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Nothing to lose: Rams provide blueprint for struggling teams

I can't stand to watch games in which teams already way out of the playoff scene play and coach scared. When you have nothing to lose, you might as well adopt that mental approach. Coach to win, show some guts and let it all hang out.

So I love the way Steve Spagnuolo attacked the Saints on defense and kept on firing and kept going for it on fourth down and ended up with the most shocking result of this season. It's not just that the Rams beat the Saints -- though that was shocking in and of itself -- it was how they did it.

Sorting out crowded NFC picture

The Saints' falling to the Rams opened some eyes. It also begged the question: Who is the second-best team in the NFC to the unbeaten Packers? **More ...**

New Orleans' once-great offensive line was in disarray with guys barking at coaches on the sidelines. Chris Long had three sacks and there was no answer for him. New Orleans was pummeled in every facet of play and Steven Jackson ran wild on the Saints.

The play that drove a stake through the Saints, though, was when Jackson got a carry on fourth-and-2 with St. Louis leading 17-0 and 7 minutes to play in the third quarter. He rumbled left, reached the sidelines, and 32 yards later the Rams had first-and-goal from the 3. Jackson scored from there, and that was the ballgame.

No doubt every player loved the call when it came in. As Herm Edwards once famously said, "You play to win the game." You don't play not to lose. Good for Spags and the Rams. Obviously, this season is not going as planned, but that was a huge win. The victory cushions Spagnuolo from the hot seat some and if the Rams can be competitive against their division foes -- as I expect them to be -- and Sam Bradford finishes the season strong, things might not be nearly as bleak as they seemed, oh, what, 48 hours ago?

Remember the Titan?

This is going to be a lost season for Chris Johnson. I don't see it going any other way. The Titans' offensive limitations become clearer by the week, and for a team trying to hang in the AFC South race, they don't have time to baby Johnson. They're gonna ride Javon Ringer while he is the more impressive back, and he definitely seems more confident and fit than Johnson.

Ringer ran 14 times for 60 yards Sunday, while Johnson ran 14 times for 34 yards. Ringer was targeted six times, and Johnson five. Ringer had 102 combined yards, and Johnson had 51. That resonates. In a close game in the second half, Ringer carried nine times, to Johnson's six.

Ringer had not carried more than six times in a game all season prior to Sunday, but I expect his role to continue to increase. He's gotten the call in some key situations in the past, and Johnson hasn't showed any signs of breaking out of his funk to this point. Tennessee could end up kicking the tires on some free-agent backs as well.

Johnson couldn't get it going against the Colts, and I can't see it turning around anytime soon.

Tebow time (redux)

If you aren't willing/able to run a ton of Wildcat, put Tim Tebow in the shotgun almost exclusively and be something of an option team (and given the quarterback's limitations, I wouldn't blame anyone for not doing so), then it's going to be a rough operation with him running the offense. This is what you're going to get.

A few moments of glory and an awful lot of misery -- that's the equation. And I don't see how a conservative coach like John Fox, who wants to play a power run game and rely on a drop-back passer with play-action, is going to be willing to do all that might be needed every week to cater to Tebow. I know I wouldn't. And let's recall that it was Josh McDaniels who rolled the dice on Tebow, not Fox and John Elway.

But at some point you might as well play him, and so they are. The question then becomes -- for how long? I figure you owe him at least four or five games -- enough of a sample size to get the fans off your back and for everyone to see exactly where Tebow stands. However, if it continues to be this way -- with a lot of lows and not nearly enough highs -- then maybe that sample size becomes shorter.

Either way, you can't bench the kid now, especially if Brady Quinn is what's waiting on the other side. Give Tebow a few more starts and then re-evaluate. The reality is, as I've long maintained, the Broncos 2012 quarterback is not on the roster and will very likely come in the draft. And you know that Elway would love to dip back to Stanford if at all possible.

Odds and ends

» A lot of scouts I spoke to over the past year or so figured Colt McCoy would top out as a solid backup quarterback, someone you want on your roster and as great a kid as there is in the league.

While we need to see how McCoy finishes the season, the Browns are going to be in the quarterback market come the draft. No way could Mike Holmgren watch this every week and think the solution is on the roster. The Browns lack weapons and all, but in the first half of the loss to the 49ers, when the result was seemingly in doubt, McCoy was 8 of 14 for 69 yards. Their downfield passing limitations are striking, and this is definitely the worst three-win team in football (OK, tied with the Redskins).

» As for those Redskins, you're going to hear an awful lot about offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, son of coach Mike Shanahan, if his unit continues to be as inept as it threatens to be. Passing on all of those quarterbacks in the draft -- while several of them are thriving already -- in favor of the comfort of "system guys" like John Beck and Rex Grossman is going to bite them it seems.

They don't have a QB, the offensive line remains in shambles and there isn't an impact receiver or running back on the roster. Mike Shanahan is in total control of that organization -- he is the decision-maker. It could get uncomfortable there, because the fans and the media are going to be asking plenty of questions about the play-calling and offensive decisions, and this one is most definitely a family affair.

» Smart move by the Vikings getting Adrian Peterson more involved in the passing game with Christian Ponder under center. Peterson had five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown Sunday. That was the best receiving day of his career.

Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @jasonlacanfora.

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