The Rams 2006 season will forever come down to Linehan's 4th and 1 screen pass to TE Klopfenstein. By no means was that the only thing that killed the Rams yesterday, but that strange call and poorly executed play (mostly on Klop's part) will be remembered as a major plot point in the story of a rookie head coach and a franchise groping to find its way under that new coach.
The Post-Dispatch has an excellent breakdown of what happened. Fullback Paul Smith, it turns out, missed the call and blocked the same pass rusher as Steven Jackson. He should have been moving outward as a receiver. It wasn't the only thing that went wrong on the play, but it was a big factor in it failing. The Rams just don't have the guys to make fancy trick plays. With Pace out now, you kind of wonder what kind of plays they can do besides run up the middle where the blocking is solid and the occasional pass on the right side of the field.
That wasn't even the only errant fourth down play the Rams had over the course of their week 10 tilt with Seattle. Seahawks fans delighted in meathead Hamlin's fourth down interception of Bulger, but the play was essentially the same thing as a punt. Had Hamlin batted down the pass Seattle's field position would have been much, much better. Not that they needed it.
In spite of being hung up on Linehan's strange fourth down call, there are a number of things that the loss can be attributed to: poor special teams play that led to a Seattle TD; the fact that the defense let Seattle have 9 first downs, 134 yards, and nine minutes of play before the Rams offense got out there; a dumb personal foul and holding call on Incognito...take your pick.
However, the defense tightened up significantly in the second half, and kept the Rams in the game. It wasn't championship caliber defense or anything, but it was the kind of play that had it occured through the last three games the Rams would still be over .500. It happens.
This is, after all, a team finding its way. I have no doubt that next season will be better. In the meantime, the Rams really need to run the table through the rest of their games with weak divisional opponents. Maybe a stunner over the Bears? We can dream can't we?
I'll be out of pocket through Friday, for the most part, so let's take the next couple of days to start a discussion about the 2007 season. The Rams have played themselves out of a high draft pick, but in the NFL there's plenty of talent through the entire first round and beyond. In my opinion, the Rams need to go after a defensive lineman. I don't follow college football closely, so help me out as to who's out there. Let's put together a draft wish list, and while we're at it, a free agent or trade wish list.
What should the Rams look like next season? What will they need to compete in the NFC?