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RamView, 10/1/2006: Rams 41, Lions 34 (Long)
RamView, October 1, 2006
From Row HH
(Report and opinions from the game.)
Game #3: Rams 41, Lions 34
For Mike Martz's return to St. Louis, what could be more fitting than a crazy offensive shootout with bad Ram defense and kick coverage? For all the offense the Lions rang up, though, Scott Linehan's Rams more than kept up, and it turned out that Martz's team would be done in yet again by that old bugaboo, turnovers. The more things change, the more the importance of winning the turnover battle stays the same.
Position by position:
* QB: On a day where the Ram defense inexplicably cooled way off, Marc Bulger picked the right time to get hotter than he has all year, flinging to the tune of 26-42-328 with 3 TD. Give Marc the game ball today for his superb composure in the pocket, along with his accuracy and decision-making. A lot of Marc’s key plays came with him stepping up to avoid the rush. There were a couple of screen passes to Steven Jackson that Marc threw from such wacky angles you thought they were actually playing with a ball on a string. Marc made a lot of big plays in leading the offense to 41 points, nearly doubling their season total. He hit Isaac Bruce for 33 to set up the Rams’ first FG, but it may have been just as important that he hurried the offense to the line to avoid a possible coach’s challenge. He helped turn Detroit turnovers into ten points, including a nice TD pass to Joe Klopfenstein. He brought the Rams back from a halftime deficit with a simply beautiful sideline pass to Bruce for 24 before hitting Torry Holt with a 16-yard TD. The Rams fell behind, retook the lead after a long DPI, then fell behind again. Down 34-30, Marc just barely missed Shaun McDonald for a TD, and the Rams settled for a FG. Driving again, after a rare defensive stop, Marc rolled right and made a tough completion to Bruce for a 5-yard TD with 2:00 left. The Rams got a crucial two-point conversion because Bulger hit secondary receiver Bruce in the back of the end zone after checking off a covered Holt. Today’s performance, his second straight 300-game, and more importantly, second straight win, makes it seem safe to say that Marc Bulger has a good grasp on the Ram offense.
* RB: Steven Jackson’s run production is down a little the last couple of weeks (22-81 today), but he’s more than making up for it in the passing game (6-65). Steven is really turning that middle screen into a dangerous play, making himself all the more dangerous a player in the process. He did break the dancing shoes out too often today, though. The Ram settled for their second FG because Steven couldn’t punch it in on two tries from the 1, and lousy refereeing on 3rd down. He got the Rams out of a hole with a 27-yard run in the 1st, and he scored his first TD of the year in the 3rd, but neither was his biggest or coolest play. The coolest was the first down he gained on the Rams’ last FG drive, using the umpire as a screen to break the play outside. His biggest play was the screen he took 22 yards behind a solid block from Torry Holt well into Detroit territory on the Rams’ winning TD drive. Right after that play, Stephen Davis (4-26) came in from out of nowhere to bash Detroit for 18 yards on 3 carries. That’s a heck of a good change of pace, and the Steves as a unit had a heck of a good game, rushing for over 100 yards.
* WR: Torry Holt had a slow first half, 2 catches for 23 yards (though he was robbed of a 1st-quarter TD – ahem), and it looked like he was going to be owned by his old buddy Dre Bly just like in the Rams’ awful loss to Detroit in ‘03. But Torry turned the tide right away in the second half, catching a short pass and putting a move on Dre that made him fall on his face, possibly interrupting Dre’s obnoxious stream of smack talk. That play seemed to catch Torry on fire. He ended that drive with a 16-yard TD catch where he was open for the entire route. Torry also drew a brutal 40-yard DPI on Jamar Fletcher at the Lion 5 to set up a TD. Isaac Bruce (7-100) was probably more important today than Torry. Catching the game-winning TD and two-pointer conversion doesn’t hurt that argument. Ike’s 33-yard catch set up the Rams’ opening FG, and he caught two on the drive that ended with Torry’s TD. How about the blocking by the Rams’ “finesse” receivers today? Isaac took out two Lions downfield on Torry’s 33-yard reception that set up a FG in the 4th. Jackson’s 22-yarder that set up Isaac’s winning TD was broken open by a big block by Torry near the sideline. Great stuff. I don’t want to forget Joe Klopfenstein’s first career TD, a nice catch that put the Rams up 13-3. Glad to see Klop has good hands, because he needs to make the most of the rare chances he gets.
