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    RamView, 10/21/2007: Seahawks 33, Rams 7 (Long)

    RamView, October 21, 2007
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Game #7: Seahawks 33, Rams 6

    Scott Linehan etches his name into Ram infamy as the coach who guided the Rams to the worst start in the history of the franchise with a humiliating loss in Seattle. After tearing into his team during the week, they responded by never being competitive against an opponent that was dominated last week by the winless Saints. You'll forgive Jim Haslett if he spent time picking out new office furniture on the flight home.

    Position by position:
    * QB: Two telling statistics put Marc Bulger’s (21-40-225) day, and his season so far, in a nutshell. In the 4th quarter, a graphic appeared indicating Bulger had been hit, hurried or sacked on 26 passes. At the time, he had dropped back to pass 38 times, so Marc was getting punished on over two-thirds of his attempts. The other telling stat: FIVE Ram turnovers, all by Bulger. The combination of the Rams’ porous offensive line and Bulger’s poor decision-making are a formula for disaster, and Marc didn’t play any better today than Gus Frerotte did the last two woeful games. At halftime, Bulger was 2-of-10 for 42 yards, an INT and a passer rating of FIVE! What a weird half for Bulger. Under pressure in the 1st, he threw a bizarre underhand screen to – Alex Barron, and it was nearly picked off. Next play, he beat a blitz and found Isaac Bruce for 31. The drive ended in a red zone FG after a Julian Peterson sack and a mysterious incomplete pass in the end zone that Torry Holt never tried for, though it landed less than a foot out of bounds. After that, Fox’s sideline camera caught Bulger rolling his eyes after a meeting with Scott Linehan. That didn’t go over so well after Marc, 1-for-6 at the time, stupidly forced a pass up the sideline for Bruce, who was blanketed by Marcus Trufant, who made the interception. That ball NEVER should have been thrown. Late in the 2nd, Bulger ignored Brian Leonard open in the flat on 1st down and got sacked, and got sacked again on 3rd down. Those were about the only times you might say he held the ball too long. Most if not all of the sacks today were the o-line’s fault. After halftime, Bulger started to look more like his old self, thanks to a tweak in the play-calling. Holt suddenly became a weapon again, and he and Bulger started connecting on the quick slants and sideline outs that have always been their bread-and-butter. The drive stalled in the red zone, though, when Holt, running a post pattern, dropped a pass slightly behind him at the goal line, and Leroy Hill blew up a checkdown pass to Travis Minor. The settled-for FG made it a 17-6 game. Proving wasted opportunities always come back to bite you, Bulger fumbled the next possession after one of Darryl Tapp’s million-and-six sacks. Marc made one good play after that, dodging a sack and tossing a short pass to Minor that went for 20. Unfortunately, that leaves the entire 4th quarter. Hill sacked Bulger, forcing another fumble, Seattle goes up 23-6. Bulger then with incredible stupidity tried to force a screen pass to Brian Leonard. He flirted with disaster several times with dumb throws on broken screens; this time, Peterson got him for an INT. Thrown right to him. Seattle goes up 33-6, and the game’s not complete without Marc’s fifth turnover, a lousy long ball, thrown off his back foot, into double coverage of Travis Taylor, picked off by Deon Grant near the goal line. It can’t be denied that Marc Bulger has an extremely difficult task, trying to lead the Ram offense from behind a shredded offensive line, but he did NOT help things today with a load of unintelligent play, and if he really was copping an attitude on that sideline shot in the first half, it’s fair to wonder where his head is right now. And the Rams’ crisis of leadership deepens.

    * RB: A little room helped Brian Leonard (12-44) a lot, though most of his yards came on three or four runs. One play Linehan should keep in the playbook is the stretch handoff; for the 2nd straight week, Leonard made that work big, for 17 up the left sideline. Brian’s other big run was a 12-yard draw play down to the 4 in the 1st. He showed more shiftiness running inside today, and seemed to understand where the plays were going better. But he was shut down after that draw play, and still Travis Minor (5-37 receiving) was targeted only three times in the first half, all bubble screens, two incomplete. Minor had the big play of the day by an RB late in the 3rd, taking a short pass and slipping a sloppy tackle for a 20-yard gain. Antonio Pittman (4-8) had a 7-yard run but not much else. I like Leonard, and he ran better this week, but it shouldn’t have taken Linehan as long as it did to get the swifter RBs involved. When you have a powerful RB who’s not that fast, if you’re not dominating the line of scrimmage, you need the fast back for a change of pace. Alternating power and finesse is necessary in every team sport; you can’t ignore it in the NFL.

