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  1. #1
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    Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

    Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB
    BERNIE MIKLASZ | Posted: Sunday, October 24, 2010 7:38 pm

    This Monday morning review may be shorter than previous versions; bad travel shcedule limits writing time. I'm actually writing this from the press box at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay on Sunday night.

    But I'll also be adding stuff on Monday (early afternoon, probably) if you want to check back. Thanks.

    Let's get started:

    * Look, I've calmed down after that really awful 18-17 loss to Tampa Bay. But just a little. The only thing that gives me a pause for perspective is the pure craziness of the NFL. How do you explain Oakland going to Denver and hanging 59 points on the board in a 45-point win? Or Cleveland going to New Orleans and beating the defending Super Bowl champeens by 13 on a day in which the winning QB (Colt McCoy) completed 9 of 16 passes for 74 yards? How the heck does Buffalo go into Baltimore and take the Ravens into OT before losing? Why is San Francisco 1-6 and squandering a late lead Sunday to a bad team like Carolina? Very little makes sense. The Rams fit. Their loss in Tampa Bay was inexcusable because they were in command of the game. But in the grand scheme of things, the Rams blowing a 17-3 lead is typical of what we're seeing in the NFL this season. That does not pardon the loss; I won't do that. But a young Rams team at least has inexperience as a factor that we can site to make sense of it all. These guys simply have not learned how to win on the road. There is a mentality involved that makes road success more likely. And this team, after all, is still very much a project. I don't think I reasonably can expect a 1-15 team to solve everything and become a finished product seven games into the next season.

    * I'm still trying to understand why WR Danario Alexander didn't have more of a role in Sunday's game plan. During the game I wondered if perhaps his knee was sore following his NFL debut against San Diego. Maybe the Rams were deciding to be careful with him, which would make sense given DX's long, sad history with knee injuries. But after the game, coach Steve Spagnuolo claimed that Alexander's health was not a factor; he explained that it was a game-plan thing. If that's true, then I simply can't figure out the close-minded nature of this offensive coaching staff. Alexander gave the Rams a new dimension: a tall, physical, long-striding receiver who can beat man coverage in a variety of ways. Given the rather limited scope of the Rams' WR receiver group, why wouldn't you want to have DX in the mix in a meaningful way? If you don't have that true No. 1 wideout, and the Rams don't, then I would think that the next best thing would be to have a diverse collection of receivers, with each bringing a unique skill set to your lineup. The Rams don't have a guy who fits or features the DX profile. So he should be utilized ... again, unless he is hurting and the Rams don't want to tell us about it.

    * I know he's Billy Devaney's guy, but other than that, I'm having a hard time understanding Laurent Robinson's popular appeal with the coaches. Yes, I know Robinson got open down the right sideline at Tampa for what would have been a big gain -- except that Sam Bradford overthrew him. But given his injury issues, Robinson doesn't seem to be running fluidly. Can Robinson really be an asset? Or is Robinson just holding space until Alexander is given more of a role? Or until Mardy Gilyard (out with a hamstring) is ready to assume more of a responsibility?

    * Speaking of Devaney, the Rams' GM, he didn't think much of rookie RB LeGarrette Blount, who played a major role in bringing Tampa Bay back to win on Sunday. At the time Blount was waived by Tennessee, the Rams could have claimed Blount on waivers. He would be a strong No. 2 RB in support of Steven Jackson. Blount had anger-management issues at Oregon, but Rams sources tell me that had no influence on their decision to ignore Blount. This was, I'm told, a decision based on whether Blount was good enough. And the Rams apparently concluded that they could do better. Well, Blount looked terrific Sunday in averaging 6.5 yards per carry (11 rushes, 72 yards) against the Rams. When Rams RB Steven Jackson went out of Sunday's game for a spell in the second half (he was shaken up), Kenneth Darby came in and carried one time for 1 yard.

    * Jackson ran hard Sunday as the Rams wasted his 110 yards rushing on 20 carries. Once again, the Rams coaches struggled to find a new way to pop Jackson free against a stacked box. After SJ39's big first half, Tampa Bay brought even more defenders up to the line to smother Jackson. And in the second half, seven of his 10 carries netted 3 yards or fewer. The stop-Jax strategy opened up some opportunities for Rams receivers to take advantage of 1-on-1 coverage, but Bradford missed some open targets, and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur didn't seem to have some plays in his pocket to fully exploit the Tampa Bay tactic.

