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RamView, 10/15/2006: Seahawks 30, Rams 28 (Long)
RamView, October 15, 2006
From Row HH
(Report and opinions from the game.)
Game #6: Seahawks 30, Rams 28
Instead of putting the Seahawks away when they had the chance, the Rams resuscitated them not once, but twice, and in the end, weren't even saved by a football miracle, a spectacular late TD bomb to Torry Holt. In blowing a 21-7 lead and losing, the Rams handed Seattle the hammerlock they had on the NFC West, and let a game get away that never should have, which may come back to bite them in the ass all season long.
Position by position:
* QB: Marc Bulger had a spectacular fantasy football day, 26-39-360 and 3 TDs, but like the rest of the team, he had a rough second half that turned a Ram romp into a disappointing loss. Marc’s biggest issue today was that he took six sacks, many by holding the ball way too long, a problem he appeared to be past the last couple of weeks. Bulger was a house afire in the first half, even though he blew a TD for Torry Holt on the game’s opening play by badly underthrowing a long pass. He finished that drive with a TD pass to Torry so good, he couldn’t have put it in a better place if he had walked down there and handed it to him. He hit Joe Klopfenstein for 28 and Isaac Bruce for 8 to convert 3rd downs on the Rams’ 2nd TD drive; the Rams were 6-for-9 on 3rd down in the half. Bryce Fisher sacked Bulger out of FG position to end the next drive, one of a couple of times the Rams blew a long FG opportunity by giving up a sack on 3rd down. But Bulger fought right back with a 10-yard TD to Holt, making it 21-7 Rams. Marc had a spectacular 140.8 passer rating, and the party was starting. Except now, cue the sound of the record player needle being raked across the record. Bulger hit Kevin Curtis for 39 right before taking another, and frankly bad, sack from Fisher to end the half. They drove back across midfield in the 3rd after Josh Brown’s double-doink FG miss, but Marc couldn’t get a 3rd-and-3 completion off a rollout. Then things really went to pot. The Rams answered a Seattle TD with a 3-and-out, with Bulger badly missing a very-open Holt on first down. Seattle seized a 24-21 lead before the Rams got the ball again, and they responded with a brutal 3-and-out. Steven Jackson whiffed on Julian Peterson for a sack, then Marc held the ball forever on third down, nearly giving up a safety before being sacked on the 1. Down 27-21 in the 4th, Bulger badly underthrew Holt and instead hit Lofa Tatupu for his first INT of the season. That was the game until Seattle fumbled it back. Then, with 2:05 left, Bulger hit Shaun McDonald for 28 on 3rd-and-7. A few seconds later, he threw one as far as he could, and Marcus Trufant appeared to have a bead on it for Seattle, but Holt snatched it away for a jaw-dropping 67-yard TD, and you know what? That should have been enough right there. Sure, one less mistake from Bulger probably wins the game, but criminy, he still did enough today. More than enough.
* RB: Steven Jackson had 96 total yards, but just 56 rushing on 20 carries, I think the first time this season he’s been pretty much shut down. I wouldn’t say he had much blocking today, but a couple of the old bugs in his game are creeping back in, too. He took himself out dancing on a couple of runs and missed a couple of big holes. He started cutting plays against the grain more in last week’s game, but didn’t find a lot of success with cutbacks today. His best success was with classic smashmouth running, putting his head down and driving the pile backward. But even then, over half of his carries went for only two yards or less, and that doesn’t include his easy TD run in the 1st. Richie Incognito had the key block on that run. There isn’t a single play by Jackson you could say the game turned on, but his 2.7-a-carry average at halftime must have kept the Rams from relying on him more to run out the game with a 21-7 lead in the 2nd half. Steven will have to make more happen with the opportunities he gets than he did today.
* WR: Though he disappeared for almost the whole second half, Torry Holt was majestic today, with 8 catches for 154 and three TDs. He could have had four – he was wide open deep on the sideline on the game's opening play – but Bulger's pass was well underthrown, and Torry had to settle for a 38-yard completion. That drive ended in his first TD, as he made a terrific play to outmaneuver tight man coverage and grab a 9-yard pass over the DB's shoulder. Torry put the Rams up 21-7 late in the first half with a 10-yard TD, staying in bounds with impressive footwork. After a lot of second-half sputtering by the offense, Shaun McDonald made a clutch 28-yard sliding catch with about 2:00 left to convert a third down and set the stage for one of the great plays in St. Louis football history. With Marcus Trufant with him step-for-step, Torry outreached him for Bulger's long pass, bobbled it, and still running, reached back and hauled it in for an amazing 67-yard catch-and-run TD that put the Rams up 28-27. What a shame that magnificent effort was not rewarded with a Rams win, though it will have long life in NFL highlight reels.
