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    HornIt's Avatar
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    HornItís Rams vs. Raiders review Ė The Revenge of Chris Johnson

    Yes folks itís true. The thing you never, ever, thought could possibly happen, happened.

    Rams castoff Chris Johnson, the guy who stepped out of bounds on the Rams own 1 yard line on a kickoff return the first time he ever touched the ball as a Ram, made the Rams pay dearly Saturday night for their decision to set him adrift in the NFL sea of uncertainty. Well, he hooked on with the Raiders and haunted the Rams much of the night, be it with his excellent coverage or his TD saving big plays such as knocking the ball out of Fitzharvardís hands as he was driving for the goal line and through the back of the end zone.

    This was just sort of the way the entire night went. Nothing much went right. What could go wrong did go wrong. Even what we thought couldnít go wrong, such as Johnson getting his revenge, went wrong.

    Funny thing though is, after digesting my first viewing of the game and then watching it again on NFLN this afternoon, maybe not as much actually went wrong as I thought it did initially, and as a lot of people thought it did initially. At least, not as many fundamentally bad things came out of the game as it first appeared.

    This would seem to give credence to the age old adage, never do game analysis after only one emotionally invested viewing of the game. You may just see things much differently after youíve had a chance to get over the original disappointment of the results not being exactly what you were hoping for. Thatís what happened to me this time anyway.

    Watching it all again, really only two things stuck out in my mind as being responsible for how bad things appeared on first viewing last night. Those two things were penalties and Bulger, in that order.

    The key play in every Raiders scoring drive was some kind of key penalty, and not just any old penalty, but big, huge, game changing penalties. 10 penalties for 157 yards, and the worst thing about that is, several of them truly were completely bogus calls. But even if they werenít, itís better news than the initial news that they simply got their butts whooped. That actually didnít happen.

    Additionally, contrary to the popular narrative thus far, they were not conservative on offense and they did actually show quite a bit of their passing game, and they were making a concerted effort to go vertical and get the ball downfield. The thing is, they (mostly Bulger in this case) just didnít execute.

    Think of 44 passes and 17 rushes, averaged 13 yards per completion and does that sound conservative to you? Does that sound like they didnít open up at least a little? The problem on offense last night was not a lack of imagination, it was a lack of execution.

    So, letís take a look at it.
    Offense

    OL

    Initially I thought the O-line played fairly poorly, but on second review, they really didnít play poorly. Protection was actually quite good throughout the entire game. Only one sack was allowed and that was on Fitzpatrick late in the 4th quarter. While Bulger got some pressure, for the most part he was kept pretty darn clean. Sometimes I think we expect a perfect pocket every time or we see it as bad protection, but no team lives up to that standard and the Rams didnít last night either, but they did do a fairly good job of protecting the QB. It should have been a good enough job to allow the plays to work for the most part.

    Run blocking was a bit of a different story as none of the versions of the O-line they put on the field last night really opened up a lot of holes. It was interesting that Milford Brown got the start in place of Incognito, and once again, he played almost the entire game at RG. Terrell played a little bit there late in the 2nd quarter, and then moved over to LG for Setterstrom in the 2nd half. While Terrell played pretty well, Brown really didnít. Of the problems the O-line had last night, Brown was responsible for a lot of them. Barron got beat by Burgess once and Pace gave up some pressure to the Raiders rookie 5th round draft pick Richardson, but it wasnít consistent. You have to give the Raiders defense something. They are very good and they certainly challenged the Rams O-line all night, but the Rams help up much better than I think theyíve been given credit for thus far.

    QB

    From the opening play, Bulger was doing what fans have been asking for all pre-season and going vertical in this game. He hit Bruce on a 40 opening play bomb, that had it not been a bit overthrown may have gone the distance. But Bruce had to extend out and dive for it. The trend of 7 step drop passing play calls continued throughout Bulgerís time in the game. The problem here wasnít that they werenít calling the medium and deep stuff, the problem is that Bulger only completed 8 of his 21 attempts, often missing open receivers, such as a wide open Bruce for what would have been another big gainer on the 3rd play of the first drive by a mile and throwing the ball far over Bruceís head out of the end zone when he had no pressure on him at all and a wide open McMichael in the end zone in front of Bruce. McMichael would later throw a fit on the sideline because he was missed for TDís twice in this game, the other being a throw Bulger failed to get over Burgessí outstretched hands that was batted down.

