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Aftermath: Loss of Focus

Not seeing the game you're left to read the impressions of others. It's not always the best way to reach conclusions, but by scanning the wide range of individual perspectives you do get a pretty decent idea of the main plot points, certainly enough to envision scenarios.

That said, Saturday's loss to the Chargers didn't seem so much like an overall debacle but a series of errors that had big consequences, i.e. I don't think the Rams are as bad as the scoreboard might have had you thinking on Sunday morning. On the flip side, it's the little things that good teams like San Diego use to turn games into one sided trouncings, making those missed assignments even more unacceptable than just not being as skilled as the opposing team.

On the offensive side of things, the two turnovers stand out the most, as that's what kept the first team off the score board and brought back horrible memories of last season's red zone troubles. The interception was a poorly executed play. Either it wasn't communicated well or mismanaged at some level on the field and the normally reliable combo of Bulger and Holt got beat. It's classic preseason stuff, and of all the guys in a Rams uniform this season, I trust those two to iron it out. I also wonder how much players are thinking about just executing plays in a preseason game and thus less on improvising in situations. Those mistakes are magnified for the first team when it plays only a quarter of the game too. I can't imagine in a real game that Madison Hedgecock will be carrying the ball over Steven Jackson or Brian Leonard in the red zone any more than necessary. Guys like Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman make you pay a heavy price for bonehead mistakes like a dropped ball (even if it was down). Communication breakdowns on the offensive line got Bulger sacked. While moves like that can ruin a season (did you wince at the thought of Bulger's knees going `snap' too?), it's also the kind of thing that they should be able to work out through the rest of the preseason. Tom Brady suffered through some missed assignments too, which helps frame all of this in the context of the preseason.

If this was our last game of the preseason and this stuff happened, I'd be a little more worried.

When people are talking about the Rams defense doing lots of poor tackling and arm tackling, it's pretty frustrating to hear. Without a doubt a team like the Chargers is going to gain yards and score some points on this Rams defense, but there's just no excuse for giving up yards and scoring opportunities because of poor tackling. Hill and Witherspoon were the most obvious suspects, but it doesn't sound like there was any shortage of guys guilty of preventable technique errors like that. I would imagine Haslett is finding creative ways or at least using lots and lots of repetition with defenders in practice this week.

The d-line saw a whole different animal in the Chargers first team, and for a relatively new unit with some rookies and new guys at key spots they performed well enough to build on as the summer turns into fall and the games start counting. Key quote from Haslett:

"I thought Adam [Carriker] played well. He saw a lot of different combinations, which was good for him. A lot of different block-backs, pulls, powers . . . it's the first time he's seen that, and I thought he reacted pretty well."

The secondary needs more practice, and we may well miss Brown during the four games of his suspension. Rookie mistakes from Wade are to be expected. Bartell played well enough as a first team corner back.

Of all the things in that game, the special teams coverage concerns me most. New coach Al Roberts will be a busy, busy man in the coming weeks.

The real test will be how the team responds to this game. So far, it seems like there's lots of fire here, and the guys aren't willing to just be acceptable. All summer, Carriker's been one of the most vocal of the Rams players (also because he's a new guy with lots on shoulders he gets interviewed much more) in his willingness to do whatever it takes to win. Hopefully, his public displays of fire in the belly are as much reflect the team thinking as well. They should come out much more focused against the Raiders this Friday, and we should have a much better idea about this team on Saturday morning.