* Offensive line: Absolutely terrible. Last year, Seattle sacked Bulger an unacceptable seven times in two games. This year, the Seahawks are already up to six, thanks to Bulger clinging to the ball like Linus to his blanket, and terrible play from the Ram tackles. At least two of the sacks came with Seattle rushing ONLY THREE MEN, with the Rams' FIVE not even close to blocking them. Absolutely weak and pathetic. Alex Barron made Bryce Fisher look like Reggie White. His technique has taken a scary and quick downturn. Barron's idea of pass protection today was to madly back-pedal into Bulger and let Fisher (2 sacks) run one or both of them over. Orlando Pace was disappointing, too; far too often, Bulger had pressure coming from both sides, and the middle of the line wasn't giving him any pocket to step up into. The Rams didn't account for Julian Peterson well enough, either; he had two sacks, including one where Jackson whiffed on him completely. Twice, Seattle sacks knocked the Rams out of FG or near-FG range. On radio, Jim Hanifan had good comments for Madison Hedgecock's blocking, and Todd Steussie threw a mighty block to give Bulger time to throw the miracle bomb late in the game. Other than that, the offensive line was awful, completely failing to protect Bulger, establish the run (59 yards), or handle Seattle five-on-three. More than anywhere else, Rams lost this game with their miserable effort in the trenches. Inexcusable.
* Defensive line/LB: The defense went from dominating to disappointing in a game the Rams ultimately lost on both sides of the line of scrimmage. They have struggled to mount any straight-up pass rush all season, and Seattle’s first drive wasn’t much different, a pretty easy TD drive. Jimmy Kennedy, who’s playing the best ball of his career, for what it’s worth, did crash the Seattle backfield a couple of times to drop Maurice Morris for losses and make Mike Humgrum pass-happy most of the first half. Which allowed the Rams to do some teeing off. Up 14-7 in the 2nd, Pisa Tinoisamoa blitzed in from the edge and nailed Matt Hasselbeck for an 8-yard loss and a 3-and-out. More of the same the next drive, as Brandon Chillar, who may have had his best game as a Ram, blitzed up the middle to drop Hasselbeck on first down and ignite a 3-and-out. Impressive closing speed by Will Witherspoon prevented a big gain by Morris on 2nd down. The Rams abused rookie G Chris Spencer much of the day. LaRoi Glover just fired right by him en route to sacking Hasselbeck a third time with the Rams up 21-7 in the 2nd. By now, Hasselbeck looked as rattled as ever, missing open receivers, flinching in the face of just-decent pressure. But he opened the second half with a big 17-yard scramble, and Seattle committed to running Morris, who gained 70 yards in the half, most of it because Seattle took control of the LOS and just blocked the Ram front seven out of the play. By midway through the third, the defensive players and coaches were back on their heels, the blitzing reduced to a trickle. Hasselbeck had all day on his TD bomb to Darrell Jackson, so long I first thought he was throwing the ball away. Victor Adeyanju got the Rams’ last sack, a big play which held Seattle to a FG and temporarily behind 21-17. But there was still a whole quarter to go. Seattle quickly cashed in a fumbled kickoff for a TD and a poor punt for a FG, though the defense actually limited that damage relatively well. And after a Bulger INT deep in Ram territory, they came up with one last play, taking the ball away from Morris with the Seahawks about to put the game away. That forced fumble is credited to Leonard Little, though I thought Chillar had more to do with it. The offense converted that into a shocking TD, and the defense responded to the 28-27 lead with 1:38 left by - going into the prevent-winning defense. No rush, no coverage, no clutch play (just the one turnover, and Seattle was 9-for-17 on 3rd down), no win, as Seattle moved 50 yards in very little time, milked the clock, and got the big winning kick. Seattle’s 10-point surge into the lead early in the 4th was a killer, but the Ram defense lost this game just as much in the 3rd quarter while they gave up 10 points that made it a game again. A continuation of the 2nd quarter’s pass rush surely puts the game away there, but neither team seemed to bring to the second half what they brought to the first.
