RamView, 10/30/2005: Rams 24, Jagwires 21 (Long)
RamView, October 30, 2005
From Row HH
(Report and opinions from the game.)
Game 8: Rams 24, Jagwires 21
The Rams ignore the backstage drama, the "experts" and the injury list, score a complete team victory over the Jagwires, and score the moral victory of making it to the bye week at 4-4.
Position by position:
* QB: Luckily, Jamie Martin's (13-21-200, 2 TD) big plays outweighed his bad ones today. He was sacked on his first pass attempt after a War and Peace-long wait, but his first actual pass was epic, a perfect pass to Kevin "White Lightning" Curtis in stride for an 83-yard TD. Unfortunately, Jamie kept the Jagwires in the game with interceptions, three, to be exact. Curtis nearly came away with the first one for a TD in the 1st, but the pass was ill-advised; Rashean Mathis had Curtis blanketed. Mathis picked Martin again in the 2nd, on a ball way over Dane Looker's head, and even if Looker ran the wrong route, there was no route he could have run for that pass to make sense. Bad throw. Martin regrouped and overcame Alex Barron's penalty parade to lead the Rams to a FG to end the 1st half, which ended with the Rams ahead 17-14. 18- and 23-yard completions to Shaun McDonald helped move the Rams into position. But Jamie came right out after halftime with another INT, another bad-looking throw to a well-covered Looker. All three Martin INTs came in Jagwire territory, and the Rams would have put the game away much earlier if not for his mistakes. I just think Jamie should know better than to force throws like he did on the first and last INTs. Luckily, the defense only allowed 7 points off Jamie's turnovers, and Steven Jackson carried the offense, which included taking in Martin's 2nd TD pass, putting the Rams ahead to stay. Not to ignore the scoreboard, though. Chris Chandler went 0-2 as a starter last year and drove the Rams into a ditch, but Jamie Martin has gone 2-0 as a starter this year and has led an injured, troubled team to the bye week with newfound confidence. Martin may not merit a standing ovation for his work, but he's sure earned a healthy round of applause.
* RB: The Ram game plan wisely centered on Steven Jackson, and the young RB responded with the best game of his young career, 25-179, 1 TD, 200 total yards. I count six plays by Jackson of 10 yards or more, including a beautifully-blocked 19-yard screen pass TD in the 4th that put the Rams ahead to stay, and that Steven finished off by crashing through a tackler at the goal line. Sometimes Steven got great blocking; other times, he did it on his own. He opened the 2nd half with a 36-yard bolt, one of those plays where you can almost see the opposing DB say, “Oh sh*t, I forgot he was that fast.” He did that again to polish off the Jagwires with a 51-yard run with little time remaining. Steven cut back from where the play was meant to go, used a couple of strong alternative blocks, ran through the safety and upfield, where he used half-his-size Curtis as a shield for 20 yards before cutting back for another 10+ yards up the sideline. Steven scores the TD if Akin Ayodele doesn’t drag him down by the facemask. Given the load on offense, Steven played like he wanted to carry it, with little of the hesitation that had been in his game up until now. He was good about hitting the hole or cutting back when nothing was there. He mixed Faulk-like footwork with power running. He carried the whole load on the Rams’ winning TD drive, and iced the game with the Rams protecting the lead. Steven’s best, most complete game as a pro. (So far.)
* WR: Forever to be known as "White Lightning" in this space, Kevin Curtis (3-105) struck quickly in the first for an 83-yard TD, getting inside his defender and catching a bomb from Martin cleanly, at which point you knew he wasn't going to be caught. And he wasn't, as he stepped on the gas and outraced two Jagwires for the score. Curtis also blocked a DB for about 20 yards of Jackson's 51-yard run late in the game. Shaun McDonald had just two catches, but one was a 23-yard catch-and-run that helped set up a Ram FG. Dane Looker (3-23) carried Terry Cousin on his back to convert a 3rd-and-7 in the 4th, letting the Rams bleed another two minutes off the clock. Instead of playing like they're outmanned, the Ram WRs have shown us grit, speed and big play ability. It's fair to say they have really grown up these last couple of weeks. How cool will things be a couple of weeks from now with Torry Holt and possibly Isaac Bruce back in the mix?
* Offensive line: Another solid game from the offensive line, yielding only two sacks, neither of which you can fault them for, while the Rams ran for over 200 yards. Martin held the ball much too long on the first sack, and on the second, the Jags blitzed the formation perfectly, with Mike Peterson coming in unblocked. Alex Barron and Adam Timmerman dumped Paul Spicer to give Martin time to complete the 83-yard TD bomb to Curtis. The middle of the Ram line – Tom Nutten (in for injured Claude Terrell), Adam Timmer-man and Andy McCollum, had one of its best games in a while, even against the Jagwires' Pro Bowl DTs. McCollum was especially an animal. He steamrolled a LB on Jackson's screen pass TD (which also saw good work from Timmerman and Brandon Manumaleuna), and threw a studly block to spring Jackson on his late 51-yard run. Barron struggled mightily with penalties (FIVE) and blocking Spicer, but he flattened Marcus Stroud on the 51-yard run, showing he can make big plays even when he's having a struggling-rookie kind of day. After a slow start this season, the Ram offensive line is proving worthy of the task.
