For two weeks, Paul Boudreau and Brian Schottenheimer had tag-teamed to work around a hobbled offensive line, giving Sam Bradford plenty of quick-passing opportunities, a few well-timed deep balls, and a creative deployment of the run game. However, they faced a team with a legitimate combination of up-front pressure and backfield coverage in the Chicago Bears, and the combination - and the failings of the offensive line - completely shut down the Rams' offense.
Both quarterbacks matched each other in ineptitude, combining for a 35/66 performance with no touchdowns and three interceptions. The game was kept close by each team's defenses, and was ultimately won by the Bears' Major Wright, who turned an errant slant by Sam Bradford into a decisive touchdown.
The running game was little better. Out of fifteen designed running plays, only three were successful - a 2-yard run on a 3rd and 1, and a pair of twelve-yarders on off-tackle carries by Jackson and Richardson. Other than those plays, the Rams' running backs earned 19 yards on 11 carries.
Running the ball became an afterthought in the second half, as the Rams ill-advisedly switched into the shotgun to try to move the ball, and ostensibly, to try to protect their quarterback. By the NFL gamebook, 26 of Bradford's 40 passing snaps, and nearly all of his second-half attempts, came out of the spread look. However, this did nothing to protect Bradford, all but planting a billboard behind the quarterback saying "I'm going to stand here and look for a receiver, please come hit me."
We'll spend more time looking at this later in the week, but working out of the gun appears to place undue burden on the tackles to manage pass protection. The geometry just doesn't work. They have to stay with their men longer to push them past the deep-set QB. This widens the split between themselves and the guards, which disrupts Paul Boudreau's strategy of pairing his linemen to prevent gap rushes.
All of which would be moot if the receivers were creating instant mismatches off the line. Brian Schottenheimer ran a lot of shotgun sets in New York, with Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes (working from the slot) the primary beneficiaries. But our version of those players - Lance Kendricks and Danny Amendola - combined to catch only 8 balls on 16 targets for a mere 74 yards.
The strength of the Bears' secondary neutralized everything the Rams were trying to do on offense. The question is, were they trying to do the right things? This could be debated all week long. But consider this last stat: with the game within 4 points, the last five Rams drives amounted to a total of 19 yards. Of second-half adjustments, this one was not the best.
I'm not going to trot out the "learning opportunity" line. This was a winnable game that the Rams lost, plain and simple. Is it cause to jump ship? No, it's not. But the Rams will have much to do to unlearn this week's mistakes before they face another team with a strong secondary next week. The Seattle Seahawks come to town, opening the Rams' NFC West schedule.