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    Rams-Niners study session:

    Rams-Niners study session: Defense


    By Nick Wagoner | ESPN.com

    EARTH CITY, Mo. -- After a two-game in five days sprint last week, we fell a bit behind on our study sessions, but we’re back despite some troubles with the All-22 film on the San Francisco game.

    Considering we’re dealing with two Rams’ games -- at Dallas and home against San Francisco -- this week’s version of study session will be condensed, with a bit more overarching thoughts buoyed by examples from those games.

    On to the defense:

    The first thing that stands out from the Dallas to the San Francisco game is the increased aggressive approach by the defense against the Niners. The Rams played more man coverage, and early in the game it seemed to be working. Eventually, the Niners were able to hammer away with the run game and it opened some things up for San Francisco.

    Janoris Jenkins is off to a strong start in coverage despite some recent penalties.
    Cornerback Janoris Jenkins is playing better than the penalties that have been going against him might indicate. He’s been victimized by some borderline calls, the type of calls that second-year players don’t normally get against veterans like Anquan Boldin. But Jenkins was sticky in coverage and seems to be timing his attempts at pass breakups better. It was actually a bit surprising the Rams didn’t shadow Boldin with Jenkins given the Niners’ lack of other pass-catching threats.

    The other player who showed up against San Francisco was middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. He had probably his best game of the season with 12 tackles, and broke up a pair of deep passes down the field.

    Unfortunately for the Rams, there wasn’t much more to write home about, especially in trying to stop running back Frank Gore.

    The Rams greatly missed William Hayes (knee injury) in this game. Ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn struggled to set the edge, and tackles Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford didn’t get much push up the middle.

    On a pair of Gore’s long runs, including his 34-yard touchdown, Brockers and Langford get wiped out and it allows a blocker to get to the second level to remove the linebackers. Niners guard Mike Iupati pulls right on Gore’s touchdown, and is able to bury Alec Ogletree and open the path to the end zone, in no small part because the defensive tackles are taken out of the play.

    In last season’s two meetings with the Niners, the Rams had great success against Colin Kaepernick by turning up the heat with the blitz. This season, not so much. The Rams blitzed 10 times, less than the 60 percent rate they did in 2012, and Kaepernick had success against it. Although the Rams got home for a sack once, Kaepernick completed seven-of-eight for 71 yards and two touchdowns.

    The Rams don’t seem to be getting home much on the blitz at all this season, and many of the blitzes seem to be telegraphed. Slow-developing blitzes such as the one that came on Kaepernick’s first touchdown pass to Boldin seem to keep popping up. On that play, the Rams rushed just three down linemen, but then linebackers Ogletree and Laurinaitis circled around to the right side. Neither got anywhere near Kaepernick, who got the ball out quick as Boldin beat the struggling Cortland Finnegan for a touchdown.

    We’ll add special teams in this space again with a nod to punter Johnny Hekker, who is quietly having a Pro Bowl caliber season.



    Rams-Niners study session: Offense


    EARTH CITY, Mo. -- After a two-game-in-five-days sprint last week, we fell a bit behind on our study sessions, but we’re back despite some troubles with the all-22 film on the San Francisco game.

    Considering we’re dealing with two Rams games -- at Dallas and home against San Francisco -- this week’s version of study session will be condensed with a bit more overarching thoughts buoyed by examples from those games.

    Let’s start with the offense.

    The offensive line has struggled mightily in the past two games, especially on the interior. Running lanes have been few and far between and quarterback Sam Bradford has had few opportunities to step up in the pocket when pressure comes from the edge.

    What’s most damaging is the amount of pressure the Cowboys and Niners got without blitzing. Bradford was blitzed just 17 times in those games and actually did quite well against the added pressure, completing 13 of those passes for 128 yards while being sacked just once. That means on 83 other drop-backs, Bradford faced normal pressure and was sacked 10 times. In San Francisco’s case, all five sacks came from rushing four or fewer. None of the Rams' running backs have showed much in pass protection, either.

    Daryl Richardson has had little room to run.
    The Niners also brought out another on-going issue the Rams have in the passing game: batted passes. I had them down for three more against Bradford and that number continues to grow. Those amount to lost plays, too.

    Obviously things aren’t much better in the run game. The rushing totals speak for themselves and there’s really not any one person to point the finger at. Center Scott Wells and the two guards, Chris Williams and Harvey Dahl really struggled to create openings.

    Maybe more disappointing are the struggles of the Rams' tight ends blocking. Nobody expected Jared Cook to contribute much in that area and he’s lived up to that reputation so far (including a number of whiffs against the Niners) but even Lance Kendricks has had some struggles. Niners linebacker Ahmad Brooks manhandled Kendricks on an early Daryl Richardson run that went for no gain.

    To be sure, the blame doesn’t fall totally on the line for the Rams’ offensive struggles. None of the Rams' running backs had any success finding ways to get yards after contact on the rare occasions they weren’t swallowed up immediately. Any yards Richardson gained after contact were simply a function of falling forward when tackled.

    As for Bradford, the protection wasn’t good but he also looked as uncomfortable against San Francisco as he has in a long time. In the early part of the game, Bradford stood in the pocket despite pressure and delivered some strikes, but when the pressure piled up, that confidence seemed to vanish.

    The two most glaring missed chances were, of course, the misfire intended for Austin Pettis that Bradford had too much heat on under pressure. A little air under it and it’s a touchdown. Should have been a layup regardless of circumstance. Also, it’s perhaps a bit overlooked but Bradford’s interception to San Francisco safety Donte Whitner was another bad miss. Whitner made a heck of a play on it but there was an open window in which to drop the pass to Brian Quick that would have resulted in a big play or even a touchdown. On the play, Bradford underthrew the pass, it got deflected by Niners corner Tramaine Brock and Whitner intercepted it. You’d like Quick to be more physical to at least get it knocked away but this one was on Bradford. There was space over Quick’s outside shoulder to put that ball and he wasn’t able to do it in that spot. The result was a third-and-1 interception and the Rams got no points out of it.

    Bradford was also lucky that the Niners missed a few opportunities for easy interceptions.


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    Re: Rams-Niners study session:

    Bradford was also lucky that the Niners missed a few opportunities for easy interceptions.
    Yes, lucky too that that completion to Cook came off from a sure INT dropped by a Ninnie defender.

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