The Designed Rush, Week 4: Could The Rams Really Be A Playoff Team?

ST. LOUIS - OCTOBER 03: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams carries the ball as Lawyer Milloy #36 of the Seattle Seahawks defends on October 3 2010 at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis Missouri. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Designed Rush takes a look at the surprising Rams, who may actually win the mediocre NFC West after losing 15 games last season. Plus: Josh Scobee's theatrics, the latest Manning Face and a highly bizarre Giants sack dance.

You should never place too much stock in NFL season previews. Why? Because no one knows anything. Even people who spend all their time focusing on and writing about football. Actually, in most cases, it is especially those people who have no clue.

My apologies to those tasked to do them. They are not fun to write. Because, as an NFL writer, you have to pretend as though you know how any number of variables are going to play out. You have to pretend as though injuries will never happen. Players will play exactly as they have before. Never better. Never worse. You end up mostly going off what happened the previous season.

And last season the Rams were a putrid excuse for a football team. At one point, it looked like they might not win any games. Looks weren't all that deceiving. They won one.

There didn't appear to be reason to believe they would be much improved this year. Many observers thought the Rams foolish for drafting Sam Bradford instead of Ndamukong Suh. A quarterback coming back from a troubling injury instead of a can't-miss force on the defensive line? Good luck with that.

But Bradford has looked about as sharp as a rookie can. While he may not finish the deep postseason runs that other recent rookies like Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger have, he's doing well with a less impressive supporting cast than either of those quarterbacks had as rookies. Bradford's top receiver is Mark Clayton, who was generally regarded as a bust with the Baltimore Ravens, but has finally realized some of the potential he's showed only at select times in his six-year career.

While Clayton and Bradford have a nice nascent connection going, it's obviously not developed to a point that a team can rely on that by itself. Good for St. Louis, then, that head coach Steve Spagnuolo seems to have started to craft a defense worthy of his reputation. The Rams have held their first four opponents to 17 points or fewer, the first time the Rams have done that since 1978. Their first four opponents haven't exactly been worldbeaters, but you're not going to find many of those in the NFC West, anyway. The presumptive favorite to win the division, the San Francisco 49ers, are 0-4 and spiraling out of control.

Seattle, the only other team in the division given playoff consideration, yesterday came into the Edward Jones Dome and got stomped. At 2-2, the Rams are now tied for the lead in the NFC West. Even in the games they've lost, they've been in it. These aren't the nearly historically bad Rams of 2009. In a mediocre division, they might even be a playoff team.

NFL Player Tweet Of The Week

GM.. I'm up early watching the wire on DVD.less than a minute ago via Echofon


Steven Jackson yesterday passed Marshall Faulk for second place on the Rams all-time career rushing list. He now trails Eric Dickerson by only 354 yards for the top spot. Even if it is the Rams, that is a pretty significant achievement. Of course, it says a lot about me that I was much more impressed that he decided to start watching "The Wire" at 7 a.m. this morning.

Truth In Advertising


Miller Lite is a perennial candidate for having the most obnoxious ads during football broadcasts, though Coke Zero's "duh duh da-duh da-duh dat duh" spots have been offering some steep competition the previous few seasons. However, say what you will about Coke Zero's lunkheaded chant and broish concepts, at least their ads aren't going so far as to suggest that you're probably gay if you're not using their product.

Such is the angle being pushed by Miller Lite in their spots this year. Drinking some other light beer, well then, you must carry a purse or have a back tattoo. It's a plainly stupid and retrograde campaign, but then what should you expect from a beer company advertising during football games?

Anyway, above was the latest spot from Miller Lite, that I believe debuted this weekend, or at least I hadn't caught it before. I must say, we're making minor progress. Yes, it's still painfully unfunny but other than a guttural exhortation to  "MAN UP!" there's barely even the slightest intimation that dragon guy here is less of a man for choosing a light beer that is not Miller Lite, which is a amusing thing on which to base macho identity on its own.