    * WR: How awful has this offense become? Isaac Bruce (2-52) had the ONLY catch by a receiver in the first half, for 31 yards. Torry Holt made a mysterious play a little later. Bulger lobbed the ball toward the corner of the end zone in the face of a 3rd-and-goal blitz, and Torry ran toward it, but broke off his pattern and made no attempt to catch the ball. He could have come up with it easily; it didn’t even land a foot out of bounds. I can only guess Torry did not expect and/or see the ball. Holt (8-82) had a rare chance to take over a game in the 3rd but couldn’t cash it in. It looked like classic Torry for the first time all season. He took a sideline pass for 9, a quick slant for 7, and another sideline pass for 9 more. His sliding catch for 28 put the Rams deep in Seattle territory, but on the next play, he dropped a pass at the goal line, behind him but very catchable. That marked the end of the drive and pretty much the end of the day for the Ram offense. Marques Hagans (2-16) contributed little and dropped a pass. Randy McMichael (3-34) did little but his usual token garbage-time catch. Injured J.D. Drew Bennett (0-0) had one of his best games of the year. The passing game moved well when Linehan switched back to the old stuff; too bad he didn’t stick with it.

    * Offensive line: St. Louis Rams fans have seen some bad offensive line play: John St. Clair. Grant Williams. DWAYNE WHITE. But today, we saw the worst yet, surrendering SEVEN sacks to a team that isn’t exactly the Steel Curtain on D. They got off to a good start on the ground. McMichael’s pancake got Leonard 8 on a draw, and good work by Alex Barron got him 17 on a stretch run the next drive. But back-to-back false starts killed that drive. The Rams got in the red zone late in the 1st, and inside the 5 after Richie Incognito made room for Leonard on a draw. But Julian Peterson got lucky for the day’s first sack. He fell at the line, everyone lost track of him, and he snuck in with Bulger rolling his way. Not a terrible first quarter, but Seattle played Tapps, as in Darryl, for the Rams the rest of the game. Tapp opened the 2nd quarter by smoking Milford Brown like the cheap cigar he’s worth for Seattle’s 2nd sack, with Incognito also getting beaten handily. Next possession, here comes Tapp again, beating Barron for the 3rd sack of Bulger. Barron HELD Tapp and couldn’t keep him off the QB! Two plays later, Tapp switched sides and humiliated Brown again. Brown outweighs Tapp by SIXTY pounds, but Tapp punched him off-balance easily to nail Bulger for his THIRD sack of the quarter, Seattle’s 4th. This was also the first of many times one Craig Terrill whipped Incognito, even though on this play, Richie held him. In the last 2:00 of the first half, Tapp nearly intercepted Bulger after burning Brown again, killing a drive, and Terrill killed another by beating Incognito to drop Leonard for a loss. After a brief interlude of success on a 3rd-quarter FG drive, the line collapsed again. Patrick Kerney beat – guess who? – BROWN, for a sack, and two plays later, Tapp beat Barron AND Joe Klopfenstein AND Travis Minor for his FOURTH sack, Seattle’s sixth. That’s some great “max protect” right there. The sack forced a fumble that led to Seattle going up 23-6. And they weren’t done! 3rd-and-10 from the 40 in the 4th, Seattle blitzed big, Kerney and Leroy Hill came at Brown, he blocked NEITHER ONE, Bulger gets drilled and loses the ball again. SACK NUMBER 7 leads to Seattle going up 26-6. Milford Brown is absolutely the worst excuse for an offensive tackle the Rams have EVER had and should never play another down at the position. But he wasn’t the whole problem. Incognito’s head was up his butt all day and he made the very ordinary Terrill look like Randy White. Andy McCollum false-started twice, got beat several times on pass protect and didn’t play strong. Barron struggled all day and committed the line’s FIFTH false start late in the game. I know there have been a ton of injuries, but these guys are experienced pros, and none of them played or looked like it today.

