Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

St. Louis Rams: Warner-less, Defenseless

The heavyweights are falling left and right. And not just wimpy white guys who get in the way of Iron Mike Tyson.

St. Louis is still the defending Super Bowl champion and will be until someone else hoists the Lombardi trophy, but all is not well in the Gateway City. The rest of the National Football Conference elite is now breathing down the necks of the Rams after Sunday’s gridiron action.

Sunday saw the Rams lose their first game in almost a year, a 54-34 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in always-unfriendly Arrowhead Stadium. On top of the loss, Rams quarterback Kurt Warner went down for four to six weeks with a broken right pinky.

A fumbled snap late in the second quarter led to the injury, an inauspicious ending to what was Warner’s worst half of the season. The reigning NFL Most Valuable Player tossed two interceptions in the first half, and the Rams entered halftime facing a 27-14 deficit.

Unable to return in the second half, Warner was replaced by backup Trent Green, the Rams’ starter at the beginning of last season before an injury led to Warner’s improbable Arena League-to-MVP saga. Green put in a more-than-admirable effort in the second half this Sunday, throwing for 205 yards and three touchdowns on 15-21 passing in just two quarters of work.

But it was not enough.

The sieve formerly known as the Rams defense allowed 54 points to the Chiefs (a very symmetric 27 per half), and Green’s work was for naught, as the Rams were never within striking distance of the Chiefs. The St. Louis defense gave up 468 yards and six touchdowns to the mediocre Kansas City offense and did not look at all like the defending Super Bowl champions or a team that was undefeated prior to Sunday.

This begs the question of how capable the Rams are of defending their title. Not very, it seems.

Green is a very good quarterback who will be starting for another NFL team next season, so Warner’s absence will not hurt the Rams very much over the next month. By now, there is no doubt that Warner is a great quarterback, as he repeatedly slings 40-yard passes right to the numbers of his receivers, but the Rams’ problems don’t rest with their offense.

Head Coach Mike Martz, the offensive coordinator under his predecessor Dick Vermeil, has designed the perfect offensive scheme for the speedy squad that features numerous threats. But the Rams defense is nothing short of terrible, potentially the worst in the league.

St. Louis has not held a single opponent to less than 20 points and has given up 30 or more points in four of seven games. On the other hand, the Washington Redskins, one of the teams St. Louis will have to get through to get back to the Super Bowl, have given up 20 points only once this season.

An offense such as the Rams’ that can score 57 points is scary. A defense such as the Rams’ that can give up 54 points is even scarier.

Last season, the Redskins featured a downright awesome offense, racking up touchdowns and cheap pizzas for D.C. residents but lost in the second round of the playoffs. The Rams could be doomed to a similar fate this season when they face a team that can slow the unstoppable Rams offense, while at the same time running the Rams defense into the ground.

The Rams’ defense can be traced to a number of different problems, all of which contribute to their ineptitude. Speed is the single biggest killer, because the St. Louis defense is as slow as a gimpy Mark McGwire. Mix in a coaching staff that is offensive-minded and an offense that gives the opposition numerous touches of the ball, and you have a recipe for defensive disaster. Finish it off with some short, inexperienced defensive backs, and you have the second-worst pass defense in a league with teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers.

This will prove disastrous when the NFC elite come calling, because there are a number of potent offenses just waiting to exploit St. Louis. The Redskins and Minnesota Vikings both have the manpower to take down the Rams, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the defense to play with the Rams if they ever manage to overcome their offensive woes. And although the Rams are 6-1, the combined record of their opponents is a pathetic 14-32. Kansas City, the only team they have played that has a winning record, put 54 points up on the board against St. Louis.

The Vikings (7-0) have a solid defense that can slow the Rams down, while their offense, with the likes of 260-pound quarterback Dante Culpepper and all-pro wideouts Randy Moss and Chris Carter, will roll over the Rams. The two teams square off on Dec. 10, and the Rams will have Kurt Warner back by that point, so it may very well be St. Louis that has something to prove, not Minnesota, in the potential playoff preview.

But it is not Minnesota that will dethrone St. Louis. Washington will. The Redskins (6-2) feature the second-best defense in the league and are winners of five straight after blowing out the Jacksonville Jaguars 35-16 on Sunday. After a 1-2 start that had many questioning the wisdom of owner Daniel Snyder’s spending spree, the Redskins have meshed and are just starting to pick up steam as they head into the second half of the season.

Most people don’t know it yet, but the Redskins are quickly becoming the NFC favorites. The Vikings are good, but the Redskins outdo them on the defensive side. The Rams might still be Super Bowl Champs, but they spent the first half of the season crushing paper tigers to cover up a squad with multiple flaws . it’s not apparent yet, but they were, indeed, one-year wonders.

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