The countdown to the first overall pick in the draft has begun, as the Rams drop their twelfth game of the season to the resurgent Tennessee Titans. It was another woeful day for the franchise that is hopefully suffering one final indignation of a season before scratching their way back to respectability again. Three more weeks to have dirt kicked in their faces. Let's review the franchise's latest desecration.
It was a chippy affair from the start. The Titans played with a Billy Jack sized chip on their shoulder. It obviously worked on the Rams who responded by incurring 10 penalties for 82 yards, or six fewer yards than they rushed for through four quarters of play. Fresh from central casting for the Gummo sequel, Titans head coach Jeff Fisher didn't let his men do all of the antagonizing; the mulleted one went for it on 4th-and-1 at the St. Louis 1-yard line to make it 40-7 late in the fourth quarter. The move even had the normally sanguine Spagnuolo muttering angrily on the sidelines.
Oddly enough, it might have been just what the Rams needed. A character building moment. My hope is that this game puts a chip on the shoulders of entire team, players and coaches. Enough with the late-70s everybody's alright routine and the "we're getting better" pep talks. You stink, the rest of the league knows it, as does everybody else, so go out there and demand respect. Every player should play with the fire we saw from Clifton Ryan today, not simply their best because it's not good enough.
The most disappointing unit of the day had to be the offensive line. Inexcusably weak effort. They were dominated from the start, and the Titans, smartly, got them to respond. Not even a banged up running back doing his best to carry the team and a rookie QB in need of a little extra effort from the players around him were enough to motivate the offensive line. This group needs Jason Smith back in uniform, left or right side. In fact, I still feel like the best line combo we've had this year featured Smith at RT and Adam Goldberg at RG.
Anyone else think Richie Incognito has played his last game for Steve Spagnuolo? Alex Barron? The fact that Alex Barron allowed Keith Null to get sacked for the first time in his NFL career says all that needs to be said about the offensive line.
Null got thrown into the fire and fared about as well as you might have expected for a rookie QB who started the season as a third stringer. However, he had some things going in his favor, not the least of which was his ability to maintain composure. He had drives where he looked good, and not so good. The five INTs reveal the things he needs to overcome: better decision making, not making it so easy for defenders to read him, learning the speed of the game, timing, etc. The rookie from West Texas A&M still displayed some of the qualities that made him so intriguing after his preseason debut. Before you write Null off completely, remember Mark Sanchez had a 5 INT outing...against the Bills. Null has fundamentals, and one game with this broken down jalopy in front of him isn't enough to judge him by. I really think the Rams should make him the starter the rest of the season. Remember, Pat Shurmur, not exactly Mr. Popular in Rams nation, was a pretty good QB coach.
The offense didn't help Null today either. The blocking, back to this again I know, couldn't get anything going in the running game, which really, really kills the offense for obvious reasons. I don't know whether the coaches don't trust the receivers we have on the roster right now enough to run more 3 and 4-receiver sets and thrown downfield more? It has to be a big part of the equation, nobody can be that stubborn. I'm sure they also had to keep it relatively simple for the rookie today too.
On the other side of the ball, players fought much harder. This unit has it's moments, but until they can get some talent at key positions like OLB and CB and the DL, they just can't do it. It would have been nice to have Atogwe out there too. I really do have confidence in this coaching staff's ability to make this a good defense as they bring in players who can play more than just special teams to staff the starting roles. I think this unit will get better next year after with another offseason to shore up the depleted talent pool.
The special teams unit has made serious strides this season, and not just because of Danny Amendola's return ability. The coverage units are better too. They have done a nice job of finding the personnel for special teams, which the smart and dutiful scouts and GM should be able to do via waivers and the late rounds of the draft.
We'll see in the coming days if today's ugly loss resonates with the Rams. I would expect a much harsher tone, more critical, than we've come to expect. The Rams have been losing all season because they don't have the talent to compete. That was true today, but they also lost because they got out muscled and hustled. Steven Jackson's numbers on the day prove that. Something the running back said immediately after the game makes me think that the team is going to look at this game a little differently too:
Instead of standing here embarrassing myself, and my family, I'm just going to say I'm tired. I'm just tired. I'm tired. You fill in the blanks. However you want to write the article, however you want to say it, I'm just tired.