    * Congrats to Jackson for becoming the Rams' all-time rushing leader. He has the most career rushing yards by a Ram. More than Eric Dickerson, more than Marshall Faulk, more than Lawrence McCutcheon, more than June Henley. When the team's flight arrived back in St. Louis, Jackson tweeted this message from his seat: "Just made it back to STL. God be the glory. I will lead this team and set an example." He's an outstanding leader. The Rams, to this point, have not been able to convert his talent into wins. Not enough of them, anyway. Jackson is becoming the Floyd Little of his era. Earlier Jackson had tweeted this: "This one jurt. I'm sick. Trying to smile and I can't. I just want to WIN." And that's why I see a lot of Floyd Little in SJ39.

    * Seriously now ... these dropped INTs. What can be done about them? Anything? Do the Rams work on it? Maybe they should have the backup QBs just throw odd-angle passes to Rams LBs and DBs and let 'em work on their hands. It's unbelievable. These guys have sheetrock for hands. Hit them some pop flies, or something. Shoot some hockey pucks at them. Improve those reflexes and dexterity. Or maybe it's a confidence/mental thing by now.

    * Bradford does reflect his team in many ways... considerable promise, so much to like, across-the-board potential to achieve at a high level. But through seven games, Sam the Ram is also less effective in the second half of games. In the first half of games, Bradford has completed 59 percent of his passes for 7 TDs, 3 INT and a passer rating of 86.5. And what about the second half? 52 percent completions, 2 TDs, 5 INTs and a QB rating of 54.7.

    * There's something special about Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman. He's one of these guys who seems to have the "It" factor late in games. Freeman, a No. 1 draft choice in 2009, has started only 11 NFL games so far. But in five of the games Freeman has led the Buccaneers to five fourth-quarter comebacks for victories. That's an amazing ratio. We saw his winning touch on display against the Rams. And here are Freeman's numbers in the five fourth-quarter comebacks: 33 of 51, 423 yards, 5 TDs, no INTs... for a rating of 123.2.

    * The Rams are beat up at cornerback. They should have never cut Quincy Butler ... or, at the very least, they should have brought him back. But it's too late. Butler signed with New Orleans.

    * I wish the Rams would have exploited the Tampa Bay safeties more; they've been burned repeatedly when targeted this season. I was surprised that the tight ends weren't as featured in the passing game -- at least not to the degree that I would have thought. That middle of the Tampa Cover 2 is always inviting.

    * There was no excuse for the four false-start penalties committed by the Rams on Sunday. The crowd wasn't loud. The place had thousands of empty seats. It was not a disruptive atmosphere for a visiting team. The lapse of concentration was unacceptable. The Rams have to be more focused than that.

    * Funny thing about passer ratings; they can be so misleading. Bradford's passer rating of 89.6 was the best of his rookie season. It was pumped up by two first-half TD passes. Plus, he didn't throw a pick. But Bradford, to his credit, criticized his performance after Sunday's game. He sat at his locker a long time, in uniform, stewing about this game that had gotten away. Bradford knew he'd missed some open receivers. He knew he hadn't made enough plays. And he was sincerely ticked off by that. He wasn't putting on an act for the TV cameras or the scribes. Bradford wants to win. He wants to be great. He has high standards for himself. He won't accept failure. I love his attitude.

    * But we just want to see him play like Sam Bradford instead of, well, Landry Jones. And how about those Mizzou Tigers? Quarterback play is so paramount in the outcome of close games. We saw that Sunday when Freeman was at his best, late. And Bradford wasn't at his best, late. Same in CoMo. MU quarterback Blaine Gabbert was sensational in the 4th quarter; Oklahoma's Jones was 0 for 7 in the fourth quarter.

    * By the way, Mizzou fans: I am happy I was wrong in picking Oklahoma to win. We watched the game Saturday night at Champps in Tampa. There were at least four, maybe five, tables filled with Mizzou fans. (We were one of the tables.) It was a lot of fun, watching the game hundreds of miles from home, with a few dozen MU fans who were hollering at the big-screen TVs. At the end of the game, after Mizzou's win, we shared a concoction. An adult beverage known as the "Black and Gold." Tasty.

    * Congrats to Gary Pinkel on his win over Bob Stoops. I really thought Pinkel and staff outcoached Stoops and staff. Here's why: Oklahoma, perhaps overly concerned with MU's bubble screens and other short passes, had the corners playing up pretty tight with the hopes of jumping those shorter routes... it left a lot of open space in the middle of the Sooners defense, and Mizzou consistently attacked that area all night. I kept thinking that the Sooners coaches would adjust but they never did. Great play-calling by MU's Dave Yost.

    * And Gabbert was at his best Saturday night. When the big guy sets up firm in the pocket and puts that strong arm into motion, he does a lot of damage. I know he's mobile and can run. But Gabbert is so much better -- his decisions and his accuracy -- when he is standing and firing.

    That's all I have for now ...

    Thanks for reading...

    -Bernie


  2. #2
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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

    Is it just me or is Bernie a much better read during the season?

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