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    Week Three: Post-Game Observations

    Week Three: Post-Game Observations
    By Nick

    (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

    If it could go wrong, it did go wrong.

    Week Three brought another disappointing week of Rams football, and unlike the first two weeks of play, this game wasn’t even close. The Ravens jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. The Rams looked like a team without heart, without fire, and without leadership.

    Right out of the gate, St. Louis was flat. On the very first drive, the protection broke down and forced Sam Bradford out of the pocket on a scramble for his life. His first pass of the day was a one-hopped attempt at the receiver’s feet, and the early reverse to Lance Kendricks was a head-scratching play call that didn’t fool anyone.

    Bradford looked off for most of the first half. Certainly the lack of protection played a part in it, but his reads were not sharp. On one first half play, Bradford not only missed Danario Alexander on a wide open out route, but missed an even more wide open receiver sprinting down the middle of the field. Bradford began to settle down later in the game, making sharper throws in the second half. He had a beautiful touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson, but at this point it was too little too late. At times during the second half, he hung onto the ball too long and pressed. Not securing the ball when pressured late in the game resulted in a Baltimore fumble recovery and touchdown, the third week in a row for an opposing defense scoring on the Rams.

    But don’t get the wrong idea, Sam Bradford was far from the only or biggest problem in this game. The pass protection was absolutely abysmal. Bradford was knocked down and hit numerous times. Jason Smith looked completely lost out there at times, and the interior of the Rams’ offensive line – an expensive trio to say the least – didn’t seem to hold up well at all against the Ravens’ interior linemen. I don’t know what’s going on with this unit, but they’re certainly not living up to their high-priced reputation.

    At the skill positions, there were some positives and negatives. Cadillac Williams rebounded from his idiotic fumble last week and ran hard despite a hamstring injury this week. The holes were small, but he found them and gained positive yardage. Steven Jackson was active but made a minimal impact and only touched the ball four times. At receiver, the Rams were largely inconsistent. Brandon Gibson was the best of the lot, running sharp routes and bringing in the Rams’ lone touchdown pass of the game. But he dropped a very catchable deep ball that could have helped the Rams make a more respectable showing. Coming off of a big game last week against the Giants, Danario Alexander had a performance to forget. Though he made a couple of short catches, he had a big drop and gave up after tripping on a sideline route that ultimately would be picked. Austin Pettis debuted and made a few grabs, though he and Mike-Sims Walker were largely invisible. The tight ends dropped more passes than they made plays. The lack of a consistent playmaker in this group is alarming.

    So, the offense stunk. But you don’t lose a game 37-7 without some defensive breakdowns. And boy, were there breakdowns.

    Rams fans knew that Justin King was not a viable NFL starting cornerback. We knew it was just a matter of time before he got picked on and abused. Did the Rams’ coaching staff know this? It didn’t appear as if they did, because they seemed to feel confident in King’s ability to cover speedster Torrey Smith. That didn’t turn out very well.

    Justin King was burned on the Ravens’ second play of the game, not only allowing Torrey Smith behind him but flailing to the ground as he failed at breaking up the pass or making a tackle. Darian Stewart, starting today in place of Craig Dahl, was late getting over from his Cover 1 responsibility to help over the top, and Smith scored on the 74-yard reception. The Ravens would repeatedly go back to Smith on deep patterns, and the Rams’ coaches and players just didn’t seem to get it. Twice, Smith got behind the coverage only for Flacco to miss him on deep routes. Finally, they’d hit again as Smith burned by both King and Stewart to get into the endzone for the Ravens’ second touchdown. Later in the game, after watching Smith get by King twice, the Rams left Justin on an island on the left sideline against Smith, and shockingly, Smith came up with a grab after King failed to jam him at the line only to let Smith get behind him once more.

    The Ravens, historically a strong running team, certainly didn’t disappoint. Ray Rice and Ricky Williams (!) combined for 123 rushing yards on a mere 14 carries, averaging nearly nine yards per carry. Rice’s massive 53-yard run – in which Leber completely overpursued and both Stewart and King missed open field tackles – helped to pad those stats, but they are what they are. The Rams did not have much of an answer for Ray Rice, as he found running lanes and did damage on screen passes. Anquan Boldin quietly put up 74 yards on seven catches, working against numerous Rams defenders. There were some good coverage moments by Bradley Fletcher and Al Harris, but these were too far and in between the breakdowns that fans continue to see from this Rams unit.

    Along the defensive line, I thought the Rams did an okay job. And by okay, I mean just that. Not awful, but certainly not great. They did not get much of a pass rush. On the few times they did, it seemed Flacco had little problem sidestepping the initial rusher and making something happen, either by buying time with his feet before throwing the pass or simply by taking off. There were a few stuffs in the running game, but certainly not enough to have an impact on the numbers.

    Ultimately, the Ravens didn’t really do anything incredibly unexpected. They added Lee Evans and Torrey Smith this offseason, so one had to think they’d try some more downfield passing than they have in years past. They did that. They still have a great, versatile runner in Ray Rice whom they need to feed. They did that. What were the Rams planning on defending, I wonder? They didn’t stop Rice in either the running game or the short passing game, and they were unprepared for Baltimore’s new downfield weapon.

    I’ll put it to you simply. I like Steven Spagnuolo. I like Billy Devaney. While I haven’t agreed with everything they’ve done, I think they’ve righted the ship in the two years they’ve been here. But the problem with this Rams team, and I’m no where near the first person to make this observation, is not that they’re losing but how they’re losing.

    This team did not show much heart, much determination, or much fortitude in this game. They were completely outplayed from early on and just seemed to lay down. One could argue that a head coach shouldn’t have to motivate his players to play or get them into the game, but how does one explain how lackadaisical the Rams appeared? This is the third week in a row the Rams haven’t just lost, but have looked awful doing it. By Year Three of a highly regarded regime, shouldn’t we see more competitiveness? More fire?

    We didn’t see it this weekend, and if this kind of tone keeps up through the season, you have to think the seat of Steve Spagnuolo’s pants gets a little bit warmer. Because I’m not sure I’ve seen anything from the Rams this year that makes me think they’ve improved from 2010. While there are a number of factors one could throw out as excuses that are certainly fair to point to – shortened offseason, injuries, little time to install a new offensive scheme, personnel changes that haven’t gelled, etc – that hasn’t stopped other teams from seemingly making decent turnarounds in this league or at least showing more competitive fire in their games.

    So, can the Rams rebound against a very beatable Redskins team? Or will they come out in Week Four as they have for three weeks now, shooting themselves in the foot with senseless mistakes and poor play? Only time will tell, but it’s becoming pretty clear that Rams fans are not going to tolerate what they’ve seen thus far from this season’s group.
    swatter555 and GROUND DOG 39 like this.

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    Re: Week Three: Post-Game Observations

    An excellent analysis as always. I hope Spags fixes whatever mental issues the Rams are facing now and comes away with a win. On the other hand, I see the Rams as easy underdogs versus the Redskins too. Until the Rams start playing consistent NFL caliber football, they won't beat anybody.

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    Re: Week Three: Post-Game Observations

    It sure looked like our RAMS were intimidated by the Ravens!

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    Re: Week Three: Post-Game Observations

    This Washington game has now become huge, and what confidence I did have in the Rams was destroyed last week. This is easily the biggest game of coach Spags young career.
    Im not sure how a team that showed so much heart, and some potential last season. Can take such a drastic backward step in one offseason.? So for that reason I feel the Rams can win this game.?

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    Re: Week Three: Post-Game Observations

    I think with a healthy Sjax and Kendricks that combo alone should get us some points.

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