* Secondary: With Fakhir Brown still out, and the already mediocre Travis Fisher playing through a groin injury, pass coverage was an unmitigated disaster today. Travis was awful as usual, getting beaten by Deion Branch for Seattle's third TD without turning to find the ball, and digging Seattle out of a hole with a long, though delayed, DPI penalty in the 3rd, again never looking for the ball. That drive ended with one of the most brutal defensive plays ever, as Darrell Jackson beat TRIPLE COVERAGE (OJ Atogwe, who fell, Jerome Carter AND Tye Hill) for a 42-yard TD to put Seattle back in the game. How on God's green FieldTurf can THREE GUYS all fail to make that play? Hill was probably the Rams' best DB today, though the referees victimized him with a TERRIBLE DPI call in the 4th that set up a FG. Atogwe and Corey Chavous each made nice pass breakups. Atogwe just missed an INT on Seattle's opening drive. But lousy play down the stretch doomed the Rams. Chavous got smoked by DJ Freaking Hackett for 37 on a 4th-quarter 3rd-and-12. And the prevent defense prevented nothing but winning after the Rams went up 28-27. Nobody covered Hackett for 14, then Chavous lost Jackson for 19, putting the Seahawks at the 50. With Seattle needing only a FG, Fisher's a mile off Branch at the line, so he takes a quick slant for 9, and Seattle ended up moving 51 yards in 1:21 with no timeouts to get in position for the win. I know injuries and inexperience are factors, but the Ram secondary broke down more often today than a Yugo with a cracked radiator, Jim Haslett has less trust in them right now than said vehicle, and it is killing the Ram defense.
* Special teams: Scott Linehan tabbed Kevin Curtis to return kicks, and his inexperience showed. He only returned one kick as far as the Ram 26, and he committed a crucial fumble in the 4th that Seattle cashed in for a TD. After that drive, Matt Turk's poor 39-yard punt from his own end zone put Seattle in position for a FG and a 27-21 lead. Kick coverage was good, led by Dwaine Carpenter and Madison Hedgecock, and so was punt coverage, where Isaiah Kacyvenski in particular looked like an animal. But Curtis' poor ball security and critical error casts a long shadow over the special teams' performance today.
* Coaching/discipline: In case this game didn’t make you sick enough already, here’s some fun info: the Rams haven’t won a division game in two years that Kurt Warner didn’t hand to them, and they lost today to a defensive staff that has Larry Marmie on it. Holy cats.
Jim Haslett’s free ride in the local media should come to a stop after this week. The Ram defense started out very vanilla and gave up a quick TD. Haslett got to blitzing in the second quarter and came up with great results: sacks for Tinoisamoa and Chillar, and a very-rattled Hasselbeck. They’re up 21-7 at halftime, and everything looks great. But at that point, Mike Humgrum seemed to make excellent adjustments for Seattle, and Haslett seemed to make bad adjustments for the Rams. Humgrum completely ignored the run in the first half but came out of halftime running Morris, and he also seemed to quicken the tempo of the passing game. Meanwhile, Haslett appeared to go back to vanilla, even after it failed in the first half, even as he had success blitzing in the first half. If that was meant to ride out a big lead, to prevent big plays, it failed badly. The Rams continued to get little pressure with their 4-man rush, while the secondary left receivers wide open, and Darrell Jackson’s TD sure wasn’t a case of preventing a big play. That TD came with Haslett running a wacky zone blitz, with Brandon Green dropping back, and that wasn’t Haslett’s only wacky call. What was with the blitzes that had Chavous coming well after the snap? A blitz is far too delayed when the guy starts coming from ten yards off the line when the QB is already back in his drop! Still, Haslett has to see by now that the Ram pass rush is not consistent enough to just rush four, let alone three, because the amount of time he’s giving opposing QBs to throw is making a bad secondary even worse. He has to devote more resources to the pass rush, i.e., blitz, but today the Rams passively sat back and got chewed up. Is Fakhir Brown that big a key defensively? Maybe. But these last three games, Haslett has not been the aggressive defensive coordinator I thought the Rams were getting when they hired him. He can’t keep skimping on the pass rush because he can’t trust the secondary.
Scott Linehan’s offense also bogged down badly in the second half, after he had a pretty stellar first half from the bench. Loved that he got Klopfenstein involved early; TE coverage has long been a weakness of Seattle’s. An 18-yarder to Bruce to convert a 3rd-and-8 came off a timeout. The deep passing game was working, and the Rams were rolling. The turning point came early in the 3rd. The Rams crossed midfield but couldn’t convert a 3rd-and-3, with Bulger finding no one on the rollout. I’d have preferred to run there, let alone run a pass that takes away half the field, though the play has worked on the goal line. After that, the Ram passing game fell apart, as Linehan appeared to call a lot of Mike Martz’s send-everybody-long patterns, helping get Bulger into trouble. Linehan also made at least one very curious personnel move by deactivating JR Reed. Curtis isn’t much more experienced at kick returns than Chris Johnson was last September, and the results were similarly damaging. There were no indications prior to game time that Reed wasn’t able to go, and I’m not sure having Dominique Byrd active really helped much today. I believe today’s main play-calling problems came on defense, though, and the bye week should be a good time for the coaching staff to review what they can do, and want to do, on that side of the ball.
