They consistently are having trouble putting the ball into the end zone. Their quarterback looks too small to play in the NFL. Their offense is about as imaginative as a TV test pattern.
But, as Bill Murray said so eloquently in the movie "Meatballs": It Just Doesn't Matter. The Los Angeles Rams are 7-0 and are making a shambles out of the NFC West.
Today, they methodically ground the struggling Kansas City Chiefs (3-4) into mush, intercepting six passes by Todd Blackledge en route to a 16-0 victory that sent most of the 64,474 in Arrowhead Stadium scurrying for the exits to escape the area before the World Series traffic began arriving.
"We're still not playing very well offensively. We're struggling," Rams Coach John Robinson said. "But we're 7-0, and that's as good as you can do. Today, I thought our defense was spectacular, especially the secondary."
It is the secondary that is making the Rams unbeatable despite their lurching offense. It consists of four healthy veterans: cornerbacks LeRoy Irvin and Gary Green and safeties Johnny Johnson and Nolan Cromwell. Irvin and Johnson, 27 and 29, are the babies, each with six years in the league. Green and Cromwell, both 30, are the old men each with nine years experience. The other three call Cromwell "Our brain."
Today, they came up with five of the six interceptions thrown by Blackledge, Irvin getting two. Blackledge was starting for the first time this season because Chiefs Coach John Mackovic decided starter Bill Kenney was too banged up to play.
"With a young quarterback, if you mix some things up on him, change coverages, make him read, he may have a tendency to keep throwing to his primary receiver," said Green, who played for the Chiefs until 1984. "He threw right into coverage a few times."
"I felt well prepared," Blackledge said. "I felt I had a good week of practice and knew what to expect and came out and had the worst athletic experience I've ever had."
It was after the first interception, a sprawling catch by Irvin on an attempted bomb to Carlos Carson, that the Rams put together their only touchdown drive of the day, marching 69 yards in 14 plays.
The Rams threw four passes, but most of the work was done, as usual, by the running backs. Eric Dickerson, held to 68 yards on 21 carries for the day, finally swept in from the one -- just getting to the goal line -- after a 13-yard burst by Barry Redden had set up a first down at the five.
That made it 7-0 with 10:53 left in the half, and the Chiefs never even threatened to score after that. They drove to the Rams' 33 on their first drive of the game. They never moved the ball inside the Los Angeles 25 the entire game.
Given the Chiefs' ineffectiveness, Robinson was content to keep shoving the ball at Dickerson and Redden. The Rams extended their lead to 10-0 after Ethan Horton, the former North Carolina tailback, who may go down as the worst No. 1 draft pick in Kansas City's 26-year history (10 carries, 19 yards today) fumbled on the Chiefs' 23.
The Rams didn't move the ball, but Mike Lansford kicked a 33-yard field goal with 2:25 left in the half. A little more than a minute later, Green made his interception, returning to the Kansas City 40. From there, the Rams set Lansford up again, this time for a 37-yarder with two seconds left, making it 13-0.
As the teams left the field, the fans, reflecting on the score and the leaden skies above, gave the home team a thorough booing. It got no better the second half. Lansford made it 16-0 with a 30-yarder on the Rams' first possession -- which started from the Kansas City 35 after a short punt -- and then it was just a matter of finding out whether Blackledge would break the team record for interceptions in a game. He did.
With their defense in control, the Rams just controlled the clock, quarterback Dieter Brock, the Canadian Football League import who has unimpressive statistics but an unblemished record, throwing just five second-half passes.
"I have only one thing to say about Dieter Brock," Robinson said. "He is the only undefeated quarterback in the history of the NFL. What else needs to be said?"
It needs to be said that everyone on the Rams, most notably Brock, knows the offense must improve for this team to be a true Super Bowl contender.
"With the way our defense is playing, if we ever get it going we're going to have one hell of a team," Brock said. "The way the defense has been controlling things, it's taken some of the aggressiveness out of our offense. The instinct is to make sure you don't blow the game."
Now, the Rams lead the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers by four games in the division race with the desperate pursuers coming to Anaheim next week.
"They've still got as much talent as anyone in the league," Irvin said of the 49ers. "They're struggling, that's true, but they're better than 3-4."
And the Rams may not be as good as 7-0. But that's what they are. And that is what matters.