    Batted down passes was another theme. This has been a problem in more than just this game, but I lost count of how many got batted in this game, whether was Bulger, Frerotte or Fitzpatrick in there. It seemed like virtually every 3 step drop play Bulger attempted got swatted back in his face. This could be blamed partially on the O-line not getting defenderís hands down, but Rams QBís must also bear some responsibility for not finding lanes and throwing through them. Also for their low deliveries. Seems like all the Rams QBís have low deliveries. Still, as mentioned before, Bulgerís 8 completions did go for 109 yards, which is a hefty average per completion and Frerottes 10 completions went for 108 yards. They were going down the field.

    For the second week in a row Frerotte outplayed Bulger, but I wouldnít get too worried about this. Bulger is notoriously bad in pre-season. I donít know what it is, but I think we can feel confident that heíll be alright at this point. Again though, I think itís important to stress that protection, while not perfect, was good enough.

    RB

    Steven Jackson once again did his best LT impersonation. He did see the field on the very first play though. After that, however, all we saw of him was him sitting on the sidelines with that goofy looking little cap set precariously atop that enormous do.

    Leonard and Minor split what essentially were the carries in this game, getting 6 apiece and struggling to gain some measure of consistency. But we did see some nice runs, included the Leonard Leap run that was a thing of beauty actually even before the leap. Leonard did a great job of bouncing that run, designed to go inside, to the outside and picking up 15 yards in the process. Unlike last week, the Rams did not focus on just hammering the runs up the middle. They mixed it up a bit and tried the outside a little.

    The dearly departed Kay-Jay Harris had a nice run off Tackle for 8 and Alexis got to nondescript carries and that was about it. The Rams really didnít commit much to the running game in this game. It was pretty clear they wanted to throw it and open it up a little bit through the air this week. Ah, but we also canít forget Fitzharvardís 30 yard scamperÖ..that ended with Mr. Revenge knocking the ball out through the back of the end zone and costing the Rams yet another chance at 6.

    WR

    Bruuuuuuuuuuuuce!! Yeah, heís still got it and he looked grrrreat in this game. Not only did he have the big catch to open the game, but he had the chance to have a couple more big catches that didnít make it to him. But he still pulled down 4 for 77 yards, including another nice deep in pattern that looked like classic Rams. The disappointment was that there was no Holt, so Bennett filled that spot and had a couple big catches, but also dropped a crucial 3rd down pass that he should have held onto for a 1st down.

    We also finally got to see Looker and Hall at WR and they both showed well too. Plus, Hagans continued to impress with a super grab for a TD where he had to lay out and stayed inbounds by getting dragging his knee. See, whatís with all this bad news? The WRís looked good. The problem again was not enough good throws that made it to them.

    TE

    McMichael appears tired of not getting looked at, and when he is looked at, not getting the ball accurately to him. Hey, at least he showed heís a competitor and cared, even though it was only a preseason game. Also, he continued to demonstrate that he is a superb in-line blocker and a real asset to this team even if heís not catching passes.

    Klops continued to struggle with a critical penalty and drop, both in the red zone that cost them the chance to put up 6. Week in and week out Klops continues to struggle. Itís a good thing the Rams picked up McMichael.

    Walker caught a couple and looked like his usual steady self. There was not a Byrd sighting.

    Defense

    Things get interesting here because I really thought defense was a disaster after the first viewing and Iíve changed my mind on that quite a bit after the second. Again, it was penalties, but if you remove those the run D was pretty solid and the coverage was pretty tight.

    D-line

    People arenít going to believe this, but it was actually a very good showing for the D-line. They got a lot of pressure all night long. They help up pretty well against the run. The main point of criticism here is that they did not contain well and Culpepper and McCown both hurt them with scrambles.

