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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Rams are playing blame game

    By Jim Thomas

    Believe it or not, coach Scott Linehan said it looked better on tape. But it would be hard to persuade Rams fans and most observers that the team's run defense was any better Sunday against Kansas City.

    "A lot of our problems this game is that we had three or four critical misalignments that cost us big plays," Linehan said Monday. "It had just a better look and a better feel of how we were hitting our (run) fits, and being in better position to stop the run."

    Maybe that's true from a technical standpoint. But if anything, it looked like an ugly repeat of what transpired a week earlier in San Diego:

    The Chargers' elite running back, LaDainian Tomlinson, piled up 183 rushing yards on the Rams; the Chiefs' elite running back, Larry Johnson, gashed the Rams for 172.

    The Chargers' top five runs accounted for 132 yards; the Chiefs' top five runs netted 107 yards.

    For the past two weeks, Rams coaches and players have thrown out terms such as "blown gap assignments'' and ''poor run fits'' as reasons for the team's porous run defense. If the Rams are having so much trouble getting lined up properly this far into the regular season, why not simplify things?

    Well, here's the really disturbing news: They did.

    "We simplified things this last week (against Kansas City)," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "On first and second down, we played maybe three (alignment) calls because of what they were doing. ... Because of all the things they were doing, we wanted our guys to just line up and play."

    But even with the simplifications, the Rams still had some busted plays on run defense. The most telling example came on just the third offensive play of the game for Kansas City.

    "Will (Witherspoon) tried to reset the front," Haslett said, referring to the Rams' middle linebacker.

    The secondary and the linebackers switched to the altered alignment. But for whatever reason, the front four didn't.

    The result?

    "Johnson got a crease and went 45 yards on us," Haslett said. "(Witherspoon) should not have reset it, but if he's going to, then everybody's got to play the call.

    "To me, the 45-yard run was inexcusable. It really hurt our football team, meaning we had them backed up. If we stop them, they're going to punt the ball, we're going to get the ball at midfield."

    It was a deflating play for the defense. Two short runs by Johnson, plus a false start penalty on the Chiefs, had Kansas City facing a third-and-9 situation from its 3-yard line before the breakout run.

    "We have to hold ourselves accountable to get lined up," Linehan said.

    Simply stated, the Rams aren't big enough, or talented enough, on their front seven to overcome alignment mistakes. If they're not lined up properly, they're going to get their teeth kicked in by good running backs, and that's a big part of what has happened the past two Sundays.

    "When you play Larry Johnson or LaDainian Tomlinson, if he's going to carry the ball 25 times, he's going to get 100 yards," Haslett said. "You live with it and you're actually happy with it because he's a pretty darn good running back. But he carries it 27 times, and three of them are for 81 yards, that's inexcusable."

    Besides the 45-yard run, Johnson also had gains of 16 yards (twice) and 15 yards (twice). On one of those 16-yard gains, Haslett said Witherspoon wasn't lined up right.

    "We're not playing with a cohesiveness," Haslett said. "I don't think there's a great trust right now, and that's big on defense. Everybody's got to have an understanding where everybody fits in the run game. You better have a trust that the guy that's (supposed) to be in that spot is going to be there. I think right now, we're not clean on that."

    Haslett said the Rams aren't making such alignment mistakes in practice. Then again, practice is practice. Things don't always go as scripted in the heat of a ballgame.

    "You've just got to communicate better," Haslett said. "The guys in the box have to communicate better. We're going to have to be exact in everything we do."

    Obviously, missing one of the team's top defenders, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, the past two games because of a broken hand hasn't helped.

    "It hurts not having him, but that's not an excuse because Dexter (Coakley) played pretty well," Haslett said.

    But Haslett conceded that Tinoisamoa's presence in the lineup has a calming effect on Witherspoon.

    "It hurts not having your starters in there," Haslett added. "But the injuries are part of the game, and we're going to have to deal with it better if he's not available this week."

  2. #2
    RamOfDenmark Guest

    Re: Rams are playing blame game

    Some pretty serious criticism for Witherspoon from Haslett, he's making the wrong changes in alignments, he's not lined up right himself etc. Combined with the blown plays in coverage these last 2 games have been awful performances for Witherspoon. Maybe Pisa's absence does have a bigger effect on the rest of our LB's than we thought, or maybe they're just mentally making the wrong choices out there. What is clear is that we desperately need Pisa back and need Witherspoon to play like he did in the beginning of the season, they're supposed to be 2 of our playmakers on defense, we can't stop anyone when one is absent and the other one is stinking it up.

  3. #3
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Rams are playing blame game

    Funny how a fan like myself is feeling like WW is playing great. Than you read what Haslett has to say about the last game. I guess as a fan the naked eye is misleading.

  4. #4
    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    Re: Rams are playing blame game

    There are always two sides to these things, though. If Witherspoon were interviewed (and if he felt comfortable speaking freely), you have to wonder if he would blame Haslett for not clearly explaining what alignments he wants from the front 7.

    Either way, not too thrilled with the notion that the Rams are not merely getting beat, but are out of sync as well.

  5. #5
    RamFan_Til_I_Die's Avatar
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    Re: Rams are playing blame game

    Quote Originally Posted by RamWraith View Post
    "Will (Witherspoon) tried to reset the front," Haslett said, referring to the Rams' middle linebacker.

    The secondary and the linebackers switched to the altered alignment. But for whatever reason, the front four didn't.

    The result?

    "Johnson got a crease and went 45 yards on us," Haslett said. "(Witherspoon) should not have reset it, but if he's going to, then everybody's got to play the call.
    I don't know what's more unsettling, the fact that Haslett doesn't want his defensive captain reading the offense and calling an audible or that when he does people aren't listening. I wish I could see the play they are talking about to see if the front 4 heard the change and chose to ignore it or if they just plain didn't hear.


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