Football Outsiders has their "Quick Read" feature up today, looking back on the individual performances from week 8. The numbers confirmed two things for the St. Louis Rams.
First, Marc Bulger was unable to make much happen against one of the league's worst pass defenses, even with time in the pocket. Few Rams watchers will forget memorable throws in the bottom of the strike zone against the Lions defensive line. Here's what FO said:
If you take Marc Bulger's combined performance from 2007, 2008, and the first half of 2009, and then place it on a 16-game scale, his numbers aren't pretty: 266-of-465 for 2855 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. They're a dead ringer for Jim Everett's 1996 season in New Orleans: 267-of-464, 2797 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. Why is that relevant? Mainly because Everett would take 75 more snaps as a professional quarterback after that season. Bulger is just about done, and his inability to produce against an awful pass defense was just a sign that he's part of the problem in St. Louis, not the solution.
Looking back, I don't think the Rams had much choice in keeping Bulger. The cap hit for releasing him would have been huge and left the Rams with lots of dead money. And, there was ample reason to think that with a better OL and a healthy Steven Jackson that Bulger would have been acceptable for a rebuilding team. I think the team and lots of fans underestimated just how talent-depleted our group of WRs were. Had Laurent Robinson not been injured, that might have been a different story, giving Bulger a reliable option and keeping Avery in the deep threat role he's built for.
GM Billy Devaney and the coaching staff made the decision to focus their efforts on the offensive line, and I still think that was the right call, no matter how painful it is to watch Bulger play. I'm a big believer in the theory that teams build success from the lines up, and the Rams had big issues on the OL. Sure, Pace is having a decent season this year, but he couldn't be counted on for much beyond that given his age (look at Seattle's predicament with Walter Jones now). Getting an OL in place and a cornerstone lineman in Jason Smith sets the Rams up well for the 2010 season, when if they need to take a QB in the draft they can because they can put him behind an experienced line.
And on the hero of the game, Steven Jackson, here's what FO said about him:
Jackson had 17 carries on first down, and nine of them were successes, including three first downs and a 25-yard touchdown run that gave the Rams a lead they would not relinquish. He also converted a pair of third-and-1 attempts.
The Rams had 21 first downs through the whole game and ran Jackson on 17 of them. If the Rams are going to win anymore games this season, they'll have to have a liberal dose of Steven Jackson.