Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Might the Rams Go Down Kicking?

January 5th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, NFL, Rams

The Los Angeles Rams should be well-prepared for their first home playoff game since 1985.

–As winners of the NFC West, they get to play at home, presumably before a capacity crowd at the Coliseum, just like the old days, before the Anaheim interlude and the stint as that St. Louis Club.

–Having clinched a home game in the wild-card round, key players are rested, having been spared the physical insult of playing a 16th regular-season game last weekend.

–Running back Todd Gurley, a long-shot MVP candidate, was going full blast, when last we saw him, both on handoffs and receptions. Quarterback Jared Goff was a zillion times more accurate and calm in the pocket that he was as a rookie. The receivers, including Richard Woods, were back to full speed. And the five interior linemen were set to start their 16th game tomorrow night for the NFL’s highest-scoring team (29.6 per game), more “togetherness” than any other quintet in the NFL.

–The defense, though perhaps not as sharp as it has been at times over the previous two seasons, allowed the 12th-fewest points (20.6, on average) in the league and looked impressive in the front seven, especially in the form of tackle Aaron Donald.

–On special teams, the Rams have one of the most dangerous return men, in Pharoh Cooper, and perhaps the league’s best punter, in Johnny Hecker.

So, your Los Angeles Rams, all ready to go, against the Atlanta Falcons, yes?

Well, no.

The Rams appear to have an Achilles heel. By the name of Sam Ficken, replacement place kicker.

Through 14 games, the Rams had perhaps the best kicker in the league in Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein, who has spent the whole of his six-year career with the club.

This season, he made 38-of-40 attempted field goals, including 12-of-12 accuracy from 40-49 yards away and a startling 6-of-7 from 50-plus yards out, with a long of 56.

Thus, Zuerlein was a standout even in the NFL, where every kicker is expected to convert every time whenever the goalposts are 40 yards (or fewer) away.

Until he suffered a back injury, in the December 17 game, knocking him out for however long the team’s season lasts.

The next day, the Rams had a 10-man tryout to find a replacement, and they came up with … Sam Ficken.

Ficken has looked edgy, to put it kindly, in two games. He has made a pair of field goals from 20-29 yards away, which is essentially the PAT distance. He has missed one, from 30-39 range, and he also has missed a PAT, from five tries.

Ficken is from Penn State and has knocked around the edges of the NFL, as kickers of a certain class do, for three seasons, spending time with the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars.

His work with the Rams represent the entirety of his NFL game experience.

Ficken represents the one clear weak link in the Rams’ armor. Coach Sean McVay will not be keen to use him in a crisis, but crises tend to produce instances where kickers are asked to do something important, in cold blood.

In a perfect world, the Rams spring to a lead tomorrow night and none of Ficken’s kicks come with special pressure.

Certainly, McVay will be nervous about sending out a nervous Ficken for a key kick from, say, 45 yards. The sort of kicks which happen all the time in the playoffs, unfortunately. Often when the game is on the line in the final minutes or seconds, sadly.

The Rams have a weakness. They know it. And so do the Falcons.



0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment