Since beginning the season 1-0 for the first time since 2006 the Rams have lost two straight winnable games on the road, and in disappointing fashion.The Rams have not played their best football this season, and there are plenty of areas of concern such as slow starts, the defense, and costly penalties. The thing about these problems is that they havent just been a one week thing, they are happening week in and week out. As a fan you have to wonder if the Rams are now a desperate team and if it’s time to hit the panic button.
Throughout the first three games the Rams have been outscored 51-13 in the first half of games and have yet to put up the first points on the board. The Rams on the other hand have outscored their opponent 45-35 in the second half. The Rams cannot continue putting themselves in holes, it’s very difficult to fall behind consistently and still win games. Tim Tebow and the Broncos may have done it back in 2010, but those things happen once every blue moon. But if the Rams are interested, “Tebow Time” is on the market…
The Rams spent a lot of money on some free agent acquisitions in the offseason, and by this time you probably know who they are, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook and Jake Long. Since week one Cook has been almost nonexistent, and last week Jake Long had such a bad performance that he was eventually pulled. Tavon Austin may have scored twice last week and had a called back punt return, but he leads the team in drops with three although it seems like a lot more. These players as well as others need to step up their game.
One of those players may be Daryl Richardson. Offensively the Rams have been criticized for not being able to run the ball which in part is true. Throughout the first three games the Rams have only managed 171 rushing yards, a mere 57 yards per game which ranks 29th in the NFL. Daryl Richardson has 30 carries for 98 yards which ranks 41st in the league. To put that in perspective, Andrew Luck and Alex Smith who are both seen as pocket passers, have more rushing yards than Richardson.
Although those stats may be alarming, they are totally misleading. Due to the fact that the Rams find themselves down in games so early, it forces them to throw the ball more often than they would like. In the first three games the Rams have averaged only 18 rushing attempts per game which ranks 29th in the league, while they are averaging 47 passing attempts per game, second most in the league. Their isnt necessarily a problem with the Rams running game as there is a problem with their balance and falling behind ability.
One of the biggest concerns for the Rams this season has by far been the defense. It was thought that the Rams defense would would be top ten, but that just hasnt been the case. As of right now the Rams have the 26th ranked defense, have given up the 6th most points this season, and just gave up 175 yards rushing to a team that has struggled to find its run game recently. Some other alarming stats for the defense is that they give up 6.2 yards per play which is the fifth worst in the league. The Rams also have the worst third down defense allowing a first down on 50% of third down attempts, and have forced the 21st fewest third down attempts. The Rams defense needs to be able to get off the field on third downs if they want to be successful.
None of that points to a top ten defense. Not to mention big players like Chris Long, Janoris Jenkins, and Cortland Finnegan have yet to make a positive impact. The defense continues to play a soft zone that doesnt work as the pass defense is the tenth worst in the league, and the Rams have only managed seven sacks through three games. This defense is still capable of being that top ten defense everyone is talking about, and Tim Walton may still be finding his way, but if things dont start to move in a positive direction soon, the Rams may need to make a change whether its personnel or coaching.
Lastly, costly penlaties have hurt the Rams once again this year. The Rams are in the middle of the pack in penalties, but it’s the timeliness of the penalties and impact that they are having. Week one against the Cardinals penalties stalled Rams drives, last week special teams penalties forced the offense to begin the majority of their drives inside their own 20 yard line, and once again this week special teams penalties hurt the Rams as a Tavon Austin touchdown was called back. These types of penalties are happening so often that you can almost just expect a penalty to happen on special teams. Some of the calls may be controversial, but thats still not an excuse.
The Rams have a lot to fix before Thursday, but luckily, so do the 49ers. The 49ers have lost two straight games like the Rams, but unlike the Rams the 49ers have only managed 10 points in those games. The 49ers also will be without Aldon Smith and possibly without Vernon Davis, as if losing Crabtree was not enough. Both teams will be desperate for a win because the chance of making the playoffs at 1-3 is very small. Last season the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, and Washington Redskins all started 1-2 and went on to make the playoffs, all of which one in week 4 to go 2-2. Since the NFL merge 21 teams that have started 1-3 have went on to make the playoffs, and none have made it since the 2008 Minnesota Vikings.
Should the Rams and their fans hit the panic button yet? No, not quite, but they are desperate for a win. Should they lose on Thursday though changes should be considered and Jeff Fisher could probably take the panic button out of his desk.