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Offensive Line Problems Continue to Plague St. Louis Rams

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COMMENTARY | On Sunday, September 23, the St. Louis Rams lost 23-6 at the Chicago Bears in a battle of defenses. James Laurinaitis had 11 tackles to lead the 1-2 Rams.

There were three keys to the game for the Rams. First, they needed to pressure Jay Cutler, which they did. The Rams sacked Cutler twice and kept him under pressure for most of the game. As a result, he finished the game 17 of 31 passing for 183 yards and an interception.

Stopping the Bears' Michael Bush was the second key to the game. He's the type of running back who has the necessary physical attributes to succeed against the weakened Rams' defensive line. However, St. Louis did an excellent job containing him. Bush finished the game with 18 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown. Bush averaged just 3.1 yards-per-carry (YPC) against the Rams.

Finally, protecting St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford was the most important key to the game. The Rams were never going to win this game if they couldn't keep him upright. Instead, the Bears defensive line sacked him six times for 51 yards lost, and Bradford finished the game 18 of 35 passing for 152 yards and two interceptions.

Sunday's loss to the Bears reminded me of last season's offensive line troubles. Those are memories that I've been doing my best to forget. The Rams failed to protect Bradford from the moment that 2011 season kicked off, and he became tentative in the pocket. He started holding on to the ball too long and making poor decisions. Bradford eventually got hurt, which mercifully ended his season before he could endure further punishment.

The Rams offensive line proved unable to protect Bradford for much of the game, but that's only part of the problem. Now it appears that some of his issues from 2011 are resurfacing. Most notably, Bradford often held on to the ball too long against the Bears. This is something that head coach Jeff Fisher commented on when asked about it after the game.

"That's always the case," Fisher said. "There's always those things, but you don't put blame on anybody. Sam's trying to make a play. Wait for somebody to clear, try to take an opportunity to buy an extra split second to make a play."

Fisher gave a professional response, but that doesn't change the fact that Bradford needed to get the ball out earlier. The Rams need to get this offensive line in order. If not, then I fear that Bradford will be shell-shocked by the end of the season. The signs are there now. Bradford is getting antsy in the pocket and holding on to the ball again.

Of course, St. Louis's poor offensive line play also affected the rushing game. Rams' running backs gained only 45 yards on 15 carries, which rendered the team completely one-dimensional. The offensive line failed in every facet of the game on Sunday, and those failures are going to continue unless the Rams get it together quickly.

It's easy to blame the Rams' offensive line problems on injuries. Center Scott Wells, guard Rokevious Watkins and left tackle Rodger Saffold are all on injured reserve. That's 60 percent of what many people believed would be the Rams starting offensive line by midseason. It's definitely understandable that the team would struggle a bit in the trenches.

Yet this is the NFL. Injuries happen every weekend, and multiple teams are missing key players on their rosters. The Rams must adjust or their season is over. With the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals coming to town, the offensive line is going will have to make its stand against two of the best front sevens in the league. If the unit doesn't come together, then we're looking at a team that will be 1-4 in two weeks.

Source: St. Louis Rams Postgame Press Conference 

Derek Ciapala has been following the Rams since childhood. He has been published on Yahoo! Sports, and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or Twitter @dciapala.

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