It's been said that football is a game of "controlled aggression." Unfortunately for the St. Louis Rams, they haven't learned to control their youthful aggression yet, and it's a big reason why this team is 5-8 after 13 games.
Sunday's game against Arizona was another page in the same script. The Rams were flagged 11 times for 90 yards, almost three times the yardage that Arizona gave up through flags. What's worse, five of those 11 flags led directly to Arizona first downs, which kept their offense on the field. Thirteen games into the season, that's just not acceptable.
For the season, the Rams are the third most penalized team in the NFL, having been flagged 100 times. They lead the league in personal foul penalties with five. While it's understandable that the Rams a) are aggressive and b) are youthful, there comes a time when that aggressiveness starts to hurt more than it helps.
Some might argue that many of the flags have been the result of "over-officious jerks," to quote former Bills' coach, Marv Levy. No question that the quality of officiating in the NFL has been awful this year, and the Rams have seen more than their fair share of bogus calls. But at what point does the Rams' penchant for drawing flags start to create a self-fulfilling prophecy in the minds of the guys in stripes? Officials are human, after all, and they can see trends as well as we can. How much does the Rams "woofing" and over-aggressiveness hurt them when many of the calls made are in the "benefit of the doubt" range?
A perfect example of this attitude occurred Sunday, when CB Janoris Jenkins surrendered a completion down the sideline. Jenkins, thinking he had knocked the ball free, immediately got up and started waving his arms giving the "incomplete" signal. The only problem was the receiver had the ball. That's not the first time this year the Rams have been caught being more concerned about being demonstrative than in actually making a play.
At this point, we can chalk it up to youth, but Jeff Fisher has a problem on his hands that needs to be dealt with. This cannot carry over to next season. Fisher needs to reel in talented, exuberant, but often stupid players like Jenkins.
Fisher played in the league. He played with possibly the most aggressive and the most successful NFL defense in history, the 1985 Chicago Bears. Buddy Ryan's Bears' defense did plenty of talking…after they made plays. Fisher needs to get that message across to his young team: make the play first, then you can gyrate and gesture.
Until that happens, expect more of what we saw Sunday, and don't be surprised when the men in stripes reach into their pockets to grab their yellow hankies.
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