually play good sound football, because all I can think the entire time is "why can't my Rams do that??". Case in point... The Falcons nearly came back and tied the Pats with two (Well... one. The other came up short) excellent drives, with minutes to spare in the waning moments of the 4th quarter. One of the many things that nauseated me, was the fact that Tony Gonzales made at least 3 contested catches on that second-to-last drive. One of them being a TD. As I sat there cringing, all I could picture was Jared Cook, or Tavon Austin dropping wide open balls for run-of-the-mill first downs. Well covered, Gonzales fought for position, as a big-body should, and made the necessary plays to keep his team alive. Meanwhile, our resident big-body (Brian Quick) seems to be content with [in a fashion which can only be described as] losing interest, if a defender is within two yards of him. By contrast, 90% of the passes I see Peyton Manning throw are to guys who are WIDE open, with the nearest defender 5-10 yards away. When you watch the guy making the catch on replay, it looks like he's playing on an empty field. When was the last time you saw a Rams receiver do THAT?
It's depressing to see other teams execute a simple pitch/sweep for positive yards, when I have to watch Rams RBs regularly run into the DE/OLB that Jared Cook whiffed on, in repeated failed attempts to seal the edge. Furthermore, it took everything in me not to throw my remote through the TV on Thursday, when Daryl Richardson was met in the backfield on every... single... rushing... attempt. Especially, when in the same game, Frank Gore had holes at his disposal so big, Sam Gordon could have rushed for 100 first half yards. And those D-Rich swing and screen passes we all love to hate? Well, Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy torches teams on the regular with those. How does he do it? Sure he's good, no doubt... but he also follows real-for-real, legitimate NFL blocking.
I did check the NFL Network's game tracker a couple times today and had what I'm sure was the same blissful moment of schadenfreude all of us felt as Rams fans, when I saw that the Seattle Seahawks were down 20-3 to the Houston Texans. I smiled as I walked out the door to make a Home Depot run, on my way to fix my girlfriend's patio door (she was thrilled at my decision to take a "football day off", BTW). By the time I got to her place and checked the tracker again before getting to work, Seattle had come back and won the game in overtime. At that moment that same old nauseating feeling crept up on me and all I could think (besides muttering "goddammit" under my breath for the next hour or so) was that the Rams had three straight shots a big-time comeback and only came away with utter embarrassment, every time.
Now, I know it's en vogue to blame Sam Bradford and now Jeff Fisher, apparenty. Which is all fine and good. There is a level of culpability at the top. But, when do we, as a collective, hold anybody (everybody) else to task? Where are the pages upon pages of fanposts dedicated to Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford's newfound inability to push the line of scrimmage? Where's the open letter to Harvey Dahl... or Jake Long, for that matter? Why hasn't any one dressed down Cortland Finnegan's contract the way we're all so fond of doing for Bradford? Sam Bradford is "not the answer", so Scott Wells is?? And I'm not saying that Sam Bradford is completely infallible, either. His performance against the 49ers was his worst that I can recall seeing. But, I do think it's gone way beyond a "dead horse".
My point is... we can blame the playcalling, or a couple marquee players all we want, but at some point, these guys have to execute. All of them. I'm not a huge fan of Schottenheimer, or Walton right now, either. I'd like things to change, too. But, even if things are "unimaginative", that doesn't excuse what happened to us over the last two games. The Rams flat-out didn't show... period. There are plenty of teams who take a dink-and-dunk approach to the game and they're not regualrly embarrassed. There are plenty of teams who throw, or pass when their opponents know it's coming. There are plenty of teams that play a soft-zone coverage and have moderate success with it. You can't heave the ball downfield all the time if your receivers won't catch. And you certainly can't do it, if your guys won't even make an effort on the ball.
Hopefully, these things are growing pains. Symptoms of youth and inexperience. Yes... I know that's towing the company line, but it's either that, or assume that the entire roster has simply forgotten how to play football and should be cut, or traded immediately. If that's the case, and we're gonna start throwing out players after a season or two, then we're gonna be in a "rebuilding year" every year, for the foreseeable future.
And if that's the case, I may have to request that my local sports bar change out the tap of my favorite draft beer with Pepto Bismol, indefinitely.