First Look at the St. Louis Rams

The winless Rams, who visit Green Bay on Sunday, spent their bye week focusing on their sputtering offense, which is struggling to run the ball and protect the quarterback. Plus, we have the Rams' four-game report card.

St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is hoping the team's offensive struggles are not establishing a pattern. He wants to believe this is just a bad stretch.

"I've been in seasons where it hasn't gone the way that you wanted it to go in one stretch or another, and this is really one of those (stretches)," McDaniels said. "I think this is where your mental toughness, and the longevity of the season comes in."

So, as bad as things have gone for the Rams, who were 0-4 at their bye week, they've got 12 more games to get it right.

"The focus has gotta always be on playing our best in November and December," McDaniels said. "And if we can get to that point where we're doing that, you never know. So we've got to continue to push and fight."

Of course, if the problems persist, playing well in November and December won't matter much. The Rams are winless coming off their bye, with games the remainder of the month at Green Bay, at Dallas and at home against New Orleans.

As the Rams got back on the practice field to begin preparations for the game against the Packers, McDaniels said of what was accomplished during two bye-week practices, "You can't try to fix any and everything that you may want to in two days. But we tried to focus on a few things, and I think we got some good work done."

Paramount is protecting quarterback Sam Bradford, but that is linked to running the ball better, staying away from long-yardage situations and getting leads.

McDaniels said, "We talked from the very beginning of training camp about trying to establish the lead. You have to play well right away, off the bat, and get ahead. Because certainly in this league when you're ahead, there's more you can do and there's certain things that they have to do when they're behind.

"We haven't put somebody in that position very much this year, and it's a focus of ours. We're trying to start practice fast, so we can try to carry that over into the game. When we do that, I think we'll feel a little differently about how those four quarters go."

While there has been talk of having Bradford check down more, McDaniels said, "The bottom line is, we're going to have to stay in and throw it. We've shown that we have the ability to do that. And whether it be a technique thing, a fundamental thing, the (middle linebacker) called in the right spot or a different protection or different scheme we've got to try to limit the amount of times that we're putting pressure on the quarterback. That's a team thing, and it starts with our coaches.

Rams four-game report card

PASSING OFFENSE: D — There isn't much good here. QB Sam Bradford has completed 49.7 percent of his passes and has averaged just 5.62 yards per attempt. The only thing that has kept his passer rating above 70 (70.8) is he has thrown only one interception. However, three fumbles on pass plays have been recovered by Rams opponents and returned for touchdowns. He also been sacked 18 times (and A.J. Feeley once when Bradford injured his finger in the season opener). There have been an inordinate number of dropped passes, with rookie tight end Lance Kendricks of Wisconsin dropping two that were sure touchdowns. Losing slot receiver Danny Amendola in the season opener has affected Bradford's check-down options. One bright spot has been towering receiver Danario Alexander, who has averaged 24.6 yards per reception but isn't on the field extensively because of a left knee that needs managing. Bradford's average on completions to receivers other than Alexander is 9.7 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D — The season started with an explosion when Steven Jackson went 47 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. It has been downhill since. Jackson strained his quad on that play and ran for 9 yards on one more play before going to the sideline. He missed one game, carried four times in Week 3, then played the entire game in Week 4 but wasn't himself. Since Jackson was hurt, the Rams have gained 323 yards on the ground (including 22 yards by Bradford) and averaged 3.7 yards per rush. The absence of Jackson has affected play-action. Rarely leading in games (the Rams have trailed by a combined score of 79-16 at halftime) has often taken the run out of the equation. In four games, the Rams have called 81 running plays and 182 pass plays.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus — Save for a brutal first quarter against Baltimore, when WR Torrey Smith scored three touchdowns on big plays, the pass defense has held its own despite injuries that have severely affected the cornerbacks. Opponents have completed 54.0 percent of their passes for 6.78 yards per attempt. There have been eight touchdown passes, but five in the other 15 quarters. The Rams had 43 sacks last season, but they have just eight after four games in large part because they are usually behind. The Rams have been ahead for 6:28 all season. Opponents have called 117 running plays and 166 passes. Nine of the running plays were end-of-game kneel-downs.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus — While the run defense has been very good at times, big plays have gashed the defense. Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy had a 49-yard touchdown. Baltimore's Ray Rice had a 53-yard run. Washington's Ryan Torain ran virtually untouched for 39 yards and scored on a 20-yard run. Four runs of 20 yards or more have accounted for 20.8 percent of the opponent's rushing yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus — Aside from negligible results from the return game, the biggest negative was a muff by Greg Salas against the Giants that led to a touchdown when the Rams had one of their rare leads. Generally, the special teams have been good. Punter Donnie Jones has some mis-hits, but his net average is 39.2 yards, and opponents have returned just seven of his 27 punts for a 4.3-yard average. Kicker Josh Brown has missed one of seven field-goal attempts, from 47 yards.

COACHING:C — There have been some questionable personnel choices, led by the decision to not have Alexander active for the first game of the season. Coaches were slow to adjust when the Ravens went right after CB Justin King in the first quarter, although the pass defense was beaten even when King was given help. There is the sense that the offense has been trying to do too much considering the personnel limitations

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