Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rams Reality

It's time to be honest about the St. Louis Rams. Those of us here in town see the problems week in and week out, but for some reason, national media and sportscasters calling their games are blind to them. That's why they still refer to the Rams' "high-powered offense." It's a phrase that is not only outdated, but essentially meaningless, too.

As this season's Rams are proving again, the vaunted team that could put up 50+ points a game is a thing of the past, not the present. "High-powered offense" and "Greatest Show Turf" no longer apply -- they refer to the 1999 Rams, when Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and the rest were putting up so many points that they covered the spread virtually every week. That era lasted for a couple of seasons, but came to a screeching halt when the Rams lost the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots after the 2001 season.

Since then, the Rams offense has struggled to even get in the end zone. It's not good news when your highest-scoring player is your kicker. It means you couldn't convert a drive and had to go for a lot of field goals. This season, the Rams have exactly two touchdowns in three games. Not only do they choke in the red zone, but now Jeff Wilkins, the kicker nicknamed "Money" because he was such a sure thing, is missing from all over the field, too.

Scott Linehan's offense has gotten predictable, and the coach's habit of calling those quick outs on the line of the scrimmage to a wide receiver rarely work for more than a yard or two. Yes, Steven Jackson can still run the ball, and Brian Leonard helps pick up the backfield slack, but where are those 20-30 yard passes downfield that utilize the quickness and receiving ability of Holt and Bruce? Did anyone else notice that Rams castoff Kevin Curtis caught three touchdowns for Philadelphia today?

At least the Rams still have the same level of ability on the defensive side of the ball that they've had for years -- which means they still can't tackle and the pass rush is virtually invisible. That mattered less in the previous era when the offense was putting up so many points that it didn't matter if the defense gave up five touchdowns. But now, when you're making stars of opposition running backs like Carnell Williams and Frank Gore, it's yet another element of a team that's firing on no cylinders.

And yet, week in and week out, the national media and the broadcasters calling the games continue to refer to the Rams' "high-powered offense." It's time to knock it off and come up with a new catch phrase. I suggest "won't get to the post-season, even if they have a ticket."