Draft's Sporting News article
Posted: December 20, 2007
Rams linebacker Chris Draft, in his 10th NFL season, is writing an online column for Sporting News.
It's that time of the season: We're playing a Thursday night game against the Steelers, which means we have a short week to prepare, coming off our Sunday game against the Packers.
Typically, when we play a Sunday game, our heaviest preparation days are Wednesday and Thursday; that's when we're doing our most extensive game-plan work. On Friday we would work on specialized situations, Saturday we would have the walk-through, and you go to the hotel to prepare for Sunday's game.
Essentially, with a Thursday game, we have to cram three real days of preparation into one and a half. Sure, it's a quick turnaround, but both are in the same situation, so it's not like someone gets a huge advantage. The game plans may not be quite as specific to the other team, but at this point in the year, you pretty much know what your team does well -- and what the opponent does well -- so there aren't a lot of changes.
Even in a short week, we still get a day off, though. Especially at this point in the season, you can't sacrifice rest. You need to maintain the balance, and our coaches know that.
As for our opponent this week, the Steelers may have a new coach, but they don't seem to have missed a beat. They look like the same old tough Steelers. They play well as a team, and Willie Parker is a really explosive back who always runs hard.
Then there's quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He's a big boy, but he definitely knows how to move around. And let me tell you, a guy doesn't have to be labeled a "mobile" quarterback to be tough for a defense to stop when he's on the move. It's all about knowing when to run. With some QBs, you wouldn't think they can run fast at all, but they pick their spots and gain yards at crunch time. As a defender, when a quarterback is able to scramble for that first down, it's one of those plays that can get you mad.
Tony Romo is really mobile when it comes to gaining yards at crunch time, in the sense that he may not run all over the place, but he'll do enough to move the chains and get a first down. Matt Hasselbeck does the same thing.
Going back to Roethlisberger, I'm not going to say he's a proven Brett Favre-guy, but he does similar things, moving around in the pocket to give his receivers the opportunity to work downfield and to buy himself time to find them. And that makes life tougher for us defenders.
• Speaking of Brett Favre, yes, he broke Dan Marino's mark for career passing yards against us last Sunday. As a defender, I think it's obvious you definitely never want your team to be the team a guy like that breaks the record on. Of course, Brett has played well for a long time, and if he's able to get those yards for the record while we still win the game, it stings a whole lot less. Because that's what it's all about: holding down the other team to win the game, not worrying about records.
That said, we didn't get the win last Sunday. We matched the Packers score for score early, and we also played with the same intensity as they did in the first half. Going into the second half, we were only down 17-14. After halftime, though, we allowed them to get some momentum early. When a team is playing you in your house, especially, you can't afford to let them get rolling like that. We mostly held them to field goals in the second half, but that's not going to be enough to win the game against a team like that.
The biggest positives our team can take from that loss? Steven Jackson came out huge for us, rushing for 143 yards in his best game of the season. His big day also showed that our offensive line, as beat up as it has been this season, going through so many different starters, is turning into a cohesive group. And on defense, O.J. Atogwe came up with two interceptions and is now tied for second in the NFL in that category. That's something cool he'll always be able to say: In the game where Brett Favre set the career passing mark, he came up with two interceptions.
• If you watched the Packers-Rams game, your eyes didn't deceive you: I was whistled for being offside on Green Bay's second offensive play of the game. I won't make excuses for it, but I will say that with as much pressure as our defense has been putting on opponents with different blitz packages, one of the ways teams are trying to slow us down is by working the snap count. Brett Favre is arguably the best quarterback ever, and you don't get that label without learning to do all the little things well. One of those things is that he's one of the best in the league at mixing up the counts, something a lot of quarterbacks can't handle. Unfortunately, he caught me with it.
• I'll admit, I don't know exactly how individual players initially find out they're going to the Pro Bowl; unfortunately, that means I've never been to one. But after Pro Bowl announcements come out, coach will basically gather everyone at the end of practice and announce who made it, which is nice because, especially if you're not going, you don't always know who is. Everybody gives a good hand. Torry Holt made it again for us, getting his seventh invite, and Donnie Jones, who has done a great job punting for us, is the second alternate.