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Thread: Week Two: Post-Game Observations

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    Week Two: Post-Game Observations

    Week Two: Post-Game Observations
    By Nick
    9/19/11

    As I left the ClanRam chatroom late Monday night after a crushing loss, I spent a few moments considering why this road loss to a tough New York Giants team was particularly disappointing. It’s not solely because of the outcome, but rather it’s because this was a very winnable game, and rather than getting beat by a superior opponent, the Rams once again found ways to beat themselves.

    Rather than going position group by position group, I’m just going to put some thoughts down and see where it takes me. It was one of those kinds of games.

    The Rams opened this game on their heels defensively. Justin King didn’t take long showing why he’s not a capable starting cornerback in this league, and St. Louis didn’t seem to learn their lesson from last week when it came to containing cutback runs. Overpursuit was still an issue. That being said, it wasn’t long into the Giants’ first drive when former Eagles safety Quintin Mikell, arguably the Rams’ top free agent pick-up, made his presence felt, coming over from a deep Cover 2 assignment to snatch an early interception. Mikell’s presence would be felt all night in run support and in the passing game. Through two weeks, it looks like the Rams really hit on this acquisition.

    Almost immediately, you could tell the Rams’ gameplan in this contest was different from their Week One plan of attack. Gone were the threatening Philadelphia corners that kept the Rams’ intermediate and deep passing game mostly in check. Instead, the Rams were playing a secondary heavily impacted by injuries to Terrell Thomas and first-round rookie Prince Amukamara. Opposite of Corey Webster, the Giants relied on Aaron Ross, who at one point this offseason wasn’t even expected to be back with the team, and Michael Coe, who was released last year by a Jaguars team in need of quality defensive backs.

    The Rams went after Ross early, as Sam Bradford found him in one-on-one coverage against Danario Alexander deep down the left sideline. Alexander made a great grab, then had the smarts to get up and run after the Giants’ defensive backs failed to touch him and secure a tackle. Alexander would exploit these weak DBs on go routes on two other occasions and, though he only played in a quarter of the Rams’ offensive snaps, was one of the bright spots of the night. Mike Sims-Walker finally made his presence felt as well, and Brandon Gibson continued to show improvement. Both of the Rams’ starters appeared to get open numerous times on crisp routes, especially in the intermediate part of the field. Fans like myself who have been clamoring for more intermediate passes had to enjoy what the Rams were doing at times in the passing game. It helped Bradford reach a new career high in yardage.

    Moving the ball between the 20’s wasn’t an issue for the Rams. Punching it in once they arrived in the red zone, however, continued to be troubling. It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly is the Rams’ issue when they’re near the goalline. I don’t think Sam sees the shortened field particularly well; there was one replay after a missed end zone pass that showed what appeared to be two better receiving options available that Bradford did not progress to. For years, the Rams have not been a good team when it comes to running in the red zone, either. One would hope that more size at the receiver and tight end positions will eventually help in this area, but we saw few attempts to take advantage of those measurables on Monday night.

    While the red zone failures were bad, the critical and unforced mental mistakes were worse. Rookie Greg Salas, who didn’t return one punt in the preseason, was on return duty tonight in place of injured receiver Danny Amendola. I’m sure he’d like to have his opening return back, as he bobbled the ball and turned it right back over to the Giants. He’d look hesitant on returns for the rest of the night, though he did spring free on one punt return for 29 yards. However, this was not Salas’ night. The fumbled punt was his biggest mistake, but dropped passes on offense were pretty jarring as well. Salas was targeted on four 3rd down passes, and converted none of them. He had a crucial drop in the red zone that resulted in a field goal rather than an extended drive and possibly a touchdown. I read somewhere that a field goal in the red zone shouldn’t be looked at as a gain of three points, but rather as a loss of four. This couldn’t have been truer for the Rams, as each field goal felt like a missed opportunity.

    In relief of Steven Jackson, Cadillac Williams put on a show last week. The show must have been cancelled this week, because the Caddy was essentially on blocks. Williams averaged a measly 2.7 yards per carry and gained only four yards on three receptions. His biggest impact of the night was actually a positive for New York, as Caddy dropped a lateral and, assuming it was an incomplete pass, walked away as if the play were over. Obviously, it was not, and the Giants would go on to scoop up the loose ball and run it back for a touchdown. For as solid as Williams looked last week as a possible replacement should Steven Jackson go down for any part of the season, he looked unfocused and ineffective tonight. That was the kind of tone the Rams had on Monday night – they played well enough at times, but their sloppy mistakes just kept them from getting over the hump.

    The defense wasn’t immune to the mistakes and breakdowns either. To their credit, the Rams’ defense made Eli Manning rather uncomfortable for the majority of the first half. There was a point in the ballgame when Eli had completed only two of nine passes, and just couldn’t throw an accurate pass to save his life. The Rams did a nice job at times pressuring him, coming away with three total sacks for defensive ends Chris Long, James Hall, and rookie Robert Quinn.

    However, the solid defensive showing didn’t last long. Whether it’s coaching or player execution, it seems as though Rams defensive backs rarely look back for the ball on a pass play or generally do not display good ball awareness when a pass is made. On a critical fourth down play, cornerback Bradley Fletcher – who generally had a pretty good night in coverage – didn’t do enough to demonstrate to the officials that he was playing the ball instead of holding Hakeem Nicks’ arm down, drawing a critical pass interference flag that extended an eventual touchdown drive. Justin King was called for two defensive penalties that gave New York first downs on drives that would collectively result in 14 points for the Giants. Al Harris’ biggest moment in limited action was getting beaten by Mario Manningham deep down the left sideline. And Craig Dahl, what is there to say. Had he played the ball better in the air, he could have come away with two interceptions last night. One he did manage to break up, but the other he stood helpless as Domenik Hixon made an tough catch in the endzone. For as much as he did defending that pass, Dahl may as well have been in the stands with a box of popcorn.

