Given the hindsight and perspective that comes with 24 hours and a spin or two around the game film, what Rams coach Jeff Fisher saw on the screen wasn’t too terribly different than what he witnessed live in Sunday’s 23-6 loss to the Bears.
In the immediate aftermath of the loss, Fisher acknowledged a strong defensive performance, albeit one that could have been even better. He also saw a solid if unspectacular performance from his young special teams units.
More to the point, Fisher had singled out a struggling offense that clearly couldn’t get untracked at any point in the game, citing particular struggles in the battle up front.
After watching the film, Fisher saw much of the same but he also came away with a greater understanding of why the offensive breakdowns occurred and what he, his coaching staff and his players can do to rectify it in the future.
“I think you take kind of a different perspective after you’ve been able to look at the three phases,” Fisher said. “Obviously, our difficulty was on the offensive side of the ball. It ends up as a staff, you just point to little things that are all correctable and we didn’t play as well as I think we are capable. We had a lot of little mistakes that cost us here and there and we as well as the players are encouraged about where we’re going and as long as we continue to improve, we should be OK.”
Improvement will be the order of the week this week for the Rams offense after an overwhelmingly positive showing last week against Washington was dampened by a stuck in the mud performance against the Bears.
Coming off a game in which the offense posted 31 points, 452 yards of total offense and had converted seven-of-12 third downs, it seemed that unit had started to gel. Going back even further to the final quarter in Detroit, the Rams had really pieced together five consecutive quarters of good to great offense.
On Sunday at Soldier Field, the Rams had just 160 yards of total offense and were three-of-13 on third down while mustering just a pair of
In those first two games, the Rams had taken advantage when big plays presented themselves but even on the few occasions that happened Sunday, the Rams just missed like on a deep throw to receiver
“Yeah, the second half of the Detroit game, fourth quarter of the Detroit game, Washington, at times we saw some things and had some chances (yesterday),” Fisher said. “Against a team like this, you know, Gib’s got to make that catch down there on the 5-yard line, those kinds of things. We need to make those plays and we just didn’t have a lot of opportunities to make the plays.”
That momentum was halted by a talented Bears defense for a variety of reasons other than just a drop or two, according to Fisher. To start, he again pointed to problems on a musical chairs offensive line that hasn’t spent more than a week working together as a unit.
For the third time in as many weeks, the Rams opened the game with a different starting five as
The results weren’t pretty as quarterback
Considering the injuries have the Rams in a position where not much can be done to shift personnel, the onus will fall on line coach Paul Boudreau and staff to get the current group up to speed.
“We are going to continue to work with them,” Fisher said. “We are going to have another week to work together and we’ll continue to do the same things we have been doing with these guys. You coach them up; you get them in positions where they can be successful. And then you have got to adjust. We did make some adjustments at times yesterday that we thought were the correct ones but it’s a very talented defense, a very talented defense. At times, we were just put in position where we were just outmatched up front.”
Likewise, Bradford will have to continue to work on making reads quicker and getting the ball out as fast as possible. Against nearly an exclusive Cover 2 defense like the one the Bears use, passing plays can take longer to develop.
That certainly was the case yesterday and the result was a couple of occasions in which Bradford couldn’t get rid of it before he was hit for a sack.
“That’s always the case, there are always those things,” Fisher said. “But you don’t put the blame on anybody. Sam is trying to make a play, waiting for somebody to clear and trying to take an opportunity to buy an extra split second to make a play.”
Perhaps nothing was more detrimental to the Rams offense against Chicago than the backward progress the team made on third down. One week after converting at a strong 58 percent clip on the money down, the Rams dropped to 23 percent on 13 opportunities.
Of those 13 chances, seven of them were third-and-7 or longer. Four of the sacks on Bradford came on that down. Those long shot third downs are a direct result of struggles on first and second down, many times the direct result of inability to get positive yards in the run game.
“Our difficulties were for the most part on third down,” Fisher said. “We had too many third-and-7 pluses. When you are not productive on first down or second down, suddenly you are in third and 7 so in order to get to the sticks, you have got to hold it. That’s what that defense is all about. They do a great job with pressure and a great job with getting to different route concepts.”
Rams running back
“We would like to get third and manageable,” Jackson said. “I think that’s what we did last week when we were able to pull the win off. When you get into third and long, it really makes you one dimensional and it allows for the defense to be a little bit more aggressive. We have got to continue to be very positive on first and second downs.”
The bright side, according to Fisher, is that many of the issues he and his staff caught on tape are correctable. And, even more to the point, the Rams have at least a small sample size of success they can draw from.
In other words, it’s not as if the Rams have spent three weeks running in place offensively. Still, with nothing but some of the league’s most stout defenses looming in Seattle and Arizona in a 10-day span, Bradford and Co. will have to be prepared for anything.
According to Bradford, maybe the most important aspect is to keep grinding away, even when things get difficult.
“I think the biggest thing for us is when things aren’t going well, when things aren’t going great, we have got to learn to create momentum from within,” Bradford said. “We can’t wait for it to happen. We have got to build enough energy to create it ourselves to get over that hump.”