    * Defensive line/LB: The Ram defense came to play, but it didn’t show on Seattle’s opening drive, on which they walked 71 yards for a TD, ripping the Rams up the middle and hardly slowing down. After that. they tightened up for the rest of the game. Late in the 1st, after Adam Carriker stuffed Shaun Alexander on 1st down, Seattle went for it on 4th-and-inches at midfield, and Maurice Morris was stuffed for no gain. Victor Adeyanju blew the play up with penetration and Pisa Tinoisamoa and OJ Atogwe combined for the big stop. (Take that, TMQ!) Seattle moved right back into scoring position after the Rams’ first FG before a couple of big plays by the line. At the Ram 18, James Hall stuffed a Morris run, and on 3rd down, Claude Wroten drilled Matt Hasselbeck in the ribs, forcing a pass to fall short and forcing the Seattle QB to wince in pain the rest of the game. The Rams had only one sack, thanks a lot to Seattle’s quick offensive tempo, but that hit was as good as a sack. It really marginalized Hasselbeck and let the Rams really tee off against the run. The stars against the run were Carriker, Adeyanju and Will Witherspoon. Carriker hounded Alexander all day. Witherspoon was all over the place, not just stopping the run, but he was the only guy today who could defend passes to the TE, making a nice play on a deep pass in the 2nd half. Both he and Adeyanju made impressive hits where they collided with Alexander at full speed in the hole and stopped him for no gain. Maybe it’s the helmets, but those hits were very reminiscent of the big collisions between bighorn rams you see on nature shows. Like last week, determined play by the defense in their own end kept the awful final score from being even more awful. After Bulger’s first fumble, Hall and LeRoi Glover stopped a Morris sweep for a loss to force Seattle’s 3rd FG for a 23-6 score. Glover might have had his best game of the season, with the Rams’ only sack and a couple of tackles-for-loss. And the Ram defense had another of its best games. Witherspoon had 13! tackles. They held Alexander to 47 yards and Seattle to a respectable 100 rushing yards in total. Hasselbeck threw for less than 200 yards. Pass rush is still an extreme liability, but the Ram defense has progressed to where it’s playing well enough to keep the team in games. The defense’s primary problem right now is the Ram offense.

    * Secondary: The main liabilities in Ram pass coverage were OLBs Tinoisamoa and Brandon Chillar, who gave up goal line TDs on identical plays. Hasselbeck play-actioned, the Ram LB bit hard, thinking TE Will Heller was blocking, Heller instead slips down the line into the end zone for a TD, beating the duped Ram LB by at least two steps. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice – the Rams suck. The extraordinarily ordinary Heller wasn’t the Rams’ only problem. The swing pass to the fullback went undefended the entire game. Seattle dragged Bobby Engram across the middle all day, a play the Rams couldn’t stop until Wroten clocked Hasselbeck. Engram beat Ron Bartell twice for 28 yards on Seattle’s first FG drive, and caught 4 for 54 in the first half, even though I think he’s older and slower than me. Bartell got a measure of revenge in the 2nd. He and Atogwe broke up a deep pass for Nate Burleson to force a punt, then Ron intercepted an overthrow of Engram to stop a drive in scoring range. Fakhir Brown broke up a couple of deep balls in the first half. Tackling was good, with Brown and Tye Hill coming up with clutch tackles on 3rd-down dumpoffs. Even with Engram getting loose too often, the Seahawks didn’t pile up a lot of passing yardage, didn’t really establish a second receiver, didn’t hit on any deep balls. Not dominating, but satisfactory.

    * Special teams: A lot of the team played poorly, but special teams always seems to add that extra losing touch, giving up the pivotal play of the game right out of the halftime break. Nate Burleson fielded a short kick at the 9. The Rams got a man through the wedge, but he missed the tackle. Burleson zips by as Chris Draft is held brutally by his jersey. Tim McGarigle and Wilkins miss tackles, and Burleson is running free downfield. Well, Bartell is there, but he gets blocked by Will Herring for OVER FIFTY YARDS. And Jonathan Wade, with a good chance to make the tackle at the 35, dives at Burleson’s feet like an IDIOT instead of wrapping him up. TD, Seattle, 17-3. Punt coverage stunk all day, too. Jeff Wilkins’ 2-for-3 with a 44-yard choke to start the 4th really rings hollow on a day where Josh Brown went 4-for-4 and Tennessee’s Rob Bironas went 8-for-8. The positives: Brandon Williams continues to look good on kick returns, and pinned inside his 10 late in the 2nd, Donnie Jones BLASTED an 80-yard punt, the NFL’s longest this season, raising his average to 50.5 gross, 42.1 net. He’s in the league’s top 3 in each category.

