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Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB
Good morning, afternoon, evening, late-nite, etc...
Sunday, the four members of the NFC West went 0-4 and were outscored 120-49. The NFC West is a joke. But then again, you already knew that. So hit me with a 15-yard penalty for piling on by stating the obvious. But let's get specific and take a look at the latest carnage:
-- St. Louis (4-6): the Rams have lost two in a row, now must play the next three games on the road, where the franchise is 1-16 since Oct. 26, 2008. In the last two games the Rams defense has been roasted by a mediocre quarterback (Troy Smith) and a very good quarterback (Matt Ryan) in allowing a total of 609 yards passing and a rating of 108.4.
-- Seattle (5-5): The Seahawks were ravaged for 494 yards in a 34-19 loss at New Orleans. Drew Brees zapped Seattle's defense for 382 yards and 4 TDs passing and completed passes to 10 receivers. Seattle has given up at least 475 yards in three of its last four games. SEA cornerback Marcus Trufant had to leave Sunday's game with an apparent concussion. And remember how a lot of peeps believed Marshawn Lynch was the missing link that would transform the Seattle running game? Uh, no. Well, since Lynch was acquired from Buffalo, he's averaging 3.1 yards on 81 carries (six games.) At New Orleans Lynch lost two fumbles, dropped two passes and was benched. Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck is playing well; he completed 32 of 44 passes for 366 yards at N.O. But the Seahawks kick too many field goals. Four in New Orleans, with only one TD.
-- Arizona (3-7): The Cardinals have lost five consecutive games. I guess we can push aside the nonsensical talk, which we'd heard over the previous two seasons, that the now-retired QB Kurt Warner was a product of his receivers, a product of the system. And isn't it funny how the Arizona fans and media are yapping about coach Ken Whisenhunt's fallen IQ since Warner retired? In Sunday's 31-13 loss at Kansas City, the Cardinals were penalized 11 times for 96 yards. They allowed 152 yards rushing. They converted only 4 of 15 third-down plays. The AZ defense gave up 5 plays that gained 25 yards or more. Quarterback Derek Anderson -- who could not hit my substantial posterior with a football thrown from 10 yards away -- missed WR Steve Breaston twice on what could have been home-run plays. After the game veteran AZ safety Adrian Wilson esssentially questioned the commitment of the team's younger players. When asked if he'd tried to talk to them to set 'em straight, Wilson told reporters, "What's the point of doing that if they're not going to listen?" The five-game losing streak is the longest for the Cardinals since the 2006 season. But is help on the way? Well, hold on. It can't happen until after the season. But a Phoenix-area radio station (Xtra Sports 910) reports that the Cardinals will "target" Marc Bulger for acquisition during the offseason. Bulger is the No. 2 QB in Baltimore.
--San Francisco (3-7): I suppose it's safe to conclude that Troy Smith isn't Joe Montana -- or Elvis Grbac for that matter -- if a defense actually makes an informed decision to, well, you know, cover the ***** receivers. On Nov. 14 the Rams declined to cover receivers who were more wide open than Bo Pelini's mouth. The Rams gave a game to Smith, and donated a victory to the *****. But the charity ended Sunday, when the Tampa Bay Bucs came to Candlestick Park and slapped down Smith and the 'Niners in a 21-0 shutout. This was the first shutout loss at home for SanFran since Oct. 9, 1977. Troy Smith completed 16 of 31 passes for 148 yards and was intercepted once. He was sacked six times; that's 11 in the last two starts. (He holds onto the ball too long.) The ***** managed only 189 total yards. And now HC Mike Singletary is waffling over the QB position again; he dropped hints that he'd go back to Alex Smith for next Monday's game at Arizona. (That's right; the ***** and the Cardinals will have the Nov. 29 showcase on ESPN's Monday Night Football. What a great opportunity for Jon Gruden to do a little intel work to determine if he wants the ***** job next season.) It isn't looking good for Singletary. After the loss to Tampa Bay, LB Patrick Willis said he was tired of hearing about how much talent the 'Niners have. "It's about who's ready to play on Sunday," he told reporters. "And today they were more ready to play than we were."
* I tell you what, reading all of this stuff from Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco should make you feel a little better about the Rams' recent struggles.
* The Rams had an important third-and-1 play blown up by ATL in Sunday's second quarter; Steven Jackson was smashed for a 2-yard loss. This is a recurring problem. The Rams' short-yardage "power" game is on the fritz. When the Rams have opted to run the football on 3rd down and needing 1 or 2 yards, they've rushed 11 times for 17 yards. The average of 1.5 yards ranks 28th among the 32 teams. I know that running room tends to be sparse in short-yardage situations, but it is possible to wedge out some tough yards. Of the 32 NFL teams, 14 are averaging at least 3 yards on those third/short runs. When the Rams run the ball on second down, needing 1 or 2 yards for a first, they've picked up only 23 yards on 15 carries. That's 1.5 per rush and that ranks 30th in the NFL.