* Upon further review: Ed Hochuli was careful to explain that the illegal formation penalty on Seattle with :04 left did not end the game. Unfortunately, that may have been the only piece of good officiating today. A brutal DPI in the 4th on Tye Hill for doing nothing but playing perfect defense put Seattle in FG range in a game decided by 2 points. Completely unacceptable, especially when Isaac Bruce got shoved out of bounds on a sideline route in the 1st half without any call. And throwing a DPI flag on Travis Fisher in the 3rd a good 15 seconds after the play was over certainly didn't help the impression that the Rams were playing 11-on-18 today. And why the hell was Darrell Jackson's sideline "catch" late in the 1st half not even reviewed? He's running out of bounds doing a Flying Karamazov Brothers routine, and you call that a completion without even reviewing it? Was the freaking replay official out taking a leak? And on the Rams' first kickoff, a brutal hold of Dwaine Carpenter, whose jersey about got yanked off, let Seattle start their first drive, a TD drive, from the 38 instead of inside the 20 where it should have been. They correctly got Ken Hamlin for roughing Bulger, and caught a couple of blatant holds on Seattle runs, but this was certainly not a well-officiated game. And there should be a run-off on illegal formations, just like false starts. The offense benefits unfairly when it can stop the clock without lining up correctly. The NFL ought to rethink that rule.
* Cheers: If you couldn't hear the home crowd today, then it's either a broadcast issue or you just weren't listening. The crowd was a loud and boisterous 12th man, drawing four Seattle false starts, and was also justifiably hard on the refs. There were several thousand empty seats, and a faithless stampede for the exits after Bulger's interception, as Jim Hanifan remarked hopefully on radio that the Rams could make a play and still get back in it. Not much later, Morris fumbled, and you had the humorous sight of hundreds of people returning to watch the finish of the game from the aisles ringing the stadium. The offense also drew some booing in the second half, but the crowd did an excellent job, and really left it all out there. We finally got some actual halftime entertainment in the form of the SIU marching band, but whose idea was it to play "The Sound Of Silence"? Still a big improvement, though, over funereal flag or banner unfurlings. Oh, and I'd like to thank the Cardinals for making this a positively brutal sports day. Should have stayed in bed.
* Who’s next?: Here's exactly why the Rams could not afford to gag away a game they had in the bag. After their annual bye week, they'll see four straight teams that had winning records last year, and three of those are tough road challenges, starting in San Diego on October 29. Chasing Seattle just got very difficult, especially when they shouldn't even be chasing them in the first place.
The Chargers are playing as well as anyone in the league, though I'd sure like certain media outlets to stop drooling over their powder-blue throwback uniforms and point out their opponents' combined record is 9-18. I don't question that San Diego is very legit, though, and the Rams are going to have to start doing a lot of things right in two weeks to provide the Chargers some quality opposition. Coming into today, San Diego ranked #1 in overall defense, pass defense and run defense. They already have 21 sacks this season and only allow 147 yards passing and 72 rushing a game. Pass protection has to get A LOT better if the Rams are going to hang in this one. The Chargers bring impressive heat off either edge of their 3-4 defense with superstar LB Shawne Merriman and ROLB Shaun Phillips, one of the league's more underrated players. Witnessing Merriman and DE Luis Castillo on the left side of San Diego's depth chart makes me think Alex Barron better get the ship righted in a hurry, and that the Rams better be sharp with their blitz pickups. Another player who'd better be sharp with all that Charger heat coming is Marc Bulger. He needs to regain his composure in the pocket; can't hold the ball all day in the face of one of the league's best pass rushes. How to attack the Charger defense? Stats aside, the Rams should still try to establish Jackson. San Diego has fewer rush attempts against them than anyone else, since teams like Tennessee and San Francisco fell way behind them. The Rams will likely have as good a game in San Diego as Jackson has.