* Offensive line: It didn't always feel like it watching them live, but with just one sack and 100+ rushing yards, the Ram offensive line had a very effective game, even without Orlando Pace. Especially major was the job they did on Shaun Rogers. Jim Hanifan raved about Adam Goldberg's performance all game long on radio, and it looked like the Lions were trying to get Rogers different matchups because he couldn’t do anything with Goldberg. Kalimba Edwards beat Todd Steussie for Detroit's only sack, but the Rams actually gained from the play because of a facemask penalty. Steussie just doesn't have the nimbleness to keep speed rushers from pressuring the QB. Thanks to Marc stepping up or unloading just in time, though, Steussie's weaknesses didn't result in sacks, though there were many occasions to yell, "Look out, Marc!". Steussie did engulf the DE at the goal line to make Jackson's TD run an easy one. He and Richie Incognito each got flagged for holding, and Incognito had a low shotgun snap that messed up the timing of a third-down quick pass, but given the shake-ups this offensive line has been through, they did a very admirable job today.
* Defensive line/LB: Oof. It was a frustrating day for the Ram defense, which shut Kevin Jones down early but couldn’t sustain it, and which failed almost miserably at pressuring a Mike Martz QB. Fortunately, Jon Kitna (29-43-280) started the day in a gift-giving mood, bobbling a fake to his fullback almost like Bulger did last week. LaRoi Glover covered it up, leading to a FG. Leonard Little sacked Kitna at the Ram 9 to force Detroit’s first FG, though Detroit had walked right down there. The combo of Will Witherspoon and Pisa Tinoisamoa stuffed Jones, who had only 35 yards at halftime, on 3rd down with the Rams up 13-3. That lead didn’t last, though, as Kitna got all day to hit his receivers. Detroit took the lead on back-to-back drives ending in Mike Furrey TDs, the second one coming in the 2nd despite Pisa’s sack of Kitna – the Rams’ last of the day – the play before. Pisa knocked Kitna down with his shoulder, after re-injuring his elbow and getting it re-wrapped earlier in the drive. Five-O is playing with one arm out there, as gutsy as it is painful to think about. The Ram d-line could use some of Pisa’s resolve. Leonard Little has become the Albert Pujols of the line, the only player doing anything out there and carrying everybody else. There’s way too much of Leonard drawing double-teams while the rest of the line gets stood up. That? Is a formula for disaster. Victor Adeyanju couldn’t carry over last week’s success, and you won’t find a tackle at NFL.com for either Anthony Hargrove or Brandon Green, both of whom were in there. A big goal line stand held Detroit to a FG after a long kickoff return and a couple of personal fouls on Little in the 3rd, but Detroit came back with a 34-yard Jones TD run on 3rd-and-2. Will Witherspoon whiffed on the play, or it’s a tackle-for-loss. A play Will simply has to make. The Rams retook the lead at 30-27, but the Ram non-existent pass rush let Kitna and Co. stroll right back into scoring range, where Mike Martz suckered the Ram D with a Jones draw play TD. Blitzes did not get through at all, even against Detroit’s depleted offensive line. With the Rams down 34-33 and needing a stop, though, the defense started coming up big. Pisa and Jimmy Kennedy stuffed a pass to Jones for a loss, and some actual pressure on third down rushed Kitna into throwing a poor pass that wide open Az Hakim couldn’t corral. Once the offense got the 41-34 lead, the defense finally protected it. Little hit Kitna as he threw, gaining an INT for Jerome Carter. On Detroit’s last desperate attempt to tie the game, Witherspoon dropped back deep in coverage to deflect a bomb that saved a pass interference penalty, if not a TD. Beautiful play. And pressure on the last play of the game made it too hard for Kitna to hit Roy Williams in the back of the end zone with a long pass. The Rams won, but clearly exposed a big question mark. They can’t pressure with just a 4-man rush, and no one’s stepped up to this point as a rusher to complement Little. The Rams need to answer that question quickly.
