Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Slow Starters: Rams Offense Stuck in Neutral Early

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Slow Starters: Rams Offense Stuck in Neutral Early

Article excerpt

Perhaps the scoreboard could be set at Opponents 7, Rams 0 prior to opening kickoff.

While we're at it, change that scoreboard to read Quarter: 3rd prior to the National Anthem.

And would it be asking too much to make the halftime adjustments during pregame?

Anything to get the Rams into what seems to be their comfort zone. Slow starts have plagued the Rams over their past four contests. Starting with the second Arizona game, Nov. 25 in Glendale, the Rams have had trouble getting going in the first half, particularly on offense.

"Honestly, I feel like the way we've been able to come back out (in the second half) and battle through the adversity, and then win games at the end, is a lot better than a team that starts out good in the first half and then (falters) at the end," left tackle Rodger Saffold said.

In other words, you'd rather be good late than early. That formula has worked well over the four-game stretch, with the Rams going 3-1. But it's a dangerous way to live in the NFL, and it caught up with them against Minnesota, when the Rams fell behind 30- 7 in the first half of a 36-22 loss.

Check out these Rams first-half numbers over those four games:

Outscored 60-21.

Outgained 732 yards to 515.

16 percent third-down conversion rate on offense.

Committed four turnovers (and minus-2 in takeaway/giveaway differential).

Now contrast that with the second-half numbers in those games:

Outscored the opposition 63-18.

Outgained the opposition 862 yards to 585.

37.5 percent third-down conversion rate on offense.

Committed zero turnovers (and plus-5 in takeaway/giveaway differential).

It's about as much of a split personality as you can get. For the past couple of weeks, Rams coaches and players have been quizzed about the slow starts offensively. What gives?

"I think up to the middle part of the season or so, we were one of the best teams in the league in starting fast, scoring touchdowns in opening drives," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said last week. "We hit a little bit of a cold spell."

That's for sure.

"We'll get back to just preaching the fundamentals and things like that," Schottenheimer continued. "We need to tighten some things up. . .from a fundamental standpoint, from a technique standpoint. If we do that, I think you'll see more consistent play, which will allow us to go and score touchdowns."

Not much tightened up in the first half against Minnesota. For the fourth Sunday in a row, the Rams went scoreless in the first quarter. And for the fourth Sunday in a row, they found themselves trailing at halftime. When asked Monday how to avoid the slow starts, coach Jeff Fisher spoke specifically of the opening series against the Vikings.

"It's hard to convert third-and-20 on the first drive of the game," he said. "We come out with a first down, things are going good, then we get a sack. …

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