Rams try to patch together offensive line

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With three starters from the St. Louis Rams offensive line on injured reserve, no wonder they can't score.

Guard Jacob Bell went on IR this week, joining tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith. The replacements haven't made much difference.

The Rams (2-10) gained just 157 yards in last week's 26-0 loss at San Francisco. In the 24-7 defeat to Seattle last month, the Rams gained only 185. They now travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks (5-7) on Monday night.

''I can't get depressed,'' Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said Friday about having 14 players on IR. ''You can't think about what's happened. You've got to think about what you got going forward. It's been a hurdle.

''As it's happened, it's been quite a hurdle. I've never been through anything like it. Everybody in the building is battling through it because we're all in this thing together. It's something we can't control so we try to get over the hump.''

St. Louis has scored 13 touchdowns all season, including one by punt return and one on an interception return.

No one should be that surprised: The line has been in flux since Smith got hurt Oct. 23 against Dallas. The Rams benched center Jason Bell in favor of Tony Wragge. Harvey Dahl was moved from guard to tackle, while Mark LeVoir, who replaced Saffold, has not played the last two weeks after a pectoral injury.

The running game has suffered as a result. Steven Jackson rushed for 100 yards in three consecutive games, including the two victories, but he hasn't gone anywhere since.

Against San Francisco, Jackson gained just 19 yards.

St. Louis is last in the NFL in scoring, averaging 11.7 points a game. The Rams rank 31st in the league in offense with 284 yards a game.

And there are problems at quarterback, too, with Sam Bradford hobbled by an ankle sprain and backup A. J. Feeley having a fractured right thumb. The Rams may start Tom Brandstater against Seattle.

Add in a banged-up receiver corps that has Mark Clayton on IR and Danario Alexander trying to play through with various ailments and it's been a nightmare for St. Louis after a 7-9 season last year that raised expectations.

Getting the running game back is important, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said.

''There's no easy way to do that,'' McDaniels said. ''This (Seattle) is a good defense, a really good defense. They do a great job. We need to try and attack them in multiple ways. We just can't bang it up the middle. We'll have to spread it around and mix inside and outside run plays.

''There's not one magic formula to do that. I think we've got to block them. We've got to run hard and we've got to put ourselves in the best position we can with what we're doing.''

Playing musical chairs on the line makes it harder for Jackson to get his run reads down.

''It makes its challenging,'' Jackson said. ''Each guy plays differently. The chemistry of the offensive line and how to come off a double team, a lot goes into it than what you see on Sunday. We've got to continue to chop wood.''

McDaniels, who was a successful offensive coordinator in New England before a disastrous stint as Denver's head coach, does not allow himself the luxury of thinking ''what if'' all the injuries had not happened.

''I would hope we would be more productive than we've been,'' McDaniels said. ''There's no excuses. We just haven't done a great enough job of what we've needed to do to be successful to win in games. You never run from that.

''Who knows what would have been had some of these guys not got hurt? Maybe we'll find out down the road.''

Tagged: Rams, Steven Jackson, Jason Smith

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