* Secondary: Lack of pass rush really made the Ram secondary look like government mules, or heavy cream, or anything else that gets whipped a lot. Now, Roy Williams (9-139) is hard to cover. The Rams certainly have no one who could. Williams fueled Detroit’s first FG drive with 43 yards. OJ Atogwe seemed to slow down the sangfroid and Roy show by jumping Williams’ route for a great pickoff that helped set the Rams up with a 13-3 lead. Then, it hit, like some great fury. With little pass rush going, Mike Furrey made Ram DBs look like, well, himself last year. He beat Travis Fisher and Tye Hill on dumpoffs for a first down. Fakhir Brown next was so overmatched by Williams, he couldn’t stop a 19-yard floater to the Ram 3 even though he had turned and saw it coming. Two plays later, TD pass to – Furrey. The fury had not yet abated. Fisher lost Furrey again on a 3rd-and-7 for 11. Three straight Williams catches for 41 got the Lions in close before Kitna threw a near-miracle pass on a line for - Furrey, who beat Hill in the back of the end zone. Six catches and two TDs in the first half for Mike Freaking Furrey! Ye gods (TM, TMQ). The second half started out better. Corey Chavous stuffed Kevin Jones for a loss at the Ram 4, and Travis Fisher made an excellent open-field play to keep Dan Campbell out of the end zone, to get the Rams a big goal-line stand. Then bad tackling set back in. Chavous was awful on Jones’ long TD run, but that one never should have made it past the LOS. Atogwe got steamrolled on Jones’ 2nd TD run. On that drive, FURREY beat Brown for 22 and Az Hakim – yep, him, - beat Fisher for 9 on 3rd-and-8. Down 34-33, Hakim gets left wide open on 3rd-and-5, but Kitna’s throw is luckily off. The Rams took the lead after that, and you’re screaming now for anybody to make a play, and anybody does, as Jerome Carter snatches an errant throw for an INT. Which slows Detroit only down a little. They get right back across midfield, and down 7 with :16 left, Hakim gets way too clean a run downfield, Kitna has him, and Hill crashes into him in the end zone for a brutal DPI, but – Will Witherspoon had made the rookie’s gaffe moot by tipping the pass at the goal line, maybe the Rams’ best pass coverage of the day. If Mike Martz becomes a head coach again, please let it be an NCAA or CFL job. I never want to see these guys attempt to defend his offense ever again. But if the Rams don’t get a better pass rush, the secondary is going to have a hard time not sending the Mike Furreys of the world to the Hall of Fame on underneath crossing patterns.
* Special teams: Tye Hill will be an overlooked star of the game. Eddie Drummond might have had three kickoff return TDs today if not for Hill's speed and tackling ability. Paul Smith's trainwreck collision with Frank Davis notwithstanding, the Ram coverage unit had an awful time trying to attack Detroit's wedge, which often gave Drummond wide gaps to hit. And left Hill to clean up, which he did each time. Matt Turk averaged 43.8 a punt with outstanding hang time, as Drummond managed only 2 yards returning punts, vs. 210 on 6 kickoffs. But have the Rams worn Jeff Wilkins out? He hit four more FGs, but one from 40+ barely limped over the crossbar, and he missed a 47-yarder late that would have put the game away.
* Coaching/discipline: Naturally, after a couple of exasperating seasons here, Mike Martz would come back and coach like a genius again. Where were the noodle-headed reverses on third-and-short? Where were the send-everybody-40-yards-downfield-and-get-the-QB-killed-when-he-has-no-outlet-receiver plays? Furrey slaughtered the Ram secondary with underneath patterns on plays where Kitna couldn’t find a man deep. On Kevin Jones’ first TD, Martz is suddenly Bill Cowher and calling a run between the tackles on third-and-short? Where was that last year, Mike? And the draw for Jones’ 2nd TD was an excellent call; a pass was widely expected there. It was same-old-Mad-Mike in some ways; 44 passes called vs. 20 runs and a couple of wacky timeouts, but Martz just about kicked Jim Haslett’s ass up and down the field. Haslett found no way to put good pressure on the Lion QB, and didn’t impress schematically by making his main blitz strategy just bringing Corey Chavous all the time. Before handing Martz a moral victory by unanimous decision, though, let’s not forget about turnovers. They were all-but ignored here by Martz, but are very emphasized by the new staff. The turnover scoreboard today: Lions 3, Rams 0. So before cutting Haslett’s game plan to ribbons, it’s worth it to remember who won the war, and how.
