A recurring theme for the young St. Louis Rams this season – aside from injuries, of course – has been the excessive penalties that this team commits on a far too regular basis. They may have only been the seventh-most penalized team in the NFL this season, but it certainly felt like many of the flags on the Rams were due to a lack of maturity and discipline rather than necessity and on-field errors.
No where was that anymore evident than in the team’s regular season finale where head coach Jeff Fisher truly lost control of the players. 12 penalty flags on the afternoon for a total of 87 yards were enforced against St. Louis as they ran their season total to 121 infractions. Many of these penalties were after the whistle type of issues where the Rams simply wouldn’t keep their mouths shut and continued yapping when plays were over.
Though this type of edge is a hallmark of Fisher coached squads it really seems detrimental to a team as young and impressionable as the Rams. This roster needs discipline and structure rather than free reign anarchy.
One could make the case that St. Louis is simply trying to toss aside the stigma that comes from being the punching bag of the NFC West for the better part of the past decade, but that still doesn’t excuse these costly flags. The Rams had 57 penalties for 476 yards in six NFC West games on the year which is an average of 9.5 flags for 79.3 yards per game according to ESPN.
These numbers are just staggering when it comes to trying to build a winning culture. In looking at the seven wins the team had on the year they averaged just 6.4 penalties for 55.1 yards while they had 8.4 flags for an average of 69.2 yards in their nine losses. It seems clear that Fisher’s desire to have his team play with an edge needs to take a backseat to a more disciplined approach come next season if this club wants to win more games – inside the NFC West or not.
2013 may be finished, but the true culture change in St. Louis needs to get started now with the veterans taking the initiative. Defensive end Chris Long said:
“We need to rein it in at times. Some of those were probably, now that we look back at it… I don’t know, we definitely have to rein it in as a whole, for sure. But, basically, we made a lot of mistakes even without the stupid penalties.”
That pretty much sums up the bulk of the season for this young team still learning the ropes, but at some point it comes down to a sheer lack of discipline. And if coach Fisher and the veterans in the locker room can’t get things turned around for 2014 any thoughts of a breakthrough season can be tossed right out the window.