Balzer: In a passing league, as Jeff Fisher said of being able to run: 'Everything spins off of that.

12:51 PM, Sep 27, 2013   |    comments
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Be sure to catch the St. Louis Rams Tailgate Show every Sunday at 10:30 a.m on KSDK NewsChannel 5.


By Howard Balzer for KSDK Sports

(KSDK Sports) -- Immersed in all the hand-wringing after another journey Thursday night into the world of inept football, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said it as straight as possible after the game in his 240-word postgame press conference.

In his opening statement, which constituted 147 of the words he spoke, Fisher said, "Well, obviously as a football team, we have a lot to work out considering what's happened in the last five days and we're going to have to take advantage of some opportunities here through the weekend and early next week and try to get these issues fixed, namely our inability to run the football. We had two less carries than they did at halftime for no yards and that's pretty much the issue we're facing right now because everything spins off of that."

Take note of those last five words: "Everything spins off of that."

Rams Nation can be up in arms over the inconsistency of quarterback Sam Bradford ... and the run defense ... and the play of cornerback Cortland Finnegan ... and the allegedly unimaginative play-calling.

The play-caller and scheme is always blamed after poor offense is played, and while no one is immune from criticism when things are going bad, creativity occurs when the tools are there to be creative with.

When the running game "produces" 16 yards on 12 attempts in the first half (while the 49ers had 89 more yards on two more attempts), there is something rotten, and this isn't Denmark.

As an aside, fingers are being pointed in numerous directions in New York with the Giants 0-3 and quarterback Eli Manning becoming a turnover machine with a league-most eight interceptions after three weeks and a paltry 70.5 passer rating. Blame it on Eli, right?

Well, the Giants, who made their mark in previous years with balance and a power running game, are ranked last in the league in rushing with an abysmal 44.3 yards per game with a 2.7-yard average per attempt. As Fisher said, "Everything spins off of that."

Good NFL defenses will stop one-dimensional offenses. And the Rams are as one-dimensional as ever after having 14 seasons with Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson.

Play-action is useless, and opponents can take away a lot of the passing game, especially an inexperienced one, when there is no threat from the ground attack. The pass rush then comes in waves, and the green running backs also display their problems in pass protection.

When Fisher was asked Thursday night how the running game will be "fixed," he snapped, "We're going to get it fixed. That's all I'm going to tell you. We'll get it fixed."

Perhaps the most stunning comment after the game came when Bradford was asked why it was so difficult to run the ball. He said, "You know I'm not sure, to be honest. That's something that we're going to have to look at. Obviously, they have a good front, but last year we were able to successfully run the ball against them. It's pretty much the same guys in the same scheme."

Really? The "same guys?" Has he forgotten SJ39 already? In the first 49ers game, Jackson had 101 yards on 29 carries with one touchdown, plus two receptions for 26 yards. The 49ers did a better job in the second game, one that turned on a wayward backward pass by Colin Kaepernick that was recovered by Janoris Jenkins for a touchdown.
Jackson had only 48 yards in that game on 21 attempts, but added 69 yards on five receptions. Most important, his presence had to be respected by the 49ers.

It's apparent there was a stunning miscalculation with the decision to let Jackson leave and then go forward with a committee approach led by Daryl Richardson. He had 12 carries for 16 yards with a long of four in the first half and didn't play a snap in the second half. Benny Cunningham finished with six yards on four attempts, including the long jaunt of the night, seven yards, late in the fourth quarter. Prior to that, Cunningham had minus-one yard on three runs.

Zac Stacy was active, but had no touches. Isaiah Pead was inactive, and said afterward, "I have to make better decisions." That leads to the assumption that he did something off the field that warranted his benching after missing the opener because of a league suspension.

Everyone, including Fisher, hailed the leadership of Jackson, but now there are no veterans in the running back or receiver room or even tight end room to exert leadership.

How do you fix that?

Simply Noting
*After recovering a fumble on San Francisco's first possession of the third quarter, and trailing 14-3, the Rams took over at the 49ers 44-yard line and proceeded to go three-and-out with three incomplete passes.

In the quarter, Bradford completed 1-of-10 passes for 17 yards, and that gain was a short pass and run by Cunningham. The Rams totaled seven yards in the quarter on 13 plays.

*At one point in the second quarter, the Rams had converted 3-of-6 third-down plays. They failed on their last 11, including the "we surrender" kneeldowns at the end of the game. In the last two games, the Rams have been successful on 4-of-30 third-down plays.

*In the last three games, the Rams have been outscored by a combined 55-6 at halftime.

*49ers running back Frank Gore rushed for 153 yards on 20 attempts with runs of 17, 18, 27 and 34 yards. In the first half, the 49ers ran 27 plays for 201 yards and six of those plays gained 158.

Howard Balzer will be contributing to KSDK Sports throughout the 2013 season. Howard hosts PrimeTime Monday-Friday from 6-8 pm on CBS Sports 920, and Pro Football Sunday pre- and post-game shows on 590 the Man. He is also a host on SiriusXM NFL radio and one of 44 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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