Mad Mike had a close-to-kindred spirit today in “Loony Linnie”, as the Rams called 43 passes and 26 runs. Klop’s TD was sweet; Detroit completely bought that he was in to block, and he slipped off the line just about unnoticed. And hey, look what worked this week: the goal line rollout pass, and this time, the primary receiver, Bruce, was open. Great idea to pass there, period, instead of running and likely settling for a 36-34 lead. I do think there’s some constructive criticism for today’s game, though. The hurry-up drill at the end of the first half was botched. No one seemed to have the right idea of when to spike and when to call timeout. And I’m still not sure if going for the late FG was the right move. I guess it was, since it was a chance to put the game away. I was leaning toward going for it on 4th-and-2, but a fumble there is probably more likely than a blocked kick. A pooch punt would have worked for me as well, because I wasn’t too taken with the idea of putting any faith in the Ram defense at that point. But Linehan’s decision worked out. Rod Marinelli may be Detroit’s actual head coach, but as far as Rams Nation is concerned, Mike Martz is the main man, and Scott Linehan scored a big symbolic victory by winning out today.
* Upon further review: It didn't take Larry Nemmers and crew very long to earn RamView's first officiating "F" of the season. Torry Holt SCORED A TOUCHDOWN on the second Ram possession. He broke the plane of the goal line with the ball while in full control of it. Anything afterwards didn't matter. The play ended when Torry SCORED THE TD. This looked obvious on the surprisingly many looks we got of the play on the Jumbotron; I have no idea why Nemmers didn't see it during the replay challenge, but blowing a TD call in a game this close earns an automatic F. The roughing penalty on Little in the third was very unpopular, but I'm one of the few present who thought that was a correct application of the Carson Palmer Rule instated before this year, even as I wonder why there wasn't a Trent Green Rule after the 1999 season. And I don't know what to say about the overruled DPI at the end of the game that nearly handed Detroit the tying TD. I'm glad they finally got the call right, but the official blew it badly initially by failing to account for Witherspoon tipping the ball. Congrats on managing to blow only one crucial end zone call, guys.
* Cheers: It was a struggle in row HH today, what with the inadvertent nacho bath that made me miss Detroit's first fumble, to the drunken fratboys in GG who rendered my binoculars useless by standing up constantly in the middle of plays. Standing up during plays is always a hot topic around here. On one hand, you want to have enthusiastic, exuberant fans. Hell, Bernie Miklasz tells us stadium fans all the time we suck because we're not standing on every play. On the other hand, didn't I buy a ticket for a seat? And Sec. 414 would likely tell you that screwball in HH with the binoculars is perfectly capable of hootin' and hollerin' without standing up and blocking everyone's view. But every time I hear this discussed, the villain is the guy who complains about the people standing up, and I wasn't up for any villainy today. But dammit, good fans though you may be, stand up and applaud AFTER plays, people. The crowd was good and loud, though, especially when booing the referees. Martz got nice applause around the visitors' tunnel as the teams left for halftime. I didn't care for that any more than I did for the Warner standing O last year. Yeah, we're losing at halftime; cheer for one of the other team's coaches. The halftime show was another raucous flag unfurling, this time a heavily-official-bank-of-the-Rams-sponsored banner paying tribute to breast cancer survivors. Oh, and there was opera music, that is, a soprano singing something, and I don't mean Tony. Who's the buzz-harsher at Rams Park that decided halftime shows should be sobering events, as opposed to having, oh, I don't know, marching bands, or dogs catching Frisbees? Who are they going to bring in to pep us up at halftime next game? Katrina survivors? Holocaust survivors? Burn victims?
* Who’s next?: Green Bay's Lambeau Field has long been one of football's cathedrals and one of the toughest places on road teams. The latter hasn't been the case so far this year, though Green Bay's home losses are to the powerhouse Bears and the surprising Saints. The last time the Rams were in Lambeau, though, they bombed 45-17 on national television, as Isaac Bruce coughed up two fumbles returned for TDs, and the defense completely crapped out against Najeh Davenport's 178 yards, nine-plus a carry.
