I don't know what to think anymore. The first half of the game looked like we might be in for a rare good day. Steven Jackson was breaking through holes and making cutbacks like it was just another day on the practice field. It was clear that Bulger is not 100%, but his handoffs and passes were quick and accurate enough to keep him out of trouble behind the offensive line...oh that offensive line.
17-14 at the half. As I walked into the kitchen for additional chips and salsa, I thought things might shape up nicely for the Rams in a classic late season spoiler plot, where a never-ran team gets fired up enough to make a statement against a juggernaut steamrolling their way to January. And then the Rams go on their first drive of the second half...Jackson pounds out nine yards on two carries and catches a short pass for a first down. Bang. Bang. Bang. I certainly had no complaints about the plays; Linehan continued with what worked well for the offense through the first two quarters.
And then Alex Barron gets called for a false start. First and 15. Bruce catches a pass in the flat for 10 yards. Progress continues; expectations mount. On third down and 4, Holt misses a sinking line drive that sails on through for a Green Bay interception. The rest of the game could be easily summed up by that ill-fated drive that opened the third quarter: bad penalties, easy catches not made, sacks, and all the other things that have made 2007 such an insufferable season.
I give up trying to explain the second half meltdowns. Sure coaching's got something to do with it, but I don't know that I fundamentally disagreed with the play calling in the second half, and by the end of the third quarter, the Rams found themselves in a situation where they had to pass almost exclusively. I have no answers, and probably should even attempt to seek them. Obviously, nobody on the team has them either. I'm getting angrier as I type, so to keep this from turning into an explicative laden screed, here are a few nuggets to chew on while you search for potential draft picks.
Offensive penalties by the numbers:
Five total penalties, two in the first half, three in the second.
Four of those penalties were committed by players up front, three by lineman and a false start by McMichael.
Three false start penalties.
Two false start penalties by Alex Barron.
One personal foul, a facemask, by Milford Brown. That penalty put the Rams at 1st and 25 on the second possession of the third quarter. Bulger was then sacked on 2nd and 21 and the drive ended after that.
- While we're on the subject of the o-line, four sacks allowed. Only one sack came in the first half of the game. Clearly the line struggles with the second half of games as much as anyone.
- Hobbled or not, Drew Bennett's my early favorite for "biggest disappointment" this season. Although he did catch five balls for 65 yards - his best game of the season - the one that got away is the one that we'll remember. That pass, had he caught it, would have put the Rams at the Green Bay 22 yard line, at least. And giving the Rams a good chance to make it 21-17 or at least tie it up.
- All the receivers we're dogging it this week. Bulger was 20 of 39 on the day, but he's off the hook because of his quick drops and (mostly) accurate passes. I don't remember the last Rams game with this many dropped balls and flat out misses. Why is consistent execution such a problem for this team? Injuries only cover your ass to a point and you can't blame the rotting driftwood in the o-line for dropped balls.
- The defense had its own problems with execution, and recorded no sacks on the day. The secondary made costly errors, the Jennings TD and on Donald Driver's 37 yard reception at the end of the first quarter Wade and Chavous both got tied up with WR Greg Jennings which let Driver make the catch and get down the field. And the penalties the defense committed...
- If the Rams let Brandon Chillar leave via free agency after this season, you can safely assume that the Rams issues with keeping personnel are gong to continue.
- Donnie Jones' punting has been a bright spot in this bleak season; the same season which has made his punting ability so important, ironically enough. He had a bad game this week though.
- Special teams were pretty bleak all around yesterday. On kick returns, the Packers had 130 yards on three returns. The Rams return game, by comparison, had just 121 yards on 6 returns. Special teams were a problem last season too. Granted first year coach Al Roberts hasn't had much to work with, but still...
- Cut bait with Wilkins and use the $$ to upgrade somewhere else.
Since almost everyone in the Dome this week was a Green Bay fan (hey, I can't blame the Rams fans for staying away right now) might as well get the Green Bay take on the game that put them in a tie for best in the NFC with Dallas' surprising loss; Acme Packing Company has the other side's tale.
Draft talk coming soon.