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Gordo's Quarter-by-Quarter Recap [long]
The reconfigured Rams defense — led by new middle linebacker Trev Faulk — earned a three-and-out stop to open the game. The highlight: linebacker Dexter Coakley stuffing Texans running back Dominick Davis for a loss on second down.
The Rams enterted the game determined to ram Steven Jackson into Houston’s porous rush defense and keep the pressure off fill-in quarterback Jamie Martin.
Sure enough, Martin handed the ball to Jackson on their first play from scrimmage and he rambled for 18 yards. But two plays later, Jackson failed to block blitzing linebacker Morlon Greenwood and allowed him to Martin. That blown play helped doom the first possession and force the Rams to punt.
Not surprisingly, the Texans didn’t waste time attacking the young/makeshift Rams secondary. The Andre Johnson-Chris Johnson wasn’t favorable for the Rams, as we saw when quarterback David Carr fired the ball to Andre for a 33-yard gain.
A 13-yard run by Davis, an 11-yard pass to Johnson and a 10-yard run by Jonathan Wells set up Carr’s five-yard TD pass to Johnson. On that play, Chris Johnson played off Andre Johnson and gave him too much room to catch the ball, gather steam and bust a move.
The Texans have been an awful offensive team all season — especially in the first quarter — but they made covering 91 yards on nine plays look easy. In the absence of injured safety Adam Archuleta, rookie Jerome Carter and former receiver Mike Furrey struggled at the back end of the defense.
Down 7-0, the Rams needed to respond on offense. But they couldn’t. A holding penalty on rookie tackle Alex Barron hurt their cause, as did a third-down blitz by Greenwood — who blew past Marshall Faulk to sack Martin.
Despite Jackson’s ability to punish the Texans defense for big gains, the new Ground Vitt offense remained stalled.
On a third-and-nine play moments into the quarter, the Rams took away all the passing lanes . . . but allowed David Carr to scramble for a first down. Then Carr ran for another first down on the next play, keeping the ball on a bootleg call.
On that play, Rams safety Jerome Carter got sucked in by a play-action fake and abandoned the flat — leaving half the field open for Carr.
Rookie Rams cornerback Ronald Bartell has made great progress on the fly this season. So, naturally, he banged up his shoulder during this drive and forced return specialist Terry Fair to play a bigger role in the defense.
When the Rams finally came after Carr with a fierce safety blitz, the Texans quarterback lofted a 30-yard touchdown pass over defensive end Leonard Little to Dominick Davis releasing from the backfield. That gave the 1-9 Texans an early 14-0 lead.
The injury-riddled Rams “D” made Carr look like the second coming of Joe Montana. How could coordinator Larry Marmie let this happen?
With quarterback Jamie Martin knocked out of the game with a concussion, rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick got his first real NFL test. He took over early in the second quarter, giving the next Rams coach some footage to review while preparing for the 2006 season.
Fitzpatrick just missed hitting Isaac Bruce over the top for a big gainer on third down, so the Rams had to punt the ball away again.
Back came the Texans, with a key 19-yard completion to Jonathan Wells moving them toward scoring position. Carr threw the ball underneath coverage, but linebacker Brandon Chillar didn’t make the tackle that would have forced Houston to punt.
Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett slowed the onslaught by sacking Carr on third down in the red zone, but Kris Brown nailed a 39-yard field goal to push Houston’s lead to 17-0.
So much for the notion the Rams would keep the ball on the ground. This deficit forced the Rams to test Fitzpatrick’s passing skills and he hit a 20-yard completion to Isaac Bruce on a well-thrown ball. Then came completions to Torry Holt and Bruce again for two more first downs.
The kid has a heck of an arm, no?
Fitzpatrick also flashed his running skills, scrambling for a 10-yard gain and another first down. But the Rams stalled in the red zone, as they have under Martin and Marc Bulger. Jeff Wilkins finally put the Rams on the board with a 37-yard field goal.
Chris Johnson wiped out a fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff; he was called for going offside ahead off the kickoff. He took Texans return specialist Jerome Mathis off the hook for spitting the ball up.
What happened next? Naturally, Johnson got knocked out of his outside lane as Wells broke a 40-yard return to the Rams 29 — putting the Texans right back into scoring position.
Carr hit Andre Johnson for two more completions, then rolled out and found Corey Bradford for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
And the Texans led 24-3. Oh the humanity!
Down 24-3, the Rams regrouped at halftime and decided to pull left tackle Orlando Pace from the game to rest his balky hamstring muscle. (Rookie Alex Barron moved from right to left tackle and Rex Tucker entered the game at right tackle.)
Larry Turner also got into the fray at left guard, after rookie Claude Terrell got banged up.
The coaches also decided to feed Steven Jackson some more. He broke off runs of 18 and 9 yards to advance his team into Houston territory on the first possession of the second half.
Then the Rams picked up a first down in curious fashion. On a fourth-and-six play, Ryan Fitzpatrick got picked off by Marcus Coleman. But Rams receiver Isaac Bruce stripped the ball away on the interception return and Jackson alertly recovered it.
