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Rams v Bengals

Injured Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (high ankle sprain) on the sidelines Dec. 18 during the game against Cincinnati. (Photo by Chris Lee / clee@post-dispatch.com)

Welcome to the latest edition of Necessary Roughness. Don't flag me,  Jerome Bogner. Don't flag me bro ...

* Kellen Clemens looked good as the emergency starter at QB. Then again, you knew that. But it was a rare positive for the Rams, to have Clemens play as well as he did after only five full practices with the team. Clemens can use this experience to make a bid to be the Rams' No. 2 quarterback in 2012.

* Of course, the increasingly idiotic mob that dogs Sam Bradford was frighteningly aroused by Clemens' performance. After reading some of the comments, I'm not sure whether we should just stop at inducting Clemens into the Rams' Ring of Honor; I'll call Joe Horrigan at The Pro Football Hall of Fame to see if there's a chance of waiving the five-year waiting rule to get Clemens into Canton, ASAP.

* All kidding aside, Bradford could learn at least one thing by watching Clemens: checking down. Clemens didn't try to be a hero. After a fast look down the field he'd check down to receivers underneath. As much as I defend Bradford against foolish criticism, I've been disappointed by how slowly he checks down.

* As well as Clemens played, he tacked on a lot of yards on (mostly) checkdowns long after the outcome was determined.  Of his 229 passing yards, 136 came in the 4th quarter. Clemens was 12 of 18 for 83 yards after three quarters. His passer rating got about a 15-point jump on that last-minute TD pass to Danario Alexander.

* Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels continues to confuse me. When A.J. Feeley took over for an injured Bradford earlier this season, McDaniels scaled down the passing offense. He did it for Clemens, too. As he should have. It made sense. It would have also made sense to simplify the offense for Bradford. After all, Bradford is in his second NFL season. This is a new offense for him. He didn't have the usual offseason regimen to absorb it. Bradford clearly struggled to get comfortable in this offense -- especially when he was asked many times to set up on deep drops behind a weak offensive line to throw downfield to receivers that can't get open. Bradford is a rhythm passer. He's at his best on quick reads and throws. McDaniels and the Rams didn't adjust their offense to fit the QB skills.

* The Rams were abysmal on third downs against the Bengals, converting 2 of 13. And both conversions came in the 4th quarter. The Rams netted seven total yards on their 13 third-down plays. The misfires continued a terrible trend. The Rams are 32nd (last) in the NFL in third-down success rate at 26.9 percent. How bad is that? Since STATS LLC began keeping track of third-down rankings in 1991, only eight NFL teams have converted less than 26.9 percent.

* Let's go to the tote board and check in for the latest in our contest to see who can score the most touchdowns from scrimmage this season:

1 -- LeSean McCoy,  20

2 -- Rob Gronkowski,  16

3 -- Calvin Johnson,  14 

4 -- Cam Newton,  13

5 -- Entire STL Rams offense,  13.

Can the Rams overtake Newton and finish with more TDs from scrimmage than the Carolina rookie QB? (And the 13 for Newton are all rushing TDs.) The Rams also must ward off challenges from Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. They each have 12 TDs from scrimmage. Only two weeks to go. 

* Donnie Jones is among the busiest guys in town, at least on Sundays. The Rams have punted the ball 93 times this season, the most in the NFL. Since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995, they've never punted more than 95 times in a season (in 1997 and 1998). With two games left Jones and the Rams should breeze to a new STL Rams record for most punts.

* Like everyone else, I don't know why Jones continues to kick the ball straight and down the middle to dangerous return men. Someone has to go. If Jones isn't following orders, then he's done. If can't direct punts to the side, then he's done. If the special teams coach is failing to give Jones the correct orders, then he's done. This is an embarrassment. And there's no excuse for it. This failure has nothing to do with injuries. Punt the freaking football out of bounds. That's all there is to it. It's no more complicated than that.

* The Rams defense has definitely earned some respect. Considering the futility of the team's offense, it's no surprise to see the Rams' D wilt later in games. The only area where I think they've done a poor overall job is run defense. The Rams are giving up more rushing yards per game (153) than any NFL team. And they are getting plowed for 4.8 yards per rushing attempt, which ranks 28th among the 32 teams. 

* The defense has actually improved in some areas as the season has rolled on. The passer rating against the Rams is 86.1, which ranks 19th. The yards per attempt against them is 7.26, which ranks 18th. They have given up only 20 passing plays of 25+ yards, which is the third-lowest total. The Rams defense ranks 4th in sack rate, with one sack every 7.7 passing attempts. Given the injuries and turmoil at cornerback, the Rams have held up pretty well against the pass. They aren't great. Average. But they've probably done a better job defending the pass than I would have realistically expected given the circumstances.

* Rams rookie defensive end Robert Quinn has been awfully active and disruptive when given an opportunity to play a lot this season. It's really a shame that the Rams didn't fast-forward Quinn's progress by playing him as much as possible this season. It's not as if this team was vying for a playoff spot and couldn't afford a few mistakes made by a rookie player.

* What the hell was wrong with the turf at The Edward Jones Dome? Why were so many players slipping?

* Josh Brown ranks 25th among NFL kickers in field-goal percentage, 79.2.

* I'm assuming the Rams' football people were making notes while watching Bengals rookie WR A.J. Green and seeing the positive impact Green has in making rookie QB Andy Dalton a whole lot better. Sometimes we make this game a lot more complicated than it really is. Your QB needs playmakers.

* The Rams offense doesn't do much when handed opportunities through takeaways. The Rams defense has 16 takeaways this season. The Rams have scored 30 points following those turnovers; that ranks 28th. After taking over following a takeaway the Rams have scored three TDs and kicked three FGs. They've punted six times, lost two fumbles and surrendered the ball once on downs.

* Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo wouldn't go for it on 4th and 1 in the third quarter, but yet he's calling timeouts late in the game and the Rams down 20-6. In these final two games of the season, I'd really like to see the coach play to win every time the team has a chance to do so.

* I much prefer the Rams' "old" uniforms, which they wore Sunday, over the model they've been using since 2000 (or was it 2001? I can't remember, sorry). Rumor has it that the Rams may go back to their classic blue-and-white look from the olden days; I'll check on that. I loved that old-school combination. It was so simple, yet bold.  

* Steven Jackson ranks 7th among NFL running backs in rushing-receiving yards from scrimmage per game, with an average of 97 yards. That's impressive considering that the opposing defense comes into every game with the sole purpose of stopping Jackson. The Rams' inability to pass the ball makes it easier to gang up on Jackson, but he still gets yards.

Thanks for reading ...

-Bernie

 

 

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