Consistently conservative Rams offense struggling to score

ST. LOUIS -- At least for one week, the St. Louis Rams got the defense straightened out. The offense is another story.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo spent most of his Monday news conference answering questions about a feeble attack that was held without a touchdown for the fourth time this season in a 17-9 loss at Chicago. Six times they've been held to 10 or fewer points and they've scored only 14 touchdowns, one-fourth the New Orleans Saints' league-leading total.

The game plan has been consistently conservative for the Rams (1-11). Only a handful of plays attempted to stretch the field against the Bears, and Spagnuolo has no plans on opening things up the rest of the way.

"We're going to go with five wideouts," Spagnuolo said with a touch of sarcasm. "Do we need more points? Yeah, there's other ways to do it, and we'll do that."

The Rams (1-11) have one dangerous skill player, running back Steven Jackson, and everyone knows it. Jackson had 112 yards on 28 carries despite a sore back and the near certainty he'd be taking the handoff on first down, with the Bears crowding the line.

"Eight-man fronts, you take the risk," Spagnuolo said. "If somebody pops one it goes for a long one. All it takes is a couple of those."

Or a couple of nice passes. But Kyle Boller, who lost his 10th straight start dating to 2007 with the Ravens, totaled 113 yards passing with a long gain of 21 yards in his second straight start in place of injured Marc Bulger.

The Rams have only one other healthy quarterback, rookie Keith Null, and Spagnuolo reiterated he has no plans to get the sixth-round pick on the field.

An exceptional day on special teams, with three of Donnie Jones' punts downed inside the 5, contributed to frequently favorable field position against the Bears. Seven of their 13 possessions began at no worse than the St. Louis 41, and nine times they crossed midfield.

All of which meant very little to the bottom line.

Spagnuolo didn't seem to think it was necessary to throw the occasional deep ball, if only to keep defenses honest.

"We all know Steven's the featured guy here, so I don't think we're going to drive anybody out of what they do stopping the run," the coach said. "But we'll find other ways to move the ball downfield."

No matter how bad it's looked on a weekly basis, Spagnuolo has no problems with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. The Rams have been thin all season on offense, especially at wide receiver where second-year man Donnie Avery is the designated veteran.

Spagnuolo also took responsibility for a run call on third-and-11 from the Bears' 32 early in the fourth quarter with the Rams trailing 17-6. Jackson was stopped for no gain and the Rams settled for Josh Brown's third field goal, a 50-yarder.

Spagnuolo pointed out the Rams were 2 for 14 on third-down conversions, and said he didn't want to lose yardage. He also defended a tendency to call pass plays shorter than the yardage necessary for a first down, pointing out that players are allowed to make yards after the catch.

"We all realize that, right?" he said. "It's not a play to say, 'We're just going to get 5 yards and punt the ball away."'

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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