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Thread: Rams team report
Rams team report
USA TODAY 09/14/2010
As much as there was optimism after the Rams took the Cardinals to the wire before losing 17-13 Sunday, it's interesting to wonder what would have happened had they not acquired wide receiver Mark Clayton six days before the game.
Clayton became available when Baltimore signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and they sent Clayton and a seventh-round draft pick to the Rams for a sixth-round pick.
With just three days of practice, Clayton caught 10 passes for 119 yards. One player that wasn't surprised was center Jason Brown, who played with Clayton when both were with the Ravens.
Brown said Clayton is "very smart and very disciplined" and as for what he did in practice last week, Brown added, "We were making compliments and commenting on that all week long, how he came in and didn't have a single mental error at practice. Never lined up wrong, never ran a wrong route. He was on top of it since Day One."
Clayton spent time after practice working with quarterback Sam Bradford, and each evening was studying the playbook for at least two hours.
Said Clayton, "I was able to just sit down and go over it - play, play, play, play. The Lord gave me a photographic memory. I can go in and just look at some pictures and remember it and ... just process it in my mind real quick."
Of connecting with Clayton so often, Bradford said, "It's definitely impressive. But we saw it all week. The first day he was here, he knew exactly what he was doing."
Clayton had seen his production diminish in Baltimore, so he is grateful for the new opportunity with the Rams.
"You got to have the ball thrown your way to catch them," he said. "The thing is, I've learned perseverance, being a consummate pro, working, just always, no matter what, to get open. And when the ball comes, take advantage of it. If it doesn't, get open again."
Now, he wants to contribute, help the younger receivers and send the message that this team isn't far away from being better.
He said, "I believe in this team. This is a really good team, and we wanted the win bad, and it hurt. We fought hard. ... I want to do my best and leave everything on the field. I just want to try to help this team win games."
—The Rams forced four turnovers and had just four penalties while Arizona had 10 penalties. But they weren't able to turn any of the turnovers into immediate points. After one, a field-goal attempt was blocked.
The toughest was when defensive tackle Clifton Ryan picked up a fumble at the Cardinals' 23 -yard line with the Rams leading 13-10 in the third quarter. Rumbling toward the goal line, wide receiver Steve Breaston stripped Ryan from behind inside the 5-yard line.
Arizona recovered in the end zone for a touchback. Breaston also ran down cornerback Bradley Fletcher on a first-quarter fumble return at the Arizona 32-yard line.
Said running back Steven Jackson, "We didn't capitalize on a lot of opportunities. To go forward and to turn this thing around, I think we showed a lot of progress today. I don't want to discredit the young guys. But we have to get a killer instinct. We have to be able to put a team like that that's good - we have to be able to put a team like that away.
"We're getting there. There are some things to be proud of in this game. But to be a true leader I can't be satisfied with a loss. I can't let the guys be satisfied with coming up short. We competed. It was good to have the crowd behind us. It's been a while since we had that kind of energy in the dome."
—The Rams had 20 first downs and 81 offensive plays against Arizona, totals they rarely reached last season. In fact, the most plays they ran in a game in 2009 was 78 in a 27-17 loss to Seattle. The Rams had three games with 70-plus plays, six with 60-69 plays and seven with fewer than 60.
They had 20 or more first downs in only five games.
—Contributing to the loss against Arizona were defensive issues created by hamstring injuries suffered by cornerbacks Justin King and Kevin Dockery.
With rookie cornerback Jerome Murphy inactive, that forced safety James Butler on the field more than planned. Butler was playing for the first time in several weeks after injuring his knee in training camp.
Said coach Steve Spagnuolo, "It's certainly hard to play four quality wideouts without your corners. You spend all week long playing four corners against four wideouts and then you don't have them. It changes things a little bit.
"We had to do some shuffling. That was the bottom line. We would have liked to have gotten out of the game without playing James because he was only about 85-90 percent, but that didn't happen."
—Cornerback Ron Bartell did an excellent job on Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald, who wasn't 100 percent after missing time with a knee injury. Fitzgerald had just three receptions for 43 yards, but it was his 21-yard catch for a touchdown that turned out to be the winning score.
