The defense designed to stop Steven Jackson failed to do so
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Turns out Scott Linehan was exaggerating Sunday when he said the Rams' offense faced extra Oakland defenders in the box on all but one play.
"Actually it was two," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Monday. "After we watched film this morning, it was two times where they actually opened up the middle of the field."
In passing situations, it meant more pressure in the form of blitzes. But mainly, the Raiders' defensive strategy was designed to stop Steven Jackson and the Rams' running game. But it didn't work. Even though he was running into what the coaches call "bad looks" or a "bad box" all day, Jackson churned out 127 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 31 carries.
"It was not a great situation to run the football into," Olson said. "But Steven Jackson was running the ball well. We were controlling the line of scrimmage. So we just felt that if we don't screw it up here offensively, they can't generate enough offensively right now to come back and beat us. So we decided to stick to the run game."
This approach marked a 180-degree change from the Nov. 19 debacle at Carolina. When faced with a stacked front against the Panthers, the Rams decided to ditch the run and pass the football. That played right into Carolina's hands. Jackson carried only seven times that day, and the Rams lost 15-0.
In Oakland, Olson said the coaching staff decided at halftime to keep pounding away with Jackson. As the game wore on, several Rams players encouraged Olson to keep dialing up runs.
"Stephen Davis, he thinks he's an assistant coach sometimes in the back of my ear," Olson said. "He said, 'Keep running (Jackson) until his tongue falls out.'
"And Torry Holt said somewhere near the end of the third quarter: 'Put it on his shoulders. Let 39 win this thing for us.' "
Upon further review
After the Monday Night meltdown on kickoff coverage against Devin Hester and the Chicago Bears, the Rams bounced back against Oakland's Chris Carr. Carr entered the game ranked fifth in the NFL in kickoff returns, with a 26.1 average, but averaged a modest 23 yards Sunday on five returns. It helped that the Rams loaded their kickoff coverage unit with linebackers: Jon Alston, Jamal Brooks, Raonall Smith, and Isaiah Kacyvenski. Maybe the dancing helped, too. Taking their cue from whatever music was on the McAfee Coliseum sound system during TV timeouts, the Rams moved to the beat before each Jeff Wilkins boot.
"We were just getting excited to cover," Alston said. "We've got to make sure we go down there and do our jobs. But we were just having fun. That's what the game's about."
— CB Jerome Carter (ankle) is questionable after missing the past 2 games.
— RB Stephen Davis suffered a right-hand injury against Oakland and needed further testing to determine its exact nature.
— CB Tye Hill (thigh) missed a couple of plays with leg cramps Sunday but his thigh is doing better.
— OG Adam Timmerman (ribs) remains questionable.
"We knew they weren't going to let (Marc Bulger) drop back too often on us or else we'd (crush) him. We knew they were going to lean on the big boy as much as possible." — Raiders DT Warren Sapp, on RB Steven Jackson.
For the first time since 1993, the Rams have shutouts for and against, in the same season.
Since the move to St. Louis, the Rams are 1-5 against Washington, including an 0-4 mark in the building now known as the Edward Jones Dome