August 15, 2012If you're looking for good news in the Rams' 38-3 shellacking by the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 12, consider this: It was their first game of the exhibition season. Plus, new Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein made his only field goal attempt. He's perfect thus far in pre-season.
Other than that, it was pretty ugly for the visitors at Indianapolis. Remember, the Rams tied for the second-worst record in the National Football League last year. And who was the worst team in 2011? None other than those same Indianapolis Colts.
Actually, pre-season football is a highly specious product. A year ago, the Rams stormed out of the gates to a perfect 4-0 exhibition record. Once the official season began, however, they stumbled and staggered to a truly awful showing. It didn't take long for the good vibes from exhibition play to vaporize amidst the myriad blunders and botched plays of the real season.
Still, certain patterns of behavior are disheartening no matter when they occur. The Rams on Aug. 12, for example, shot themselves in the foot on each of their first two offensive series, thanks to annoying and meaningless penalties. After a delay-of-game penalty, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was quoted as saying, "I probably wasn't looking at the clock…I need to be…more cognizant of where it is."
This particular response falls under the Declaration of Independence category. Namely, we hold these truths to be self-evident. Would that the Rams were duly informed of simple, basic rules during the game.
Bradford certainly isn't alone when it comes to daydreaming. A couple of seasons back, offensive tackle Alex Barron had an irritating habit of jumping off-sides at least once per game, if not twice, or so it seemed to fans.
On a sober note, when players aren't sharp and focused mentally, they're more apt to be hurt in a game as violent and quick as football. Additionally, the Rams aren't one of the more naturally talented teams in the league. In order to be competitive, they have to be honed and sharp in every game and virtually on every play.
Much has changed with the Rams in the off-season, most notably the addition of accomplished coach Jeff Fisher as their head coach. Fisher knows how to motivate players and how to get them to achieve common goals, as indicated by his long and illustrious career at the helm of the Tennessee Titans. He even reached the Super Bowl, losing to Dick Vermeil's Rams in 1999 in one of the closest and most exciting championship games ever.
If everything was going smoothly for Fisher during the off-season, the alarm bells were sounded in Sunday's exhibition opener. For too many years, under too many head coaches, the Rams have continued to make boneheaded mistakes and played inferior football to their competition, which invariably proves to be too smart, too experienced, too athletic or simply too superior to the under-achieving local football team.
Here's hoping that Fisher and his assistant coaches can experience a "Eureka!" moment when dissecting the game film from the pre-season opener. If not, it could be another very, very long season for long-suffering pro football fans in The Lou.
Evan Makovsky is host of the E-MAK SHOW, broadcast weekdays 6 to 9 a.m., on KXFN 1380 AM St. Louis.
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