    * Coaching/discipline: By almost any measure you can think of, it’s time for Scott Linehan to go. Brought aboard with the thought he would extend the Rams’ era of offensive success, a year and a half later, the Rams are 30th in total offense, 31st in scoring. They’re scoring 11.3 points a game. By way of unfair comparison, from 1999-2001, the Rams averaged 16.3 points A HALF. Since he took over, Linehan’s a pathetic 2-and-7 against the pathetic NFC West. Heading into the season with playoff expectations, the Rams are instead 0-and-7 and out of it, while the expansion Browns and Texans, and even the Big Dead, harbor modest playoff expectations at the moment. Signs are abundant that he has lost the players. And has anybody mentioned this is the worst start in FRANCHISE HISTORY?

    But is Jim Haslett really the answer? The Rams do need a whip-cracker right now instead of a whipped coach, but it seems a given that Haslett wouldn’t take over at midseason without assurance that he’s the head coach next year. Is Haslett really the guy we want rebuilding the Rams? The guy who traded up in the draft for Jonathan Sullivan? Won’t we all feel stupid if the Rams get stuck with Haslett and somebody like Andy Reid hits the market? Actually, my prediction right now is that Marty Schottenheimer will be the Rams’ next coach; the last time they were terrible and replaced the coach, they went with age.

    I didn’t see a lot of strategic acumen out of either Linehan or Haslett today. Linehan went far too often to slow-developing downfield routes, and stuck with them well after the offensive line decisively proved it couldn’t block long enough to protect Bulger while those routes developed. And even with that gameplan, he continues to show no killer instinct. After Seattle turned the ball over at midfield on downs in the 1st, the call is a handoff to Leonard, gaining 1 yard. After halftime, Linehan finally quickened the tempo of the passing game, finally got the ball to Holt, finally started picking on Kelly Jennings. Then, he kicked a FG on 4th-and-4 – whoop-de-do – and went back to the slow-developing routes that had been failing all game. That recipe for disaster wasn’t made any better by leaving the starters in down 4 TDs, either. A complete disaster of a gameplan for a complete disaster of a game. Haslett a lot of iffy calls because his line made big plays. Just not early on, as Seattle scored on its first drive, which it rarely does, and easily at that. It’s pretty sad the same play beat them TWICE for TDs (play-action to Heller in the flat). Haslett did too much blitzing on 3rd-and-long, which is how you get beat over and over by dumpoffs to the RB. Where Haslett’s got it all over Linehan, and why he’s getting serious looks from Ram Nation to take over, is that his players believe in the game plan and play hard and with attitude. The whole team could use some of that, to be sure.

    * Upon further review: Jerome Boger refereed a very good first half. Hasselbeck took a dive, after a mere bump from Wroten that wouldn’t have knocked Nancy Reagan down, that would have earned him a penalty in the NHL. Boger didn’t fall for it. The big hit Hasselbeck took from Wroten a couple of plays later was borderline, but I feel also a good call. If the flag flies there, we’re all asking today how Boger thought Wroten was going to stop his progress to the QB. Plus, that’s a hit Bulger has endured many times in the past. The big miss came right after halftime. On Burleson’s TD return, Chris Draft’s jersey gets pulled and stretched like something out of a Dali painting, denying him a crack at the tackle, yet there’s no flag? They called four holding penalties in the first half and missed that? Then called (Classy) Eric Bassey for holding on a return in the 4th? Open your eyes, fellas! Blowing the call on what turned out to be the pivotal play of the game knocks Boger and crew’s grade down to a C-minus.

    * Cheers: First things first, the white pants are no better than the blue pants. The only thing they’re good for is that the bonfire will be really big when all the stupid, losing alternate uniforms are burned together. Fox once again rolled out nothing but the finest for the broadcast, the ubiquitous JC Pearson and former NBA play-by-play man Matt Devlin, who even Google has barely ever heard of. Besides calling games for the Grizzlies and Bobcats, Devlin has also anchored the WNBA draft, so hell yeah, let’s throw him in a football booth. He was okay, though, as was Pearson, whose biggest contribution was continually pointing out what a crappy offensive scheme Linehan was running. Hey, that’s my job. Then again, Pearson’s an ex-Washington Huskie, and he’d call better plays than Linehan – maybe he’s the Rams’ next OC!