Dispatches From Madden Nation

Speaking of commercialism, I'm just thrilled to report that the ad creep in the Madden 11 hasn't abated a whit over the last year's edition. The annoying scoreboard pop-up ads that many presumed were gone given how EA compensated with advertisements in pretty much every other corner of the game are, in fact, not gone at all. The latest patch for the game brings 'em right back. So thanks again, makers of Madden, for finding ways to cash in and disregard user feedback. I will say, though, that when Gus Johnson pimps Snickers, it's so much more relatable than when Tom Hammond did.

Facepalms Of Note



Oh Manning Face, you are the star that guides me home. Colts losses are a thing of beauty for many reasons, but none is more resplendent than you. Words that aspire to capture your magnificence only manage to appear as the mere, crude, inexact glyphs they are. Yours is a schadenfreude everlasting.

My Solicitation For Rage-Inducing Idiocy

Ben Roethlisberger's suspension expired at 12:01 a.m. Monday morning. This means that the next three weeks are going to be a hotbed of half-baked punditry the likes of which I can already imagine will drive me to push my drinking problem to the far reaches of lushiness. While there has been no lack of lazy or purposefully contrarian pieces written on Roethlisberger since he was accused for the second time of sexual assault in March, now that he is returning to the field in two weeks, no matter how it plays out in reality, there will doubtlessly be corresponding stupidity in the world of professional sports writing.

Therefore, it is my challenge to you, dear reader, to find me the worst contrived thumbsucker piece written about Ben's return between now and the first after his first game back. It could be yet another example of dimestore psychology trying to examine what drove Ben to try to get with a 20-year-old college student. It could be a column that suggests that Ben Roethlisberger purposefully tried to force himself on someone to create a challenge that he and his team would have to surmount. Chuckle all you want, but someone is going to write that story. The restrictions: it has to be a full column, story or blog post about Ben Roethlisberger published between Oct. 4 and Oct. 20. No blog comments. That leaves the field too far open. No Bleacher Report. That's too easy. Plus, I'm not reading that site ever. Please send submissions to my e-mail address at The winner will receive... my undying gratitude. Or $20. Or possibly neither, as I am both broke and generally unappreciative. Though this could good fun.

A Delicious Bundle Of Gripes

- Josh Scobee was responsible for providing the aforementioned delightful Manning Face, but oh, how would I have liked to have seen him pull a Gramatica during his gleeful sprint around the field after hitting the 59-yard game-winner against the Colts.


- In matters concerning less blissful - or possibly less sober - kickers, here's Jeff Reed in full-on mope after missing what would have been a game-tying field goal for the second time in the 3rd quarter yesterday. Granted, kicking toward exposed end zone of Heinz Field is a daunting task for any kicker, especially from 45 and 49 yards but the Steelers have been willing to put up with Jeff Reed's generally moronic behavior over the years because he's seemed to have mastered kicking in that stadium like very few others. This season, however, after Reed improbably complained over his lack of a long-term contract in the preseason, he's already missed three game-tying field goals at home in only two games at Heinz Field. The last thing a dope ever wants to be is expendable and that's what Reed is making himself with extreme aggression.


- The Giants had ample opportunity to test out various sack dances Sunday night against the Bears. Possibly too many, it seems. Defensive tackle Barry Cofield pulled out this little spastic number after sacking Cutler in the second quarter. I'm really not sure what to make of it. Is he pretending to be shot? Why is he curling his arm like that? I feel like there's too much going on here. It's too allusive, like a David Foster Wallace book. I'm inclined to call it the Jittery Tea Pot, for no other reason than that sounds about as dumb as that looks.



- Chuck Cecil will almost certainly be fined by the NFL for flipping off a referee during Sunday's game.The Titans organization is surely embarrassed by such an amateurish move. What say you, Bud Adams?


Oh, I see we have a budding franchise tradition here.

- I've spent too much time being frustrated about how difficult it's been to hate the Saints, even after they won a Super Bowl. But now it looks like things make finally be coming around.



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