Some teams choose to get defensive when penalties are called on them repeatedly, but the St. Louis Rams have taken a different approach. After their unlikely tie against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in which the team was penalized a dozen times, a long look in the mirror is necessary to see just what this club needs to change moving forward make those competitive games wins in the future.
Youth and inexperience are most often blamed for the Rams lack of discipline this season, but 8.2 penalties per game on average (30th in the league) can’t just be because they’re young. Head Coach Jeff Fisher brought with him the track record for coaching teams that play chippy and sometimes on the edge of the rule book, so to speak. That mentality is what has made his teams so successful in years past, but it also backfires at times.
Fisher also brought along with him a player that he was familiar with in cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who is notorious for getting under the skin of opponents. That can be a good thing, but it can also lead to problems if he pushes the envelope too far. Everyone remembers his fight with Houston Texans’ wide receiver Andre Johnson when the two nearly came to blows.
Those types of flags can sometimes be excused as an attempt to fire the team up, but the lack of discipline and attention to detail that the penalties accrued by the team recently show is troubling. Pre-snap fouls like illegal formations, false starts or jumping into the neutral zone on defense just kill momentum.
Clearly Fisher has done some great things with this Rams team already in turning them from a laugh stock, sure-win on every schedule across the league into a competitive, feisty club that really wants to win. Still the question of discipline will continue to linger until the Rams show that they can abide by the rules and have better preparation coming into games. If that happens sooner rather than later, this club will see a real increase in wins on the not so distant horizon.
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