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  1. #1
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    Blame Bulger? Not so fast, Rams fans

    By Jeff Gordon
    STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
    Monday, Oct. 27 2008
    The Rams' passing game wasn’t good enough Sunday in New England. Rams coach Jim
    Haslett will concede that.

    But he didn’t blame quarterback Marc Bulger for the team’s 23-16 loss to the
    Patriots.

    “I thought Marc played OK,” Haslett said during his Monday news conference. “He
    didn’t have a lot of time. It was hard to step up at times. Marc will be fine.”

    Bulger threw for 301 yards and a touchdown while earning an 80.6 passer rating.
    That's not terrible.

    In the fourth quarter, though, he misfired on 11 of 16 passes.

    Sometimes he rushed passes. Sometimes he held the ball too long. Sometimes he
    threw fade-away passes off his back foot or a backpedal.

    “The two people who take the most heat on a football team are the head coach
    and the quarterback,” Haslett said. “That’s the way it’s going to be. If you
    lose the game, the head coach is to blame and the quarterback.

    “That comes with the game and the territory. I think Marc understands that and
    I surely understand it. That’s just the way it is.

    “I don’t think Marc was as bad as people make it out to be because you lost the
    game. I think he did some good things yesterday.”

    There were several mitigating circumstances that hurt Bulger as the game
    unfolded:


    * The Patriots kept steady pressure on Bulger, sacking him four times. They
    kept him from stepping up into the pocket and throwing with more authority. The
    Rams' pass blocking regressed.

    “We could have done a better job,” Haslett said. “You have to see who we’re
    playing against, too. Their front three guys are good football players, three
    first-round draft picks who have played a lot of ball. (Richard) Seymour is
    about as good as you’re going to get up front. We didn’t do as good as we would
    have liked.”


    * Rookie receivers Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton let their inexperience show
    on several key plays. In particular, they need to read blitzes and provide a
    “hot” target for Bulger.

    They must also run better routes to spread the defenders on the field.

    “He has a young group of receivers out there that are kind of learning each
    other, they missed a couple of ‘hots’,” Haslett said. “We did some things that
    if we had veterans in there who have been together for a while, they probably
    wouldn’t have happened.”


    * Torry Holt has become a non-factor in the offense. He catches the occasional
    short pass to move the chains, but he isn’t getting any separation on deeper
    routes.

    The Rams are putting Holt in motion, trying to get him off the line of
    scrimmage and into space. So far there hasn't been much payoff.

    * Running back Antonio Pittman did a solid job filling in for Steven Jackson,
    but the Patriots were able to back their safeties away from the box and sit on
    the Rams wideouts. Jackson would have abused New England for opening up the
    middle of the field.


    * In the absence of Randy McMichael, the surviving Rams tight ends weren’t a
    factor. That’s too bad, because, again, the Patriots vacated the middle of the
    field while shading toward the wideouts.

    Tight end Joe Klopfenstein has been playing with a torn wrist ligament -– but
    since he hasn’t been in the passing game, that injury has been noticeable.
    Newcomer Daniel Fells is trying to learn the offense on the fly.


    * In the latter part of the game, the Rams started too many possessions in
    poor field position. And they got into some tough down-and-distance scenarios.

    “We got ourselves in situations where it was third-and-long too many times
    against that team,” Haslett said.


    So all of those issues must be addressed as the Rams prepare for Arizona. We
    all know that Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner will put up numbers, so Bulger
    will need to do the same -– and he will need some more help to get that done.


  2. #2
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Blame Bulger? Not so fast, Rams fans

    * Rookie receivers Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton let their inexperience show
    on several key plays. In particular, they need to read blitzes and provide a
    “hot” target for Bulger.

    They must also run better routes to spread the defenders on the field.

    “He has a young group of receivers out there that are kind of learning each
    other, they missed a couple of ‘hots’,” Haslett said. “We did some things that
    if we had veterans in there who have been together for a while, they probably
    wouldn’t have happened.”
    Howard Balzer elaborated on this as it related to the late-game interception...

    The Rams still had hope as they drove to the New England 33-yard line. But the big play was not the third-down interception by Bulger, but rather wide receiver Keenan Burton failing to recognize a hot read on second down. Bulger threw it to where Burton should have turned around, but Burton kept going and the pass fell harmlessly to the ground. On the interception, it appeared Burton and Avery were too close to each other on their routes, which made it appear Bulger was throwing into triple coverage.

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