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2009 Rams: Mid-Year Analysis

We have made it mid way through the season and as we all know, we are currently at a very disappointing 1-7. We have struggled through some injuries, a fairly non-existent receiving core, and quite a bit of instability at the QB position. If you have watched the games, these facts are pretty obvious, but let’s take a look at some stats and see what kind of picture they paint.

First let’s take a look at some cumulative stats. So far this year the Rams have gained 133 first downs. All of their opponents combined for the first 8 weeks gained 178 first downs. Rushing is 929 vs 1078 yards, receiving yards is 1430 vs 1980, QB pass completion percent is an average 56% vs 63%, sacks 15 vs 17, turnovers 16 vs 9, penalty yards 402 vs 321, and points which is 77 vs 221. Of all these stats, only a few really stand out. The Rams were a minus 34% on first downs, a positive 44% on turnovers, and a staggering -187% on points scored (there is probably a correlation between turnovers and points scored).

Let’s take a closer look. In week 1 we played the now 2-5 Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks killed us in first downs, rushing yards, passing yards, QB completion percent, sacks, and in points scored (28-0). My final analysis of this game is that they killed us.

In week 2, we played the now 2-5 Washington Redskins. The Redskins only really beat us in 2 categories: first downs and passing yards. Their passing completion percent was better than ours also, but not by a large margin. All the other major stats were extremely even. The Rams lost this game 7-9, but this game really could have gone either way. I think this game could be pinned on the Rams lack of an experienced receiving core which is ultimately a coaching or Rams management problem.

In the next 3 games (Green Bay, SF, and Minnesota) most of the major stats were very close. The 1 glaring category (except for points scored) was turnovers. Over these 3 games the Rams coughed up 10 T/Os compared to only 1 by their opponents. My first thought was the Ram’s QBs. In week 3 Boller was brought in to replace the ineffective Marc Bulger. In week 4 the back up and supposedly sub par Boller played the entire game. In week 5 Bulger was brought back in to replace the injured and ineffective Kyle Boller. So, all of these turnovers must have been interceptions. But they weren’t. There was only 1 interception in each of these games (a total of three). Each of the losses could be attributed to turnovers, which can be attributed to a lack of discipline and focus, which can be attributed to coaching.

In week 6 we played the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars killed us in first downs, rushing yards, and passing yards. Despite this the Rams led for most of the game. How could this happen? You guessed it, turnovers. The Jaguars had 3 turnovers to the Rams 1. During the 4th quarter the Rams had the lead, but you could tell the defense was just too tired. The Jaguars began to gain large chunks of yardage at will. They were able to tie the game and send it into overtime. This was a very exciting game, but ultimately the Rams lost by a field goal. I’m not going to place any blame here, but I will point out the importance of a positive turnover ratio.

Week 7 we played the still undefeated Indianapolis Colts. Outside of the fact they only out rushed us by 1 yard (155-156), this game could very much be compared to our season opener. They killed us. We got very little pressure on Peyton Manning; they sacked Marc Bulger 3 times. They had zero turnovers while we had 2. They scored 42 points while we could only muster up 2 field goals. My final analysis for this game is that they played very well and we kind of stunk.

In week 8 we WON A FRICKING FOOTBALL GAME. We played and defeated the now 1-6 Detroit Lions. I can’t say we killed them, but we beat them in almost every major statistical category. Not only was it our first victory of the year, it was also the only game of the year that our QB had a higher passer completion percent than our opponents. Bulger threw for an amazing 50% completion versus Matthew Stafford’s 42%. Also noteworthy is the fact that our first win of the season came as our star running back (Steven Jackson) scored his first TD of the year.

A few closing comments: despite the beatings we took from Seattle and Indy, statistically, we had opportunity to compete and win in all of the other games. In a fairy tale world where everything goes our way and we have an experienced head coach, we could be 6-2 (versus the very real and deserved 1-7 that we are). Turnovers are killing us and I attribute that to coaching. We have the number 1 running back in the NFL, but he only has 1 TD. That can be attributed to play calling which is also coaching. There are plenty of other things that could be piled onto Coach Spagnuolo’s head, but it is his first year as a head coach and that is simply something we have to deal with. The second half of the season is similar to the first. We are scheduled to play a couple of really good teams (Saints and Texans), but most games are against average teams or teams with losing records like us. I look forward to see if the Rams can raise their level of play and compete in the second half.

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