* Steven Jackson has 12 yards on 8 carries in short-yardage runs on 3rd down this season. And there are backs who are getting good yards on third and short. Christopher Ivory (New Orleans) is 10 for 55; Arian Foster (Houston) is 11 for 53; Ricky Williams (Miami) is 4 for 19; LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia) is 8 for 35; Adrian Peterson (Minnesota) is 13 for 51; Peyton Hillis (Cleveland) is 12 for 43.
* As we've discussed here before, a big part of the problem in the Rams' running game is design and strategy. This team cannot power up against eight-man boxes, but insists on trying to do so. Jackson is most effective when the offense goes with 3 or 4 wides and spreads the defense.
* Another problem with the running game is the passing game ... and the inability to stretch the defense and the field. But again, you knew that already.
* As the season winds on, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the Rams will have to upgrade at the guard position. Mutiple scouts have told me that the guard spots are the weakest area of the Rams offensive line. Jacob Bell and Adam Goldberg were pushed around by the Falcons on Sunday. Just hammered. The scouts are astounded that John Greco isn't being given a chance to start at guard. The Rams didn't have Greco on the game-day active list Sunday.
* The Rams will also need a fullback for 2011. Mike Karney is a tough competitor who gives you everything he has. But he's absorbed a lot of cumulative damage in doing the nasty work of a lead blocker in the NFL. The punching power just isn't there anymore.
* Overall the Rams' average of 3.8 yards per rush (all running plays) ranks 23rd in the NFL. The inconsistent rushing attack makes rookie Sam Bradford's success all the more surprising and impressive.
* Even with Sunday's late INT, even with the limitations in the running game and in the dimension of his receivers, Bradford continues to get better and better. Over the last five games Bradford has completed 65 percent of his passes for 999 yards, 8 TDs, 1 INT and has a passer rating of 93.6. I had to laugh at some of the criticism of Bradford after the INT on the busted shovel-pass play. Even if the kid made a mistake -- and considering that it was a timing play, I doubt that he did -- so what? Not to excuse Bradford's mistakes. No one gets a free pass. Not even a rookie. But I think it's healthy to remember just how hard it can be to play this position. In Sunday's games -- remember, some backups got in there -- 32 NFL quarterbacks were intercepted at least twice. Bradford wasn't among them.
* Bradford, who has been so brilliant on 3rd downs this season, had a rare off day in this are vs. the Falcons, completing 3 of 9 passes for 28 yards, plus the INT. Hey, it happens to the best of them.
* The Rams are 28th among 32 NFL teams in kickoff return average; after Sunday's abysmal performance they're averaging under 20 yards per KOR, coming in at 19.8 yards.
* Terrell Owens wanted to be in Cincinnati. Randy Moss wanted to play for Tennessee. I don't know for a fact that those WRs rejected the Rams' overtures, outright. But Moss went to Tennessee and has done nothing in two games; the Titans don't throw to him. He's a decoy. And now Moss will be trying to catch passes from someone named Rusty Smith. And while T.O. has put up big numbers in Cincinnati, the Bengals are 2-8, and everyone is unhappy including Owens. So how is all of that working out for you, divas? I will say this: given Bradford's enormous promise and potential -- not to mention his actual performance -- I think free-agent WRs will have a highly favorable view of playing for the Rams in the future. Provided, of course, that (A) the Rams actually pursue an elite receiver; and (B) the receiver can pass the "Four Pillars" test.
* Not surprising to see Atlanta's Matt Ryan play so well against the Rams' defense in the 4th quarter of Sunday's game; he leads all NFC QBs with a fourth-quarter passer rating of 96.9. But this is also a problem for the Rams defense; they rank 25th among the league's 32 teams in defending the pass in the 4th quarter. The rating against them is 86.4.
That's all for now.
More later. Thanks.
Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB
What else can you say? I feel a LITTLE better after hearing this, but yesterday and last weeks loss still hurt when you know everyone else in the division lost and you had multiple chances this season to get to .500, win that road game, and win the winnable games!
Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB
The Rams have played some okay teams and a bunch of mediocre teams up until this Atlanta game. This game was a real measuring stick.
Here's what I have been thinking and what I think was confirmed for the most part in this past game.
1) The Rams still lack overall talent.
2) With the talent they have, I think some props should go to the coaching staff for the way they have been playing. This team was competitive right up to 3 minutes to go in this game, and competitive in most of the games this season..........with what I think is a lower level of overall team talent than they're general competition.
3) The Rams areas of need are WR (obviously), secondary (I haven't figured if it's saftey or CB, but I am leaning SS), OLB (seriously need), OG. Not necessarily in that order. And that isn't all the areas they could use some improvement, I didn't mention backup RB for instance, but those are the glaring things to me. With better OG play and a WR to stretch defenses, I can't imagine this team couldn't live without SJ for a game.
4) Mr Samtastic is fantastic. This kid has greatness oozing from his pours.
This team is kinda what I thought it was. Some of these players will develop. But the overall talent level at this time is still too low.Semper Fi!
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