    So let’s recap – the Rams lost to the Giants by a score of 28-16. All of the New York Giants’ points came about in part because of unforced St. Louis errors that extended drives. The first touchdown came about after the Salas fumble and the Fletcher interference call. The second touchdown occurred on the botched lateral from Bradford to Williams that the Giants recovered. The third and fourth touchdowns both came on drives extended by defensive penalties committed by the Rams. Meanwhile, the Rams could not keep up with the Giants’ scoring; on four trips into the red zone, the Rams managed just one touchdown. They settled for field goals on the three other trips. Turn those field goals into touchdowns, and this thing is tied up at 28-28, even with all of the Rams’ mistakes.

    Simply put, St. Louis is not a good enough team yet to overcome these kinds of mental errors, and restless fans upset at the result they were watching on the field began to wonder aloud if they should even be seeing these same frustrating breakdowns in the third year of the Spagnuolo regime. A post-game press conference that featured a number of “I don’t knows” from the head coach probably did not comfort that portion of the fan base much.

    It’s tough to put too much blame on the coach when the players fail to execute in very simple ways – fumbling punts, dropping passes, overpursuit, senseless penalties. However, this is the roster that general manager Billy Devaney and Spagnuolo put together, and ultimately the buck stops with them. It’s the coach’s job to make sure fundamental errors don’t go uncorrected. Through two weeks, the Rams have displayed some of the same frustrating mistakes that fall into the “We’re beating ourselves” category.

    To be fair, the Rams are in a tough spot due to injuries, a limited offseason to install a new offsensive system, and a brutal front part of the schedule. We knew these games were going to be tough. But when a team makes the kinds of unforced, senseless mistakes that the Rams have in the last two weeks, then winning these tough games is nearly impossible, even when the opposition plays poorly enough to give the Rams a shot at victory.

    Good teams find ways to win, and bad teams find ways to lose. Through two weeks, the Rams have found ways to lose. I’m not ready to call them a bad team, because through two games, there have been a number of positives to take away. But until the Rams start fixing these errors and finding ways to win, it’s going to be tough to shake that bad team label.
    GROUND DOG 39 and ZiaRam like this.


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    Azul e Oro is online now Registered User
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    Re: Week Two: Post-Game Observations

    Excellent summary as always, Nick. And I think you pinpointed the feeling that most of us have about this one as less a defeat than one that got away.

    I might add that Sam's decision-making & passing in the RZ is something I'm starting to worry is an ongoing problem.I think he looks more comfortably in control of reading the D pre-snap & making adjustments; I believe the DX TD was one play that wouldn't have happened otherwise. But he, like Cadillac, looked a little indecisive & out of sync at times & with each other. Not at all pleased that the TEs didn't get more involved as well.I hope it's just a matter of grooving but everyone seems to be just that little bit off at times. Add all those clunky moments up & all the considerable good goes for naught.

    Btw, not really a fan of these features, which are a great idea, being buried in this articles section. I think you'll get a lot more response if you post on the main forum. Perhaps archive them here later. They are week/game specific, not the sort of discursive pieces usually found here,imo.

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    Re: Week Two: Post-Game Observations

    Wow Impressive article Nick. Professional and plenty of break downs and explanations. I'm impressed!

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    Re: Week Two: Post-Game Observations

    That just about covered everything in a clear, concise way.! What seems strange to me though, is the turnovers and mental errors go against everything what our coach stands for.? He must be incredibly frustrated, just like the fans. I honestly thought the team was above this kind of football, going off last year.? I do like some of DeSpags free agent signings, but some I dont like. I would have kept Tostan over Norwood and Williams.? Surely a decent RB will be brought on board next draft.?
    Ive noticed in the redzone Sam becomes flustered sometimes. He locks on to his first read too much, defenders catch on to this weakness and are getting there hands up in the passing lane. I do agree with you in Nick in that he doesnt see the field quite the same in the red zone. This is why Id prefer it if Sam was asked to use his legs in the pocket to buy time, instead of using Spags imaginary whistle.
    The defense did its best under the circumstances, Leber and Poppinga are beginning to catch my eye. I couldnt say that at all last year. Craig Dahl is a liability for this team, when will Spags deal with it.? Just because a player is an overachiever, been in the system before and is a great locker room presence, it shouldnt mean he gets the start automatically, when I feel their could be better players on the roster.? Granted, the Rams did not have much rub of the green in this game and their inexperience shone through during and after the mishaps. I did see enough good signs though in the Rams play to know it will be only a matter of time until the offense WILL start scoring on our redzone possessions. I think that jump in speed and intensity in the redzone, is Bradfords last major hurdle in becoming our bona fide franchise QB.? Because the rest of his game is right up there. !!

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    Re: Week Two: Post-Game Observations

    Great Read. Thats pretty much how i felt after watching most of the game. The lateral mishap by Williams was the sort of mental errors and lack of awareness that has been frustrating for me, Bradford had a blocker this time to contend with to pull off another heroic chase down as he did in '10 lol, but you gotta love his determination.

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