The Rams can’t run, and they can’t hide that fact from anybody who has watched their once ferocious ground attack grind to a standstill over the past two seasons.
Their 3-8 record exposes many ugly facets of the 1991 Rams--lack of talent, lack of leadership, lack of lots and lots of things--but the most devastating aspect of the season so far for Coach John Robinson seems to be a running attack only Henny Youngman would love.
Take Sunday’s 21-10 defeat by the Detroit Lions, please .
Just days after Robinson had pledged to run at least 25 times per game, against a Lion defense that had just surrendered a career-high 139 rushing yards to Tampa Bay tailback Reggie Cobb, the Rams rushed 19 times for 26 yards.
The Rams, with power-running tailback Marcus Dupree given only three carries, ran only six times in the second half, and had a long gain of five yards on the ground.
Last year was the first in Robinson’s Ram career that he did not have a 1,000-yard rusher, and this year, with Robert Delpino averaging 3.3 yards per carry, no Ram looks to even have a chance at that plateau.
After a training camp dedicated to reaffirming the Rams’ ability to play power football, the Rams are averaging only 3.3 yards a carry. That’s down from last year’s 3.8-yard average and way down from 1989’s 4.0 average.
Right along with that has plunged the Rams’ ability to score. In 1989, the Rams averaged 26.6 points per game. Last year, despite the 5-11 record, they scored 21.5 per game. This year, they are managing a measly 16.4 points and have scored 20 or more points only three times.
The Rams expected to suffer the kinds of defensive lapses that have occurred regularly because of the change to a different style under Jeff Fisher. They expected to have some bumps and bruises along the way, trying to come back from last year’s nightmare.
But the Rams and Robinson always assumed the running game would come around. It’s late November, and there’s no sign of it yet.
“I thought we had a major setback on offense in that we didn’t run the ball, and we gave up running,” Robinson said Monday. “I’m disappointed and embarrassed about that.
“I think we gave evidence again that when you pass the ball, ultimately things start going wrong. A lot of our passing was very good and effective, but you just need to have balance in the offense. And it escaped us again.”
Robinson suggested that the Rams are not a team that can depend on quarterback Jim Everett to carry them alone.
Everett has had 300-plus passing days in four of the team’s last five games, and the Rams have lost them all and appeared to wear out late in the games.
“We’re not going to be successful until we get our offense back in balance,” Robinson said. “I said the same thing last week, and we failed to do it.
“You don’t get stronger on offense as the game goes on if you just pass. I think you get stronger on offense as the game goes on if you’re doing both things. The defense weakens. If you’re just doing one thing, you don’t win many games.”
One way to increase the team’s ability to run is to play the 240-pound Dupree more, Robinson conceded.
But because Delpino does so many things well, because Dupree is so inexperienced, and because the Rams aren’t yet entirely comfortable with having them in the backfield at the same time, it is usually Dupree who is bounced out of the lineup.
“It’s really hard (to take Delpino out) when you are throwing, and basically what we’re saying is we either gave up on the run or chose to go for the pass,” Robinson said. “And in that regard, you should have Bobby in the game. . . .
“So Marcus gets left on the sideline. And we just can’t do that. It’s a problem.”
Another way to bolster the running attack would be to get 300-pound, drive-blocker Bern Brostek back into the lineup, either at right guard for Duval Love or at left guard with Tom Newberry moving back to center.
In the team’s first four games, with Brostek at left guard and Newberry at center--before Brostek’s ankle injury forced him out of action moved Newberry to guard and Smith in at center--the Rams moved the ball with relative efficiency on the ground. But they suffered in pass blocking.
Robinson always planned to go back to his big-body offensive line at some point, and he implied Monday that the time may be now.
“I’m not prepared to discuss that,” Robinson said. “We want to talk about those things, but ultimately we need to face some of those kinds of issues.”
Ram Numbers Highlight ERIK KRAMER
The Burbank Burroughs High product Sunday added his name to the list of virtually unknown quarterbacks who have tormented the Rams. Kramer, the controversial choice of Lions’ coach Wayne Fontes to replace the injured Rodney Peete three weeks ago, shook off 10 quarters of lackluster play to complete two fourth-quarter touchdown to send the Rams down to their fifth successive defeat. An 80-yard Lion drive, climaxed on the first play of the fourth period by an 11-yard Kramer to Robert Clark pass, was kept alive by Kramer’s eight-yard scramble to the Ram 44. In all, Kramer completed 15 of 25 passes for 185 yards and 3 touchdowns.
SEASON TO DATE Eleven-Game Totals (Record: 3-8) First Downs RAMS: 188 OPP: 195 Rushing Yards RAMS: 885 OPP: 1,191 Passing Yards RAMS: 2,394 OPP: 2,398 Punts/Average RAMS: 52/38.2 OPP: 48/43.1 Rushing RAMS ATT: 265 AVG: 3.3 TDs: 9 OPP: ATT: 318 AVG: 3.7 TDs: 11 Passing RAMS ATT: 336 CP: 194 TDs: 10 OPP: ATT: 299 CP: 180 TDs: 18 Penalties/Yards RAMS: 70/508 OPP: 57/500 Fumbles/Lost RAMS: 22/14 OPP: 14/7 Interceptions RAMS: 6/115 OPP: 13/116 Possession Time RAMS: 28:56 OPP: 31:04 Scoring by Quarters
1 2 3 4 OT TOTAL RAMS 16 84 41 40 0 181 OPP 62 69 36 89 0 256