By Joe Torosian —
“It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—”—Fitzgerald
I began writing this column during the third quarter of the NFC championship as an obit for the Rams. So at the conclusion, it read upside down.
Let’s start with the condition of the NFL right now. It’s all offense, it’s all analytics, and breaking away from the received knowledge bequeathed from Luckman’s T-Formation, Lombardi’s Power Sweep, and Walsh’s West Coast Offense.
But because the talent level is off the charts, the temptation is to ignore what is tested and true and rest everything on flashy, hip, and sleek. Andy Reid and Sean McVay, wonderful coaches, are guilty of this.
The Rams survived McVay’s passion for empty sets and overthought play-calling. The Chiefs did not survive Reid’s. You got to get a touchdown at the end of the half—points. You’ve got to keep running the ball. You don’t need to line up three different players in the pre-snap quarterback position.
They are meddling with the primal forces of nature in football, and they will atone. The Chiefs are atoning today.
This may sound crazy, but–except for youth–I wouldn’t trade Matt Stafford for Patrick Mahomes. Stafford, though less talented, has a sense of the world he’s in. Mahomes, who’s great, recognizes his greatness and believes the primal forces of nature in football don’t apply to him.
And that’s how you get goal line disasters at the end of the first and second half at Arrowhead yesterday.
If I’m the Hunt family in KC, I’m giving the reigns to Eric Bieniemy, who may still have a connection to his blue-collar roots and a slightly more rational approach.
Back to the Rams & Their Premature Burial:
Nothing was going well. There were legitimate questions about Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and Leonard Floyd even being in the game. Except for Nick Scott’s blast of Deebo Samuel, the San Francisco 49ers were the ones playing with a physical nastiness.
(Seeing Scott’s hit was like being placed in a time machine and going back to the days of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu.)
But credit, where credit is due. The Rams did stop the run, and they did force Jimmy Garoppolo to beat them in the end.
SoFi was a more hostile environment than Tampa Bay. Lambeau Field and the cold would have been more welcoming to the Rams.
Questions Needing to be Asked & Realities Accepted:
1.) The Rams are soft. For all of their aggressiveness and all their efforts, they’re soft.
2.) The Rams need a “Bad Dude” linebacker. Troy Reeder is like a wave at the beach. Most teams couldn’t have ridden him at all. The Rams have extracted all the energy of the Reeder Tide, but it’s hit the shore, and it’s time to catch another wave.
3.) The Rams need a “Bad Dude” guard. They’ve received tremendous production from Austin Corbett (free agent after the Super Bowl) and David Edwards. But…Neither one of them can move the pile. Quarterback sneaks with this offensive line do nothing but raise the stock portfolio of antacid companies.
4.) We constantly hear good things about Raheem Morris. He communicates well, he’s a great teacher, and the players love him–awesome–but that doesn’t make him a good defensive coordinator.
Yes, they stopped the run yesterday. But…the Rams offense controlled the ball for 11 more minutes and ran 26 more plays (76-to-50).
The best thing for the Rams defense on Sunday was Stafford…and Jimmy G. because Jimmy was going to G at some point.
5.) Finally, speaking of the defense. You had to wonder where Donald, Miller, and Floyd were for three quarters. I get double-teaming Donald—maybe even triple-teaming him. But where were Miller and Floyd? Floyd’s locked up financially. Miller’s going on 33 with a market value of 10.5-stones per season. I like him. I want to keep him, but is he necessary for 2022?
From the mid-point of the second quarter to the end of the third, history was repeating itself. Frisco was in control–before Stafford went 11 of 14 for 121 with a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
But “For a transitory enchanted moment,” the 49ers had a chance to salt the game.
With 9:55 to play, and the ball on the Rams 16, Stafford went deep. The pass was off target and short. Frisco safety Jaquiski Tartt had it in his hands and dropped it.
By definition, that pick would not have been an arm-punt. It would have been of the whisky-tango-foxtrot variety.
But it was dropped, and when it hit the turf, I did feel a level of peace about the Rams winning. Those kinds of plays have a level of sports karma attached to them. They resonate forever as turning points in history. (See Billups, Bell, Bengals—below)
In classic Stafford fashion, Stafford goes 9 of 11 the rest of the way. Including a third and three completion to Cooper Kupp from the San Fran 37 with 3:36 to play. The 49ers blitzed, and Stafford made them pay with a perfect pass to Kupp. (The play of the game.)
Matt Gay boots the go-ahead field goal…and then Jimmy G.’d.
Thanks to Donald and the defense finally bringing the pressure. Travin Howard got the pick, but how Howard only plays 24 snaps to Reeder’s 49 is beyond me.
The narrative on Odell Beckham Jr. being a diva wide receiver is over. He’s got a market value of 5.6-rocks per season. I don’t know how to get it done, but I want him back. Seeing him with Samuel at the end of the game spoke that there’s more to OBJ than what we see and hear.
Regarding Samuel–who survived that hospital shot–when does the physical punishment catch up to him? I don’t want to give John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan a heads up…but with one year left on his contract, the temptation has to be to lock Samuel up. I would, but I’d be real careful about his touches. Like the number of pitches a pitcher has in his arm, there’s a limit to the number of hits a football player can sustain.
I don’t think Jalen Ramsey played poorly, but there were a couple of dropped picks that clued us in on why he’s a defender and not a receiver.
I don’t know if there’s anything more you can say about Kupp. Just praise him, and we’re all good.
I thought the winner of the coin flip in overtime automatically won the game?
Bengals or the Chiefs, I didn’t care. But after hearing all the whining about the OT rules, it was good to see the team with Mahomes win one and lose one this post-season after getting the ball first. Alas, another false narrative now with a stake through its heart.
If you want to call him “Cool Joe” or “Joe Cool,” it makes no difference. Joe Burrow’s so good he freezes himself.
Two things come to mind about Burrow. One, get him the heck out of Cincy! And two, if anybody can wear “The Next Brady” label… it’s Burrow.
I just hope the Rams don’t kickstart his Super Bowl journey in the same fashion they did Brady’s.
How did that one go? Oh yeah, the Rams tied the Patriots at 17 in Super Bowl 36…and then, passively, let Brady march downfield for the game-winning kick. Does shell coverage, and passive defense sound familiar?
Billups, Bell, Bengals:
Lewis Billups dropped an interception against the 49ers in Super Bowl 23 (Jan. 89) that could have (“For a transitory enchanted moment”) changed history. Yesterday, Von Bell held on to a tipped ball for an interception that sent Cincy back to the Super Bowl for the first time since January 1989.
And how ironic that both Bell and Billups wear and wore number 24?
I’m telling you there’s something cosmic about sports. You just need the right mix of nerd and caffeine to bring it into view.
Joe T. is the author of “Tangent Dreams: A High School Football Novel” … “Temple City & The Company of The Ages” … “The Dead Bug Tales” … “The Dark Norm” & “FaithViews for Storm Riders”…and, the recently released, “Sin Virus.” All six available through Amazon.com.
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