Fitzgerald got free in the back corner of the end zone with the Rams in a zone defense.
Said Bartell, "That touchdown, I felt like I could have got a little bit deeper to help the safety out on that, so you can put that one on me. All in all, it wasn't good enough. We didn't get the win, so it definitely wasn't good enough."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—QB Sam Bradford had 55 pass attempts in his pro debut Sunday, and that total tied for the third-highest in team history. The last time it happened was on Dec. 11, 2006, when Marc Bulger had 55 attempts against the Chicago Bears.
—RB Steven Jackson might be limited in practice this week because of an inflamed knee. Jackson's 81 yards rushing Sunday was the second-highest opening-week total of his career and he moved to within 171 yards of Marshall Faulk for second place on the club's all-time rushing yardage list.
—WR Mark Clayton never had more than eight receptions in a game while with the Ravens for five seasons, making his 10 catches Sunday a career high. His 119 yards is the fifth-highest of his career and it was the first 100-yard game for a Rams receiver since Oct. 26, 2008, when Donnie Avery had 163 yards against the New England Patriots.
—WR Danny Amendola had 67 yards receiving Sunday, which is his career best. His previous high last season was 61.
—WR Brandon Gibson was inactive Sunday, but he could play this week depending on the health of Laurent Robinson, who has irritation in his ankle.
—TE Fendi Onobun was inactive Sunday against Arizona, but might make his NFL debut this week with Michael Hoomanawanui likely out because of an ankle injury. Onobun could provide the Rams with a deep threat down the field.
—CB Jerome Murphy, who was inactive Sunday against Arizona, is expected to play against Oakland because of injuries to Kevin Dockery and Justin King. Murphy would likely be the nickel back against the Raiders.
REPORT CARD VS. CARDINALS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus — QB Sam Bradford was solid in his debut, but he averaged less than five yards per attempt and had three interceptions. One of the interceptions was on a Hail Mary at the end of the game, and the other was on fourth-and-10 earlier in the fourth quarter. WR Mark Clayton had 10 receptions for 119 yards after having just three practices with the team. Clayton had a 39-yard play and Danny Amendola 36. The remainder of Bradford's 30 completions totaled just 178 yards. It's difficult to imagine what the offense would have been without Clayton.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus — RB Steven Jackson averaged less than four yards an attempt (3.7) with 81 yards on 22 attempts. Down 17-13 at the two-minute warning and with a first down at the Arizona 21-yard line, the Rams attempted four consecutive passes.
PASS DEFENSE: B-minus — Larry Fitzgerald wasn't a factor, but the Rams had no answer for Steve Breaston. He caught all seven passes thrown his way for 132 yards. Six were good for first downs, and three came on third down. A defensive lapse resulted in the 21-yard touchdown to Fitzgerald that turned out to be the winning points.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus — Generally, the run defense was very good ... except for one brutal sequence in the second quarter when the Cardinals drove 76 yards on five running plays, with the first four gaining 75 yards to the 1-yard line. LaRod Stephens-Howling hit on runs of 21 and 15 yards, then Tim Hightower with 19- and 20-yard runs before his 1-yard score. Aside from the four big runs, the Cardinals gained 37 yards on their other 17 rushing attempts.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus — The only blemish keeping this from an A was a blocked field goal on the Rams' first possession of the game. P Donnie Jones was, as usual, on top of his game, with a 54.2-yard gross, 45.7-yard net and three inside the 20. Jones had punts of 50, 55, two of 60 and 63. His shortest punt of 37 yards came from midfield. Aside from the block, K Josh Brown had 25- and 46-yard field goals. Coverage was solid and rookie Mardy Gilyard had a 34-yard kickoff return.
COACHING: B-minus — Coach Steve Spagnuolo had his team prepared, but there were still game management issues at the end of the game. Too much time ran off the clock on the final drive after a first-down play. With 1:47 to play and facing fourth-and-10 from the 21-yard line, the prudent move would have been to kick a field goal and try to get the ball back down one point. All three timeouts remained at that point. Spagnuolo did show guts going for the touchdown from the 1-yard line on the final play of the first half.
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