The tree limbs and power lines look like cold brittle bones, it's freezing outside, my arse hurts from a sidewalk fall, but worst of all was that once again I devoted a large chunk of my Sunday afternoon to the St. Louis Rams only to be thoroughly disappointed. I don't know if I can watch another season of Rams football with Linehan and the current administration at the helm.
Once again, the offense was befuddling. There's not much you can do with a 3rd quarterback, who didn't even get that much practice time with the first team during the week because until the end of the week Linehan operated on the assumption that Bulger would play. Naturally, he didn't.
Thus you would have expected the Rams to run more. Seems to make sense, right? We've got Steven Jackson to run through the rough stuff, Antonio Pittman for a speedy change of pace, and Brian Leonard for an occasional shovel pass or bloop throw over the middle. Pittman carried the ball twice for 11 yards, Leonard once for 2 yards, and Steven Jackson carried the ball just 18 times in game featuring the third string QB for an impressive 91 yards and an average of 5.2 yards per carry. The running backs combined to catch six passes for 39 yards.
As if he was trying to make a bold statement about his play calling, Linehan finally decided to throw more...in a stormy game...with the third string quarterback...who hadn't practiced with the starters most of the week. The Rams had four possessions in the second half, totaling 10 minutes and 12 seconds. But don't let that number fool you; only one possession lasted longer than 4 minutes. The Bengals had one possession that lasted almost 10 full minutes, and fortunately for the Rams, the Bengals offense, save for the running game, was playing with two left feet as well, recording only three field goals in the second half despite controlling the ball.
On the bright side, Berlin never got sacked, a near miracle with most of the credit going to Cincy's mediocre defense. Berlin did trip stepping backwards after the snap on the Rams first possession, a concise, well scripted analogy for the Rams 2007 season. His passes, flying low with all the velocity of the Spruce Goose, left something to be desired, surely the weather hampered him as well though. "Pish posh," said the fearless leader, safe behind his recently fortified parapet of job security, "if they want throws to the middle of the field, then that's what I shall give them."
Like so many games and practices and preseason games over the last two years, the Rams offense was terrible, but the excuses again concealed so much of the ugliness that was of their own making. The rain, the injuries - oh the injuries! - the only thing missing from such a classic tragedy was a sad clown. It was good of John Shaw to issue a vote of confidence for Linehan, thankfully technology gave him the freedom to do that from sunny Southern California instead of the rainy confines of Cincinnati, as Brian Burwell pointed out in his column which was just one of many pieces in the local paper justifiably critical of the team.
Yes, this has been a season of excuses, from the minute Pace went down in the first game and the team rolled over even with a first half lead against the Panthers - or were they just inept then too? However, injuries aside, Linehan's Rams have been sputtering from the start. In this preseason and the last, the Rams starting offense failed to do much of anything, not even scoring a touch down this summer. And don't let the 8-8 record fool you. In their 4-2 start to the season, the red zone was particular point of frustration for the Rams, save for a 41-34 basketball game against Detroit in week 4 and tight week 6 loss to the Seahawks, which, to me, was the last difficult game and the last one of any consequences that the Linehan-led Rams have made into a contest.
It's been an aggravating and awful four years for Rams fans, and the last two, since turning the page on a new era, have been worse because the promise of change for the better just isn't happening. That's why Linehan's got to go. But let's face it, Linehan's just a symptom. Without change at the suite level, the Rams will continue to flounder, occasionally beating the devil for a .500 season that does little besides create more disappointment and justify another season of excuses.