There have been numerous posts this week since the loss to the Panthers. Almost everyone, including myself have been questioning Linehans' game plan. The game plan for Sunday was like row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Why? With all the fire power our offense has and the explosiveness we're capable of, why?
Linehan told us why. Without offending our o-line, Linehan simply let us know that he thought Carolinas' front four were among the best in the NFL. We all remember the dreadful shutout last season at the hands of that Panthers defense. A game that saw Marc Bulger sacked 7 times and hit and hurried several other times. We were all on Linehan for not running the ball more, remember? Marc Bulger flinging the ball all over the field almost got him killed. Linehan knew he messed up that game and saw his quarterback take a beating. I think Bulger himself came away from that game a little shell shocked.
So we go into Sunday with the dink & dunk combined with the run the Beast right at them game plan. Pretty sound approach if you ask me. Consider this, we have the Beast Jackson along with one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL throwing short passes to our veteran sure handed receivers. With Linehans' protect the ball at all costs approach the plan made perfect sense, to Linehan anyway. Obviously our players bought into it because it was working. We had our first offensive possession start at our own 33 yard line, already down 7-0. Our offense proceeded to compile a 15 play, 67 yard dink & dunk drive that produced a touchdown to knot the score at 7-7.
During that drive Bulger only took one shot downfield, an incomplete pass to Bruce.
Steven Jackson ran right at the Carolina defense. Charging threw the middle for 27 yards on 4 carries. There was no help from defensive penalties just precise dink & dunk.
Carolina came right back at us but their kicker John Kasay missed a 47 yard field goal attempt. From that point on until the 2 minute warning the game had turned into a defensive battle. (that's right defensive) Right at the 2 minute warning Carolina was forced to punt the ball. We took the ball and marched downfield with the aid of a 22 yard pass interference call against Carolina. We ended another dink & dunk 8 play drive with a game leading field goal to end the half. We go into halftime with the lead!!!
Plus we will be getting the ball to start the 2nd half!!:r
LINEHANS' GAMEPLAN IS WORKING!
Dante' Hall takes the 2nd half kickoff back 84 yards to the Carolina 17!!! We couldn't get into the endzone, couldn't even get a 1st down. So we settle for a Jeff Wilkins 28 yard field goal. 13-7 RAMS!! (this was a disappointing result of an awesome kickoff return by Hall) This is where I question the play calling. Linehan has to realize that Carolina would be making some adjustments to defend the dink & dunk better. We didn't take 1 shot at the endzone? Very questionable in my mind. Did Linehan make any adjustments? Never the less we are up 13-7.:r
So Carolina gets the ball and our defense forces a turnover, we get the ball back at the Carolina 49 yard line. "WE ARE IN THE DRIVERS SEAT". Linehans' game plan is still working. from the Carolina 49 Bulger proceeds to throw another short pass which nets 3 yards in the hands of Steven Jackson. Bulger then hits Torry Holt for 14 more yards.
1st and 10 at the Carolina 32 yard line. Oh Yeah!!!! we're ready to go off! Then it happens, Jackson RAMbles around the right end for 6 yards but loses a fumble.:x
2 plays later Steve Smith is standing in our endzone holding onto a 68 yard touchdown pass. Carolina goes 2 plays for 74 yards in 46 seconds to take the lead 14-13!!!!:x
We went from pulling away to down by 1 in less than a minute. :x
We get the ball back with the line of scrimmage being our own 18 yard line. On the second play from scrimmage it happens again, Jackson loses another fumble.:x
Carolina takes over at our 26 yard line. They drive the ball down to our 5 only to see our defense rise to the occassion and force a fumble, that we recover on our own 3.
WHEW!! From our own 3 the very low risk dink & dunk is obvious. Doesn't work this time. We punt from our own 10. Carolina takes over at their own 42 and drives down for a 34 yard field goal. 17-13 Panthers with 15 minutes left in the game.:x
From our own 18 yard line we attempt another dink & dunk drive that fails to the tune of 3 and out. We punt to Carolina and they start a long dink & dunk drive of their own.
The drive ends with Jake Delhomme hitting Drew Carter in the endzone to give the Panthers a commanding lead at 24-13. The drive ate up 7:24 of the final quarter.
Our Rams start their next drive on our 22 yard line. We're able to move the ball via the dink & dunk but the 10 play drive stalls when we fail to convert on a 4th and 2. An incomplete pass of the short variety to Bruce.
The rest is history, Carolina adds another field goal and we lose 27-13.:x
The final score doesn't tell the true story. This was a very close game that we had command of. Not taking anything away from the Panthers and their very stingy defense, we were in the driver seat. The back to back fumbles killed us. Timing is everything and although there's no good time for a turnover, the 2 fumbles ejected us right out of the drivers seat.
I still feel that Linehans' game plan was solid, not perfect but solid. I would have liked to see a few more deep passes mixed in. If anything to keep the Panthers defense on their toes. Also at least 1 shot at the endzone in the beginning of the 3rd quarter after Halls great kickoff return. It was obvious that Carolina made the halftime adjustments needed to defend the dink & dunk better. What adjustments did we make? Was Linehan that satisfied with the 10-7 halftime lead?
I am here to say Headcoach Linehan knew exactly what we needed to do to be productive against that Carolina D, it almost worked. I'm sure he was just as surprised and disappointed as we were with the 2 fumbles by the Beast. Also that Marc Bulger wasn't his normal accurate self.
I felt the need to breakdown the whole game. Hopefully bringing the Linehan naysayers into the (Scott Linehan Appreciation Party). I'm certainly a member.
S. L. A. P.