    I thought James Hall really stood out in this game though. He was stacking up at the point of attack well and he was chasing down the line well and hitting people and he was a demon with the pass rush. The Raiders could not handle him. You also had Wroten and Glover giving pretty good push on the inside and Little was active as well. Again, they were getting good pressure with just their front 4 and that was good to see.

    Carriker played better than I initially thought, but was still a mixed bag. He had a real chance to stuff a run at the goal line and didnít get it done, letting the RB slide by him. He also does not get a good push on the pass rush inside. But, he was also making some plays against the run and causing a few problems by clogging up the inside. It was kind of strange because it appeared as though he was told not to disengage with the O-lineman no matter what because on a couple plays, he was completely with his back to the line of scrimmage and was still battling the guy. He was just inconsistent Iíd say, which we should expect at this point I would guess.

    I thought Glover played particularly well. He was strong against the run and was generating some inside pressure. He and Wroten were combining to be a force in the pass rush, though Wrotenís strength continues to be as a pass rusher and not as a run stopper.

    I mentioned how contain was a problem for the D-line and I think part of that problem comes from Littleís fairly predictable outside move. The OT takes him wide and leaves a huge lane for a QB to escape through. Thatís where Culpepper was getting through and into the secondary. So even though Little was doing a good job getting pressure, he was leaving alleys for the QB to escape.

    Adeyanju got time at RDE and was solid against the run, but didnít generate much pass rush. He was actually the one that got sucked in on the Higgins reverse that went for big yards, not Hall, but that didnít look like his responsibility. The Rams were slanting to the opposite side on that play and Adeyanju was slanting along with everybody else. I think it was Bartell who should have made that play, and in fact, later in the game the Raiders ran the same exact reverse to Higgins again and Fakhir Brown was right there to make the play for a loss.

    Moore showed well while he was in there and may have sewn up the last DE spot. I think itís going to be close between him and Johnson, if they do keep a 4th DE anyway. Sandige may have sealed his fate when the Rams had to call time out because he wasnít on the field when he was supposed to be. Linehan did not look happy. Neither did Holt actually, who could be seen in the background shaking his head.

    LB

    Tinoisomoa was the standout at LB in this game. He only was credited for a couple of tackles but he was in on more than that, and those 2 tackles were good ones. He stuffed Jordan hard for a loss on one and stayed home on the weak side and make a nice tackle in space on another. He was all over the place.

    I thought it was another disappointing game for Witherspoon, he still does not seem to be taking well to the responsibility of being a run stuffer. And I was not at all happy with Witherspoonís effort on that long screen pass play at the end of the first half that resulted in a 49 yard gain and late first half score by the Raiders. Witherspoon should have been the one making that play, or at least taking out one of Jordanís blockers but instead Witherspoon made a move to avoid contact and took himself right out of that play. Witherspoon has not had a good particularly good pre-season and heís one of those guys that we need to turn it on when the time comes.

    Chillar did OK against the run, but struggled in pass defense. His long PI call was yet another in a long list of defensive penalties that gave the Raiders huge chunks of yards and allowed their offense to stay on the field. He actually had pretty good position too, if he just turns and looks for the ball. But I thought it was a close call none the less and often times that wonít be called.

    Draft was OK and Culberson didnít show much but Alston had another big night when it comes to tackles. 10 total tackles? When did they all come? They all came late in the game during garbage time, but still, heís been showing up lately and youíve got to like that.

    DB

    It gets tricky here because their blessing was also their curse in this game. I thought the coverage itself over all by the DBís in this game was actually very good. Problem was, it was so good the refs couldnít tell the difference between tight coverage and pass interference or hands to the face, or defensive holding or you name it. It was interesting seeing the Raiders pick on Tye Hill rather than Bartell, but thatís what they did, and they got a big penalty call on pretty much every one of their first half drives that kept them on the field. That was the reason the performance of the overall defense is perceived to have been so bad, but it really wasnít outside of these penalties, which again, werenít all legitimate penalties in my opinion. I want to be both critical of the DBís and praise them here and Iím not sure how much of which to do.