That gave Fitzpatrick the opportunity to loft a nice 19-yard TD pass to Torry Holt to cut Houston’s lead to 24-10.
So, yes, something positive did come from this game. Fitzpatrick proved himself worthy of future investment. He should be the No. 2 quarterback next season, with the opportunity to grow into a starting role in St. Louis or elsewhere.
Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa delivered a crunching blow on Texans quarterback David Carr on an all-out blitz. Trouble was, Carr completed his pass to Andre Johnson and Tinoisamoa was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul penalty for making a helmet-to-helmet hit.
So Houston marched right back into Rams territory. But the Texans drive stalled when Johnson couldn’t quite his a second foot down inbounds on a third-down pass — and then Kris Brown missed a 46-yard field goal.
This could have been a break for the Rams, but they managed just one first down on their next possession before punting the ball back to the Texans.
Carr got busy with Andre Johnson again, abusing Chris Johnson some more. I mean, it was almost criminal what the Texans did to the Rams cornerback. Johnson caught his ninth pass of the game, his 10th pass, his 11th pass . . .
The Rams defense opened the final quarter with a big play. When Texans quarterback David Carr rifled a pass off unsuspecting running back Dominick Davis, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa dove to field the carom.
Fitzpatrick started moving the ball again, handing it to Steven Jackson and throwing it to Madison Hedgecock, Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk. His bomb to Holt drew a pass interference call and put the ball on the Houston 7.
The Rams needed some help to get into the end zone, and they got it. First, a roughing-the-passer penalty on third down gave them additional chances. Then the officiating crew ruled Jackson down at the Texans 1, even though the ball was stripped from his hands before he was down.
(The play couldn’t be reviewed, since the officials had blown the play dead. Perhaps they were just committed to keeping the game close.)
Finally, on fourth down at Houston one-half yard line, Jackson dove into the end zone. Now the Rams were within a touchdown, at 24-17.
Would Houston get conservative while trying to eat up more of the fourth-quarter clock? No. Carr fired a 20-yard pass to Johnson to get the Texans back on the attack.
Carr’s 11-yard bootleg run moved the chains again and got the Texans into field goal range. After a flurry of plays, Rams timeouts and a Texans holding penalty, Kris Brown kicked a 35-yard field to push the Houston margin to 10 points, 27-17.
At this point, the Texans felt pretty good. The feeling would not last.
With just 2 minutes, 42 seconds left, the Rams needed to score quickly, recover the mandatory onside kick and score again. So Fitzpatrick had to get busy.
He gained one first down with a scramble. A completion to Holt earned another. A completion to Shaun McDonald earned another. A beautiful fourth-down throw to Isaac Bruce resulted in a 43-yard touchdown.
Wow. With 26 seconds left, the Rams had cut the Texans lead to 27-24. Jeff Wilkins scuffed a marvelous onside kick, Trev Faulk jarred the ball loose and Holt recovered it.
Do you believe in miracles? With 23 seconds left, the Rams had the ball at the Houston 48. On his second pass attempt, Fitzpatrick gunned an 18-yard completion to Holt to move the Rams into field goal range.
Sure enough, Wilkins nailed a 47-yard field goal to tie the game 27-27. The Rams scored 10 points in the final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter.
It was on to overtime!
Unfortunately, the Rams lost the coin toss and gave the Texans first chance to score.
The Texans opened with still another bootleg play, with David Carr firing a 15-yard completion to Marcellus Rivers. Running back Dominick Davis ran for another first down on a fake bootleg play.
With Houston moving perilously close to scoring position, Mike Furrey made a diving bid to intercept a tipped pass. The pass was ruled incomplete, though, and a replay review didn’t lead to a reversal.
But rookie safety O.J. Atogwe stepped up with huge play, sacking Carr on a third-down blitz and forcing the Texans to punt.
A holding penalty on Trev Faulk pinned the Rams on their 10, leaving them 90 yards from victory.
On third down, Fitzpatrick calmly completed an 11-yard pass to Torry Holt to keep the offense alive. Then a 19-yard completion to Holt moved the Rams to the middle of the field.
And then lightning struck — Fitzpatrick swung a pass to Kevin Curtis and he raced the distance, 56 yards, for the winning touchdown. The officials mulled over whether or not the Rams used an illegal formation on the play . . . and then agreed that they had not.
The Rams had a memorable 33-27 victory, an amazing highlight during an otherwise dismal season. At 5-7, the Rams still have virtually no shot to reach the playoffs.
But they certainly salvaged some pride in this game.
This was a gutty performance, coming back from a 24-3 deficit. This was strong testimony about interim coach Joe Vitt and his ability to kick some backside at halftime.
This game also spoke volumes about Fitzpatrick’s future — his mobility, arm strength and poise were all impressive in this game. The Next One is in the house.
Re: Gordo's Quarter-by-Quarter Recap [long]
Am i nuts or are we 5-6 rather than 5-7. we need all the help we can get, thanks gordo. who knows, maybe we are now on a roll to 10-6!
ramming speed to all