    * Who’s next?: If I’m right, the Rams’ next game will be the highlight of the season. The Rams have an advantage their opponent does not have, and they will exploit it to the fullest and put on their most entertaining show of the year by far. Rams fans have yet to see a winning performance this season, but next week promises to be special, something we rarely get to see here. They’ll be all over the place. They’ll be in sync. They’ll dance up and down the field. Heads will turn. Jaws will drop. People won’t believe their eyes.

    That’s right… the Rams cheerleaders will perform in Halloween costumes.

    Oh, and the Rams, hoping not to fall to 0-8, host the Cleveland Browns. Funny, I had Romeo Crennel in this year’s first-coach-fired pool, and along with much of the pigskinosphere, was pretty certain that Brady Quinn would be taking his rookie lumps by this point in the season. Instead, the Browns are a respectable 3-3, Scott Linehan is a prohibitive favorite for first coach fired, and Derek Anderson has Cleveland in the top 10 in passing. Cleveland’s offensive turnaround has been as impressive as the Rams’ offensive collapse has been depressing. In Braylon Edwards (19 yards a catch, 7 TDs), the Browns finally have a big-play weapon, and with the additions of Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach, they finally have an offensive line. Jamal Lewis breaks off 5 yards a rush, and Anderson’s only been sacked 6 times. And a defense that couldn’t contain one Will Heller today may have trouble with Kellen Winslow. This is only Cleveland’s third road game, and they lost the other two, including at Oakland, where the Raiders held Lewis to 56 yards and the Browns to 1-of-11 on 3rd down. The Ram D will have to follow that pattern give the team a shot next Sunday.

    The Browns don’t dominate on the other side of the ball. They’re 30th in rushing defense, at nearly 150 yards a game. Even if Steven Jackson isn’t quite ready yet, the Rams are capable of controlling the game on the ground, which would keep all kinds of pressure off of Bulger. Although when Bulger does drop back, it’ll be against a defense that hasn’t gotten to the QB much. Cleveland has just 6 sacks all season, half of those by Kamerion Wimbley. The thing about Wimbley, though, is that he’s one of those Shawne Merriman / Demarcus Ware / dare-I-say Darryl Tapp? types the Rams have absolutely struggled with the last couple of years. Another Brown player to watch is ILB D’Qwell Jackson, a rock-solid hitter. Cleveland’s lack of QB pressure thus far helps sink their passing defense to 29th in the league. If the Rams are ever going to establish the offense again, Cleveland is the opponent to do it against.

    Cheerleader jokes aside, the Rams match up pretty well against the Browns, and though they’ll likely be the underdogs, and the Dome is likely to sound like the Dog Pound, this is a game the Rams have a realistic chance to win. Can Scott Linehan prod the team into winning one before the bye week, in hopes that he will survive it? Can anybody prod Linehan into quickening the offensive tempo? Can the corpse that was once Marc Bulger be prodded back to life? Hey, it’s Halloween; spooky things happen, right? In a season that’s been all tricks and no treats, it’s time for the Ram players to start haunting someone besides their own fans.

    -- Mike
    Game stats from nfl.com


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    UtterBlitz's Avatar
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    Re: RamView, 10/21/2007: Seahawks 33, Rams 7 (Long)

    Thanks for the write up Mike. It doesn't seem very funny this week.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    LA Rammer's Avatar
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    Re: RamView, 10/21/2007: Seahawks 33, Rams 7 (Long)

    the only reason I stick around is to see what happens next.
    LA RAMMER

    It's Jim not Chris
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HNgqQVHI_8

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    Re: RamView, 10/21/2007: Seahawks 33, Rams 7 (Long)

    A big blue and faded gold shout out from those of us holding down the couch every week. Welcome back now more than ever.
    "The horror"

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    Re: RamView, 10/21/2007: Seahawks 33, Rams 7 (Long)

    You'll forgive Jim Haslett if he spent time picking out new office furniture on the flight home.
    I thought that was funny


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    Re: RamView, 10/21/2007: Seahawks 33, Rams 7 (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by live4ramin View Post
    A big blue and faded gold shout out from those of us holding down the couch every week. Welcome back now more than ever.
    I'd have posted the Arizona and Baltimore RamViews here last week but I had technical difficulties and then didn't get back around to it. If anybody's interested, they're at the ramview.com website, or I can post them as part of this thread.

    --Mike

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    Re: RamView, 10/21/2007: Seahawks 33, Rams 7 (Long)

    Good write-up once again. Glad to have all the details since I couldn't see this last one on t.v.

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