If Jackson can get rolling, he will have double value to the Rams because he'll keep the Charger offense, and the Ram defense, off the field. San Diego is near the top of the league in scoring, overall offense and rushing offense. We already know the Chargers can beat people with LaDainian Tomlinson, and if the Rams can't slow him down, they could be looking at an Oakland scenario, where the Chargers beat the Raiders 27-0, running 48 times. "Martyball"'s diversified a lot more since then; the rapidly-maturing Philip Rivers threw for over 300 in their win today. Rivers is completing nearly 70% of his passes this year, and has only 2 INTs, so he's not making many mistakes. He's also been sacked fewer times this year (5) than Bulger was today, so don't look for much out of the tepid Ram pass rush in a couple of weeks. San Diego's game plan seems to be lots of short passing, which also helps keep Rivers out of enemy hands, and I'd expect plenty of screens to Tomlinson to keep the Ram blitz honest. To even stay in this one, the Rams have to be able to force Rivers to convert 3rd-and-longs. A big question will be whether they can neutralize Antonio Gates as well as they've quietly done to opposing TEs this season. And perhaps the extra week's rest will do the Ram secondary good against a not-exactly-feared receiving corps of Keenan McCardell, Eric Parker, and big end zone targets Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd. Then again, the Charger WRs may run around free in the Ram secondary like everyone else has this year. Given San Diego's ability to protect the QB, the secondary has to come up with some plays for a change. Good luck with that!
The bye week comes at a perfect time, not just for healing the secondary but also for healing the team's psyche after today's bitter loss. It gives Scott Linehan and staff time to work on getting a few things right. Pass protection went from a strength to a severe weakness overnight. Pass rush is nowhere near consistent enough. The supposedly-aggressive defensive coordinator is afraid to blitz because of his bad secondary, and there are still big leaks in the run defense. Today's loss is a tipping point of the season, but it may help that the Rams have extra time to address their problems. The next four games are all killers, and the Rams need the light to come on for quite a few guys. But there's time, and there's always hope.
Game stats from nfl.com
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Re: RamView, 10/15/2006: Seahawks 30, Rams 28 (Long)
Great commentary as always Mike. I would like to make several observations myself.
1.) I believe B. Fisher beat Pace for at least one or two times on the 3 man rush. Just bull rushed and punked him like he was a bum or something. Wonder if the Big O is still feeling effects of the concussion.
2.) Terrible DPI call on T. Hill. Why do I get the feeling that if some other say more established corner had made that play it would not have been called?
3.) I agree the Offense hibernated for most of second half; but, dang it, you should win when you score 28 points-ESPECIALLY at HOME!!!
4.) Is it just me or did K. Curtis look awfully slow returing kicks today? I mean this is supposed to be our fastest guy?
5.) Finally, you mentioned that Seattle has had trouble covering the TE in the past. What do you base that observation on?
WHAT SAY YE?
Re: RamView, 10/15/2006: Seahawks 30, Rams 28 (Long)
Brutally honest and funny too Mike. Love it. You and I think alike.
The coaching, the officials, and fans leaving early were disappointing.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
Re: RamView, 10/15/2006: Seahawks 30, Rams 28 (Long)
Great job, Mike. Very nicely done in making & writing the game observations. :r
Especially agree with your concluding paragraph.
Re: RamView, 10/15/2006: Seahawks 30, Rams 28 (Long)
Great Job Mike. Yea this game should have been an identity game. But instead we are talking about an identity crisis. It seems at times that we
are missing the killer instinct on all aspects.
Especially with the playcalling. I thought Coach Linehan was not
agressive enough when he had the lead. And the last minute efforts were
great to see but it just killed the emotions of everyone in the building.
I for one was in total shock. I sat motionless for about 15 minutes. Numb
and just in disbelief.
Watching the Bears/cardinals match up made me more angry at the lack of
of killer instinct. And a memory recall to the ***** game where we failed to
maintain a lead as well.
But great job again on the article.Thanks Mike.THE FIELD GOAL
Re: RamView, 10/15/2006: Seahawks 30, Rams 28 (Long)
Thanks, RAMarkable, I agree on everything here. Seattle moved Fisher
around a lot & he was beating both tackles. I didn't take time to play back
all the sacks, which I usually try to do. I'm told Fisher beat Steussie for one. I totally believe a well-regarded DB gets no flag on that Tye Hill play. Curtis has little kick return experience I'm aware of; I think his slowness was tentativeness. The Seahawk D hasn't been handling passes to TEs or RBs well in recent seasons, though I can't vouch for this year. That's from old scouting reports, previous games I've seen, & feedback from Seattle fans. Their LB corps has gotten a lot better over that time, so maybe that's going away.