The good news for the Rams is that defense is a mere memory, and so is the now-Steeler Davenport, who they never seemed to have an answer for. The Packer running game is entirely on the back of Ahman Green, who is trying to bounce back from a season-ending injury last year. Heading into today, Green averages just 71 yards a game and 3.7 a carry, and continuing a career-long pattern, has already fumbled three times, losing two. A lot of the rushing struggles can likely be attributed to the Green Bay offensive line, which is very, well, green, with rookies at both guard positions. The Pack are capable at tackle, though, especially with Chad Clifton at LT, and allowed just five sacks in their first three games. Though it looked this preseason like Brett Favre made a monumental mistake not retiring, he already has a couple of 340+ yard games this year. Besides his favorite receiver Donald Driver, the Rams will have to be wary of the Packer TEs near the goal line, and of speedy rookie Greg Jennings, an emerging field-stretcher. On the other hand, if the Rams can successfully pressure Favre, and it seems like blitzes right up the middle should be there all day, look for the Hall-of-Fame QB to bust out his myriad repertoire of idiotic throws for INTs. Brett can play as dumb as he can brilliant, and it is square on Jim Haslett to bring out that quality in him. Hopefully Corey Chavous will not be the Rams’ only blitzer next week.
The Pack are 30th in the NFL in total defense, 32nd against the pass, where they allow over 300 yards a game, and I doubt taking Donovan McNabb on tonight will help that rating much. You would think they’d be better against the pass with Al Harris and Charles Woodson in their backfield, but that’s not the case. They seem pretty stacked at LB with Nick Barnett and rookie AJ Hawk, too. But the biggest threat on the Packer defense right now may be LDE Aaron Kampman, who has four sacks, though he didn’t have any against Detroit, either. Kampman’s a long-underestimated player who will be more than a handful for Alex Barron, and if Orlando Pace is still out, KGB on the right side could be way too much for Todd Steussie to handle. Bulger threw for 448 in his last visit to Lambeau, and the Rams were thoroughly dominated in the trenches in that game. If the Ram tackles hold their ground a little better than today, and the offense continues to take care of the ball, the rest may just take care of itself.
Since one of our local sports radio jocks has ruined the Latin phrase forever, I’m left to ask the Rams to “seize the moment” next week, or actually, seize the momentum. Coming off two big wins, the Rams have a shot next at a team coming off a short week, likely with their third loss in four games. With a game against Seattle looming on the 15th, this looks like the first time Scott Linehan’s had to keep himself and his team from looking ahead on the schedule. Avoiding that foible, and beating struggling teams while they’re down, are a couple of qualities of consistent winners. The Rams will show us next week in Green Bay how close they are to achieving that level of play.
Game stats from nfl.com
Re: RamView, 10/1/2006: Rams 41, Lions 34 (Long)
Very well put mike I enjoyed every part of it and I agree it is all up to mr. Haslett to bring out the worst qualities in farve LETS GO RAmSTorry Holt Dont play that
Re: RamView, 10/1/2006: Rams 41, Lions 34 (Long)
Mike, I look forward to reading your game analysis every week. Very informative and well-done. Who do u write for normally? Sorry for being lost, but just love ur analysis.
-10-03-2006 #4THEFIELDGOAL Guest
Re: RamView, 10/1/2006: Rams 41, Lions 34 (Long)
Mr Franke Excellent!!! And yes we are still asking many questions. Losing to the ***** and having the Chiefs tear them a new one this week was painful to watch. We should have done that. We are really fooling ourselves if we think we are ready for contending teams.
It seems to me by the defensive play in this game- Mr Haslett's squad is hot one week and cold the next. We are still not consistent. So Green Bay should be a good win. And that should be a good prep for the Seahawks. If the Bears can beat the Seahawks without Alexander we should too.
-10-03-2006 #5Registered User
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Re: RamView, 10/1/2006: Rams 41, Lions 34 (Long)
So make up your mind. Are we ready for contending teams or not? I don't see how you can say because the Bears (arguably the best team in the NFC) beat the Seahawks when the Bears had home field advantage that we should be able to beat the Seahawks.
Re: RamView, 10/1/2006: Rams 41, Lions 34 (Long)
Yeah, that SF game is really nagging, given what the Chiefs just did to them. GB's another team you'd hope they'd beat if they're going to be a team that can make a playoff run. I figured the Rams would start 2-2, so 3-1 is very encouraging, but their opponents' combined record is 4-11, so I'm also trying not to get carried away. Though I always do.
Seattle sure didn't look like much of a contender in Chicago, but they were also playing the hottest team in the league. Still, though, they really miss Hutchinson on the o-line, and with Alexander out, they need Hasselbeck to carry the team, which I've never thought he can do. It'll be critical to pressure him, because they will go four-wide a lot & they're deeper at WR than everybody but Cincinnati imo. That might be a good week to actually have J. Butler active, eh?