    Anyway, as mentioned Hill was tested and he was on the receivers like glue. He still needs to work on his ball skills and his height didnít help him last night either as a few passes sailed over his outstretched hands to where they could have been completed, but turned out to be either a PI or hands to the face that cost them instead. He also was narrowly beat on the TD play where he had good coverage, but the throw was right there and then Hill missed the tackle, which was difficult to make, but he could have made it. Again though, the coverage was tight.

    On the other side Bartell played better than he has been, though he wasnít tested all that much. Heís not as strong in run support as Brown is though and the Rams will miss that until Brown gets back. Brown, however, continued to give up catches last night and often seems to be just a tad late in coverage, though again, heís the guy you want out there on 1st and 2nd downs.

    The Safety who I think keeps showing up is Todd Johnson. Heís the best S in run support we have I think and he was shooting in there and making tackles again last night. Chavous made a couple plays in coverage too and Atogwe was mostly invisible. I actually kind of liked what I saw of Kirkland last night. He was around the ball and unafraid to stick his nose in there.

    Wade, I thought, continued to look like heís going to be a good player. He too showed tight coverage, though he did give up one reception, but he was right there to make the tackle too. He also came up and made a nice open field tackle again, though Iím sure some will accuse him of ankle biting on it. He went low, which he should have in this case considering the RB had a full head of steam. He made the play. Walls did nothing, which wasnít bad. He neither gave up a play nor made one.

    Overall Ė The game wasnít nearly as bad as it first looked. The Rams did play hard, if not terribly smart. There was no problem with a lack of fire except maybe on Bulgerís part, but he always looks like heís lacking fire. I think they look like a tired team though that has a good case of camp legs and that could use a little rest. Itís been a tough, very hot camp and Linehanís been working them in the heat intentionally and keeping them in pads and keeping them hitting to prepare them for those early warm weather games. The fatigue, more than anything else, maybe responsible for the mistakes such as penalties and missed tackles that weíre seeing. But, if they reduce or eliminate some of those things that game last night would have looked much different. The Rams were not out-physicalled and they were not dominated in any area where it really counted. They were tortured to death with penalties and sub-par QB play. Itís really as basic as that.


  2. #2
    ramsanddodgers's Avatar
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    Re: HornItís Rams vs. Raiders review Ė The Revenge of Chris Johnson

    vgj! Too bad my ADD kicked in. I'll try to pick up where I left off later. VN summary!
    RnD

    GO RAMS!!

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    BigGameMN's Avatar
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    Re: HornItís Rams vs. Raiders review Ė The Revenge of Chris Johnson

    I'm sick of hearing things like "I know this looked bad, but....". Sometimes what you see is what you get. This is no knock against the OP, I understand what your saying. It's just the time for excuses is growing to a close and we better start to perform.

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    Re: HornItís Rams vs. Raiders review Ė The Revenge of Chris Johnson

    i didnt catch the game or highlights just saw the score and was kinda disappointed but after reading this i kinda feel at ease knowing we didnt get the field mopped with our jerseys thanxz:r
    Torry Holt Dont play that

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    Re: HornItís Rams vs. Raiders review Ė The Revenge of Chris Johnson

    Another really top notch review horn-it, i've come to really look forward to reading your stuff.

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    Re: HornItís Rams vs. Raiders review Ė The Revenge of Chris Johnson

    Very nice review! I agree with you on Spoon-he is not playing well, I know he is not your typical MLB but I expect him to make plays or at least tackle.



    :seasux:

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    HornIt's Avatar
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    Re: HornItís Rams vs. Raiders review Ė The Revenge of Chris Johnson

    Quote Originally Posted by BigGameMN View Post
    I'm sick of hearing things like "I know this looked bad, but....". Sometimes what you see is what you get. This is no knock against the OP, I understand what your saying. It's just the time for excuses is growing to a close and we better start to perform.
    Well, I understand that, but it is the pre-season and if you're analyzing what's happening you have to do so in that context.

    When the regular season starts, scoreboard is ultimately all that matters. In the pre-season, it's much different I think.

    Pre-season IS the time for excuses. What you see is rarely what you get there. The key is sifting through it to find what matters and what doesn't. That's what I'm trying to do, though I have no idea if I'm able to successfuly do it or not.

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