Four big plays sink Rams' 'D'
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett saw a lot of good things from his players Sunday in San Francisco.
"We played good enough to win in the red zone," Haslett said. "And in 2-minute. Goal line was outstanding; that's probably about as good as you're going to see. The third-down efficiency was good, except for the third-and-12."
But, oh, those big plays. They made Monster Park a chamber of horrors for the St. Louis defense in a 20-13 loss.
"It was the four big plays in the game that really defined that game for us," Haslett said.
The Rams entered the contest as the top-ranked pass defense in the NFL. They fell to No. 10 after allowing pass completions of 72, 56 and 34 yards by ***** quarterback Alex Smith. Those three plays accounted for 162 of San Francisco's 233 passing yards.
The fourth big play was a 32-yard touchdown run by Frank Gore.
"I thought we would do better," Haslett said. "I'm disappointed in the big plays. ... Even in the first game (against Denver), we gave up three big plays. If we can eliminate those and make people go the long way and earn things, then you have a better chance of winning."
Even so, the Rams fell just shy of their weekly goal of yielding 17 or fewer points a game.
"If you can hold somebody to 17 points, you have a chance to win most of your games in the NFL," Haslett said.
But big plays alone accounted for 17 of San Francisco's points. Gore's touchdown run followed a 59-yard kickoff return by Maurice Hicks that set up the ***** on the St. Louis 34 to start the second half.
Antonio Bryant's 72-yard touchdown reception came on the aforementioned third-and-12 play later in the third quarter.
The 56-yard reception, by Arnaz Battle, resulted in the first of two field goals by Joe Nedney.
Only the 34-yard reception, by Bryant, didn't produce points because San Francisco turned over the ball on the St. Louis 2.
So what happened to the Rams' defense on those four big plays? There was no common thread.
On the Gore TD run, the Rams simply overran the play.
On Battle's 56-yard catch, cornerback Tye Hill slipped in coverage.
Bryant's 72-yard TD came on a busted coverage by free safety Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe.
As for the 34-yard catch by Bryant, Haslett blamed himself.
"I'll take that," Haslett said. "It was a bad call. ... We probably shouldn't have called it vs. that team because of all the shifting and motion. And we got confused."
In breaking down the play, Haslett provided a snapshot of the intricacies of the new Rams defense.
The coverage called for the Rams to play zone on one side and man-to-man on the other half of the field. But when the ***** sent their tight end in motion, the coverage responsibilities switched.
As a result, when Bryant ran a "drag" route across the field, he started out in a zone coverage area and entered a man coverage area, instead of vice versa. Trouble was, there was no defensive back left to cover Bryant on that side of the field, because cornerback Fakhir Brown was blitzing. That left Bryant isolated on a linebacker, a matchup the wide receiver is going to win nine times out of 10 tries.
Compounding the problem was the fact that defensive end Leonard Little was unaware that Brown was blitzing. As a result, Little rushed wide, unwittingly, right into Brown's path. Otherwise, Brown might have gotten to Smith before he released the ball.
Because of the tight-end motion, the blitz switched from the left side of the field to the right side.
"Leonard didn't get the call," Haslett said. "Leonard's supposed to come underneath the (offensive) tackle, and Fakhir has a clean shot at the quarterback. It's an unfortunate thing. Everybody got the call but one guy."
Normally a left end, Little spent a good part of the day on the right side.
"We were trying to get a mismatch," Haslett said. "We thought one advantage going into the game, with them having a couple guys injured, would be our defensive line against a couple guys ... that haven't played a lot."
But left tackle Adam Snyder and left guard Tony Wragge, replacing the injured Jonas Jennings and Larry Allen for the *****, held up well. The Rams hit Smith several times but failed to register a sack.
"Give them credit," Haslett said. "They did a good job of protecting, keeping the tight end in, and sliding the protection to make sure we couldn't get there.
"I would've liked to have gotten more pressure. The big thing is, they ran the ball a heck of a lot, and kind of kept us off balance when we could blitz, and when we couldn't."
Loverne, Tucker visit
Free agents David Loverne and Ross Tucker worked out for the team Tuesday at Rams Park. No signing appears imminent in either case; the Rams routinely look at players over the course of the season as possible injury replacements, among other things.
Loverne, an offensive guard, was out of the NFL last year but has played in 63 games with 24 starts, most recently with Detroit in 2004. He spent the 2003 season with the Rams but appeared in only one game.
Tucker, a guard-center, has played in 35 NFL games with 17 starts, most recently for New England.
Re: Four big plays sink Rams' 'D'
I think we could live with a one or two big plays per game if that is the necessary trade-off for playing aggressive on defense. Against Denver, the trade-off (5 turnovers vs. 2-3 big plays) was a good one. Against San Fran, it wasn't.
Of course, none of this will matter until the offense starts scoring some points.
Re: Four big plays sink Rams' 'D'
Oh man those 4 plays nearly killed me. I didn't realize it until after my wife pointed it out, but after Bryant's 72 yard TD I was slamming my Rams hard hat so hard against the top of the seat in front of me in Monster park that I cracked the plastic right down the middle. Oops. :)
And yes, we blew it big time on those plays and gave them the game. Was fgut wrenching to witness in person, especially with hundreds of whiner fans giving me crap the entire game.