Rams Concerned with Defensive Duds

The Rams are having a difficult time get the ball in their playmakers' hands this season, but what is really driving interim coach Joe Vitt crazy is missed tackles. Vitt sounded at his wits end earlier this week.

There is a tendency when things are going bad for a team that over-reactions run rampant. A loss becomes the worst thing in the world, with the general feeling that everything is bad about a team.

The Rams started five rookies Sunday against Washington, including their quarterback, plus two spots where the player had never played the position before this season. The rookies were quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, fullback Madison Hedgecock, left guard Claude Terrell, strong safety Jerome Carter and cornerback Ron Bartell. Right tackle Rex Tucker has been a guard throughout his career, while free safety Mike Furrey was a wide receiver until this season.

Said interim coach Joe Vitt, "You know what happens now too, you have to be careful. All of a sudden, we lose a game (Sunday) the way we lost it, a 10-7 game with 1:30 left to go in the third quarter. Not everything is wrong, not everything. There are a lot of guys out there busting their ass making some plays on both sides of the ball. A lot of guys are out there coaching their butts off to try to get these guys better too, so not everything is wrong. We keep having the same mistakes over and over again week after week.

"We have been curtailed a little bit because of injuries, but I'm not going to tell you at any time that injuries are an excuse for failure or for losing, because they're not. If a guy plays bad, I don't think he gives his money back, does he? ‘I didn't play too good this week, here take that, I don't want that.' You're getting paid to do a job, do the job."

Vitt was especially distressed by the missed tackles that led to big plays by the Redskins, and even said, "My feelings are hurt."

He said, "Let me tell you something, how many guys in here have played football? If you're a defensive player, you start to play defensive football because you like contact and you like to tackle. It's the staple of our sport on defense, and if you can't tackle, you have to go find another profession. You really do. We work on it every day in practice, and with the preseason we're at, what, game 16 now, and we're missing tackles face up on somebody? We're looking them right in the eye and they're either running over us or running around us.

"If you can't tackle, you can't play. The next guy has to come on. All of a sudden now, ‘Oh geez, that's a bad call by (defensive coordinator) Larry Marmie. Oh geez, that's a bad technique by (secondary coach) Kurt Schottenheimer. Make the play, make the tackle. Are you going to back up for your paycheck today? What are you going to do? You get paid to do a job, go do the job."

Asked if it appears some players want to tackle, Vitt said, "You'll have to ask them. I don't think it's a lack of courage. Maybe it's a lack of confidence. Maybe I should pat them on the butt a little more, blow on their ear, make them feel better about themselves, get that air hose out and pump them up. Make the tackle. We're not splitting the atom in this business. We're not finding a cure for cancer. The guy with the ball, you want to tackle, and when you get two hands on him, bring him to the ground. Don't let him run through you, don't let him run around you, bring him to the ground."

NOTES

  • QB Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled in the first start of his career, but he still showed an ability to run. Fitzpatrick will start this week against Minnesota.

  • QB Jamie Martin dressed for Sunday's game against Washington as the third quarterback because of continued issues with a concussion suffered the week before against Houston.

  • WR Torry Holt has 75 receptions for 1,017 yards this season, despite missing two games because of a knee injury. Holt passed 1,000 yards against Washington, making this the sixth consecutive season he has reached 1,000.

  • WR Isaac Bruce was catching mostly short passes against Washington. Bruce had four receptions in the game for only 33 yards.

  • WR Kevin Curtis has had problems getting the ball the last two games. Against Houston, Curtis' only reception was a 56-yard game winner in overtime, although most of the yards came after the catch. He got only short passes again against Washington, with two receptions for just six yards.

  • RB Steven Jackson is expressing frustration at not getting the ball enough. Jackson had three rushes in the second half of Sunday's loss to Washington, but the Rams only had 23 plays in the half and nine came in their final drive when they were down 15 points.

  • RB Marshall Faulk has just 56 touches this season, rushing 30 times for 150 yards and catching 26 passes for 185.

  • TE Brandon Manumaleuna remains mostly an after-thought in the passing game. Manumaleuna had one reception for six yards against Washington and has 10 catches on the season for 98 yards.

  • TE Cam Cleeland caught a pass on the first play of the game against Washington and never saw the ball again. A quick screen to Cleeland went nowhere, as the play lost seven yards.

  • PK Jeff Wilkins hardly worked against Washington because of the Rams' sputtering offense. Wilkins had no field-goal attempts and one extra point.

  • DE Leonard Little is stuck on four sacks, yet he remains the team leader. Little will likely have surgery after the season to remove spurs in his ankle.

  • S O.J. Atogwe would be playing more if not for a tendon that is detached from the bone in his toe, and limits him to only a few plays a game.


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