Is Offense, Defense or Steve Spagnuolo to Blame for St. Louis Rams' Struggles?

Brian TaylorCorrespondent IIIOctober 4, 2011

ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 12: Head coach Steve Spagnuolo of the St. Louis Rams looks on from the sideline against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL season opener at the Edward Jones Dome on September 12, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Cardinals beat the Rams 17-13.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Dwelling on the St. Louis Rams' woes this season isn't going to make any of their struggles any better.

The question right now with this Rams team is: What happened?

Just a season ago they were able to win seven games and be in the running for the playoffs.

They haven't lost any key players coming into this season aside from O.J. Atogwe. If anything, it was assumed that they'd be even better with the addition of players like Mike Sims-Walker and Harvey Dahl.

Honestly, I didn't expect the Rams to win too many games in the first half of the season, but I expected them to be in just about every game, not getting blown out of them. With the addition of these new players and the modest expectations set on St. Louis, the surprising slow start leads into the next question.

Who is to blame for the Rams' struggles?

Some people are throwing the offense under the bus for the line not protecting Sam Bradford and the receivers not catching the passes. Others wish to blame the defense for allowing the second-most points in the NFL at 28.3 per game. Some believe that head coach Steve Spagnuolo is on the hot seat because of the 0-4 start.

Let's take a look at the struggles of the offense, the defense and Steve Spagnuolo in order to get a better picture of the source of St. Louis' issues.

The Offense

The St. Louis Rams offense has been abysmal this season. They just seem to be out of rhythm at this point of the season. Much like the struggles that the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens encounter at times, the Rams don't have an identity.

Josh McDaniels is known for airing the ball out, and he has the quarterback in Sam Bradford to do it. At the same time, however, St. Louis has one of the best running backs in the league in Steven Jackson.

They need to establish which direction they are going to go because a 49-to-19 pass-to-rush ratio against the Giants followed by a more balanced 32-to-26 ratio doesn't help in establishing a rhythm.

They say that the offense has no chance at success if you don't have an offensive line. Well, the once-promising Ram offensive line has been terrible.

Sam Bradford has been hit a league-high 41 times, and has been sacked a league-high 19 times. There is no doubt this is the reason why the Rams are 31st in scoring offense at a measly 11.5 points per game and 27th in yards a game with 279.5 yards a game.

The Defense

So far this season, the defense hasn't given the offense a whole lot of help. Granted, they're on the field early and often, but they have failed to produce a large number of takeaways. They only have six takeaways in four games.

Statistically, the St. Louis defense also looks just as poor as the offense. The defense is 31st in scoring defense allowing 28.3 points per game, and 26th in yards allowed allowing 404.5 yards.

Sure, the NFL has become all about offense, but 400 yards per game is unbelievable. That is an issue that needs to be fixed in a hurry.

In this case, the stats are misleading. Aside from the fact that they've allowed a lot of yards and points, the defense hasn't been horrible. They have been able to keep the Rams in every game except for the game against the Ravens.

This unit didn't allow the Eagles, Giants or Redskins to pull away with a large lead.

Steve Spagnuolo

To be frank, the blame being placed upon Steve Spagnuolo is completely unfair. It's amazing how fast he went from savior of the 1-15 Rams to being on the hot seat. The coaches can't go out there an play for them.

The main complaint that people have with Spagnuolo right now is his game plan. The finger is being pointed at him for the offense not scoring.

Remember that Spagnuolo is a defensive-minded coach. His defense has performed well enough to give St. Louis chances to win. If anything, Rams fans should be asking Josh McDaniels what's going wrong on offense.

Another issue that the Rams were having was a lack of passion on the field. Spagnuolo brought a confidence to this team, but it appeared to be lacking early on.

Against the Redskins, the fire was evident in the players in the second half. They believed that despite everything they've faced so far that they could beat the Redskins.

My Thoughts

The finger should be pointed at the offense in my opinion. The line has been terrible in both the pass and the run game, and the wide receivers have dropped passes way to often.

Despite all the issues that St. Louis is having right now, they still have a very realistic shot at the playoffs. A slow start was predicted because they have what may be the hardest first-half schedule.

In Week 7, Mark Clayton will return, and it appears that Danny Amendola may return at some point after all. Plus, playing the toughest competition early on will make the rest of the NFC West teams look like cupcakes.

Anytime the opponent is gaining on average 125 more yards and 16.8 more points, you're going to lose. It's a long season though, and we're just a quarter of the way through.

Who do you think should be getting the blame for the Rams' struggles?


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