Rams lament missed chance
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Wednesday, Sep. 19 2007
Any time you hold a team to fewer than 200 yards of offense, it's a good day's
work in the NFL. In fact, it's almost a sure recipe for victory. Almost.
Against San Francisco on Sunday, the Rams' defense held the ***** to 186 yards.
It marked only the ninth time the Rams had held an opponent to under 200 yards
since the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995. But it also marked the first
time the Rams held an opponent under 200 — and lost. Which made the 17-16
defeat to the ***** even tougher to take at Rams Park.
"We didn't win the game," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "That's the
most important thing. We gave up a touchdown when really, we were in a great
situation to get off the field, and we didn't do it."
That would be a three-play sequence late in the third quarter that Haslett
would like to have back. The ***** faced a second-and-18 situation after
cornerback Ron Bartell sniffed out a reverse, and with some help from defensive
end James Hall, brought down the ballcarrier for an 8-yard loss.
But on second down, Maurice Hicks rushed for 7 yards even though the Rams were
stacking the box with an eight-man front. On third and 11, the Rams were in a
position to stop Hicks for a 5-yard gain on a short pass, but linebacker
Raonall Smith missed a tackle and Hicks squirted lose for another 5 yards.
"If we make the tackle, it's fourth and 5, and they're going to punt the ball,"
Instead it was fourth and 1, with Frank Gore busting free for a back-breaking
touchdown. It's well-documented by now that safety Corey Chavous went for the
ball instead of the tackle, with Gore spinning free. But plenty of other things
went wrong on the play.
Defensive tackle Adam Carriker and linebacker Brandon Chillar got blocked out
of the hole. Linebacker Will Witherspoon was in position to make a tackle
coming in from the right edge, but he tripped over teammate Leonard Little.
Even after Gore broke the line of scrimmage, Smith and Bartell were in position
to tackle Gore about 15 yards down field, but didn't.
"If you could take (any) back, those are the plays you would've taken back,"
Even so, the defense played well enough to win Sunday, in what was a
much-improved performance compared to the season-opening loss to Carolina. San
Francisco had only eight first downs, and went three and out on seven
possessions. Overall, the St. Louis defense seemed to play with greater
intensity and more of a sense of urgency.
"I thought we played very physical, and I thought we got after it pretty well,"
Haslett said. "Guys were into it. That was a great challenge to stop the
running back (Gore), and I thought we did a pretty good job of it. "
Even with the 43-yard run, Gore finished with a relatively modest 81 yards
Sunday, or 50 yards fewer than his average rushing totals in two games against
the Rams last season.
"I thought the front played solid," Haslett said. "Our linebackers ran downhill
and stepped up in the gap. The safeties stayed square when they tackled. ... So
it's night and day."
Based in large part on the work against San Francisco, the Rams are a
surprising 10th in the NFL in total defense, which ranks teams according to
yards allowed. Of those 10 teams, only the Rams, Philadelphia (No. 6), and
Kansas City (No. 7) are winless.
But the Rams are an uncharacteristic 18th in total offense and 23rd in scoring
offense. Clearly, it's time for the offense to step up. And even with the long
Gore run, you can't blame the defense for the *****' defeat.
"Everybody's pulling for one another because we want the offense to score
points," Haslett said. "Obviously, if we get leads and we score points, it
makes it a hell of a lot easier to play defense. We've just got to get a win
here, hopefully keep improving on defense, and the offense will get rolling and
all this stuff will go away."
DE Eric Moore, who was on the 53-man roster for Game 1, has been signed to the
practice squad, as has CB-return man Justin Phinisee, who was with Kansas City
in the preseason. ... OT Barry Stokes, OG Cosey Coleman, OG Keydrick Vincent,
DB Bhawoh Jue and DB Dovonte Edwards all visited Rams Park on Tuesday as street
free agents. But none was signed.
Re: Rams lament missed chance
How long has it been since we've read a postive article about our defense?
Hopefully they can keep it going.