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Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals: 2nd down, second guessing

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Taking care of business.

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Recap

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again hoping for different results, then the Los Angeles Rams’ red zone offense belongs in an insane asylum.

Despite the penalties, bad playcalling, execution and lack of proper clock management which led to field goals rather than touchdowns, the Rams managed to defeat the Arizona Cardinals, 32-15.

Still, the red zone mediocrity is beyond frustrating. It’s downright demoralizing and pathetic.

Think how good this team would be without the stumbles by scoring touchdowns, not field goals. Not only would the Rams be a great team, there would be no question about whether they could make it to Super Bowl LII.

Instead, one is left still questioning how far the second-youngest team in the NFL can go.

Will the Rams be able win the next four games, against the Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers? This is not an easy schedule by any means. Even the Niners pose problems. Remember Week 3? And it’s a rivalry game—throw out the records. The Niners will celebrate in joy in a lousy season should they be THAT team who derails the Rams in their quest for the NFC West crown.

When your team is in the playoffs, as the Rams will likely be, every missed opportunity to put touchdowns on the board in the red zone will be considered by your opponent a victory especially when the opponent is able to hold the number one scoring team in the league, as the Rams are tied with the Eagles, to just 3 points.

All the Rams did this past Sunday was “take of business”

They just looked dreadful doing it.

Clock management

By his own admission earlier this year, Head Coach Sean McVay said he needed to improve his clock management at the 2:00 minute warning.

Obviously, he isn’t working hard enough.

For all the rightful criticisms of former Head Coach Jeff Fisher, he was still a master of clock management. McVay could learn a lot by watching the moves Fisher made with 4:00 minutes left to preserve clock for his offense as terrible as it was.

With 30 seconds left before the half and with two timeouts, McVay, rather than use one of those timeouts, ran the no huddle inside the five-yard line. The result was that the Rams ran so much time off the clock, they were unable to put up seven points and had to settle for three.

That sequence of events was one the worst instances of clock management by any team in a long time. Had the Rams not won the game, not only would McVay’s judgment been questioned. His whole approach to running the offense would be questionable—Should he leave the play calling to someone else so he can concentrate on clock management?

Being the youngest head coach ever hired by a NFL team, the learning curve is steep. But when you have two timeouts and only 30 seconds left in the half, even I know to use one of them instead of running the no huddle.

Having already acknowledged that he would correct this problem the first time it happened and nevertheless doing it again, Coach McVay gets my “daffy” award for this game.

Give your defense a rest

The difference between the 1999 “Greatest Show on Turf” and the 2001 version was the experience of Head Coach Dick Vermeil brought to understanding that if you go pass happy, as Offensive Coordinator and eventual Rams Head Coach Mike Martz did, your defense gets tired.

After ILB Alec Ogletree scored on his interception on Sunday, the defense went right back onto the field. The Rams led the Cards 16-0, and it looked like this was going to be a romp.

On the next series, the defense held firm running 2:45 off the clock. When the Rams’ offense got the ball rather than run the ball to give the defense a rest, the offense carved a mere 1:10 off the clock before they had to punt back to the Cards.

This led to the defense who didn’t even have a chance to get a cup of Gatorade before having to be right back onto the field. As a result, the Cards were able to capitalize on the fatigued Rams’ defense by scoring on a 6:07-long drive.

In a period of 13 minutes from the end of the 1st quarter to the beginning of the 2nd, the Rams defense was on the field for 12 of them. And what happened when the Rams got the ball back? They did the same thing again—running a mere 1:45 off the clock with a Mike Martz “pass happy” offense.

So when the Cards got the ball back, they scored another TD. Luckily for the Rams, the Cards missed the extra point and the score was 16-13. And by halftime due to the lousy clock management, the Rams led only 19-13.

A coach has to understand that putting your defense on the field for that length of time by going pass happy will result in tiring them out. This was especially galling as the Cards were able to exploit this, running the ball right and left on the Rams, chewing up clock and keeping them in the game because they were able score touchdowns in the red zone, unlike the Rams.

Football is a team game. It’s not just about offense. Both the offense and defense need to complement one another. The offense needs to score, and the defense needs to make stops. How you do it is extremely important. No defense should be out on the field for as long as the Rams’ defense was in the second quarter when you have a 16-0 lead.

In the second half, the Rams changed their tempo, ran the ball more and as a result outscored the Cards 13-3 to win the game.

Don’t miss extra points

Since the Rams were playing the Cards, they got away with missing an extra point. How that happened is always perplexing. Was it a bad snap, hold or shank? It makes no difference, your team just can’t do this. Every football fan knows that missing an extra point will usually come back to haunt your team as there’s a big difference between leading 17-0 as opposed to 16-0.

The missed extra point was looming in the background the whole game.

But give credit where credit is due. Not only did the Cards miss their own extra point, the Rams special teams came up with a blocked field goal on top of it.

Other than the extra point the Rams special teams played up to expectations. And ultimately, the Rams got the job done against Arizona. This was very important in a division rivalry game. While the Rams can breathe a sigh of relief on getting out of Glendale with a win, they need to play better if they want to win the NFC West.

Ram fans know the Eagles and Seahawks aren’t the lowly Cards. If the Rams want to win these next two games, they can’t afford to make any mistakes—none, zero.

As far as waiting for a second-guessing the use of WR Tavon Austin, this is a lost cause. It’s not that the play calls are bad, it’s that Tavon shouldn’t be the one running it. The only thing one can do is hope he gets positive yardage when called upon. Keep your fingers crossed Ram fans when he gets the ball.