* Defensive line/LB: Once again, the Rams were terrible against the run, allowing over 200 yards. Fred Taylor (22-165) nearly had 100 in the first three minutes, including a 71-yard TD bolt that tied the game at 7. Anthony Hargrove ridiculously overran the play to give Taylor a big alley, DeJuan Groce was blocked completely out of the play by ER-nest WIL-ford, and Mike Furrey made a horrible Sehorn-like move that Taylor ran right by. The Rams were outright helpless against Taylor at times. Undisciplined play and sloppy, weak tackling left the Rams repeatedly vulnerable. The defense managed to stuff the run at key times, though, and especially helped today's cause by forcing some turnovers. Chris Claiborne forced an Alvin Pearman fumble right after the Curtis TD. After Martin's first INT, the Rams turned a 7-minute Jags drive away scoreless, as Brandon Green stuffed Greg Jones on 3rd-and-1, and the Jags passed up a 42-yard FG attempt for a TD pass attempt that fell incomplete. The Rams really slowed Taylor down in the 2nd, thanks to stuffs by Ryan Pickett, who had a big game. Jacksonville drove inside the Ram 20 late in the 2nd, when Green and Dexter Coakley blew up a screen to Taylor to force a 3rd-and-16. Unfortunately, Pisa Tinoisamoa tipped the 3rd-down pass UP at the goal line and into WIL-ford's hands for a TD, tying the game at 14. Pass rush was usually poor. Byron Leftwich was sacked just twice, though he did take big hits like the classic where Tyoka Jackson took him off his feet. The Rams didn't get to Leftwich till the 3rd, on a sack split by Claiborne and Pickett, and that drive ended in a TD anyway. A great play call, a draw vs. a 3rd-and-6 blitz, saw Pearman tear off through a big hole on the Rams' right side for 45 yards, setting up a Matt Jones TD catch and a 21-17 Jagwire lead. Damione Lewis got pushed aside like a weakling to give Pearman the opening on that run, and he got into a visible argument on the sidelines with Bill Kollar afterwards, even though all Kollar was doing was offering (more) photographic evidence showing how much D-Lew sucks. Shut up, D-Lew. After the Rams re-took the lead, the defense made a couple of big stops. Brandon Chillar (who had a huge game) caught Taylor for a 5-yard loss to stall a Jag drive in Ram territory. On the final Jag drive, Pickett blew up a pass to Pearman for minus-7 and Green sacked Leftwich before Byron finished the game with four straight incompletions under good pressure. Overall, the defense has made strides the last two weeks, but it's going to be a long second half of the season if they don't get their run defense shored up.
* Secondary: Mike Furrey had a big game despite his awful whiff on Fred Taylor's TD run in the 1st. Furrey recovered a Pearman fumble in the 1st, and his 4th-quarter INT of a pass bobbled away by ER-nest WIL-ford, and a long return, set up the Rams' winning TD. Unlike Rich Coady, Michael Hawthorne or many other Ram flops at FS, Furrey is usually where he’s supposed to be, and he makes big plays. Adam Archuleta did little in comparison, credited with just a couple of tackles, and got completely lost on Leftwich’s TD pass to Matt Jones in the 3rd. Travis Fisher became the latest injured Ram, making DeJuan Groce and Corey Ivy the starting DBs. Groce played through pain himself and had a nice game, limiting a super WR, Jimmy Smith, to 2 catches for 27 yards, while also playing well in run support. Ivy led the team in tackles with 8, and whacked Leftwich on a blitz to force an incompletion on the Jagwires’ last play. That play was defended by Ron Bartell, though I think he was the DB WIL-ford beat for 37 earlier in the 4th. At 6 catches for 145 yards, WIL-ford became the latest tall-but-otherwise-scrub WR the Rams made look like Randy Moss, but like the Ram WRs, this depleted secondary still showed a lot of moxie today.
* Special teams: Wait a minute: these are the Rams' special teams? Blocking kicks the last two weeks? And this week, they made a play you're only used to seeing other teams make. On Jacksonville's first punt attempt, Drew Wahlroos charged right up the middle to block it, and Brandon Chillar recovered it and returned it 29 yards for a TD. In a tremendous play drawn up by Bob Ligashesky, Furrey motioned from gunner toward the tackle position, and Jerome Carter rushed the lane between Furrey and Wahlroos. This made Furrey and Carter the guys for the Jagwire outside blockers to pick up, but they left Wahlroos completely alone, goo-goo-ga-joob! Jeff Wilkins hit a 41-yard FG while 2004 Jagwire draft pick Josh Scobee whiffed on two attempts, as the Rams largely won the day on special teams! Now if the Rams could only get somebody within ten yards of the returner after any of Brian Barker's booming punts!
* Coaching/discipline: Mike Martz’s ghost loomed over the game, whether it was Martin burning a first-half timeout because the play didn’t get in, or Joe Vitt challenging WIL-ford’s TD catch a few seconds after the JumboTron clearly showed it was good, or any time you heard a phone ringing in the press box. :) But the spirit of fast-and-furiouses past may have been exorcised today. How many times has Martz lost games to teams with weak run defenses because he decided to be pass-happy instead of attacking that weakness? Vitt and Steve Fairchild didn’t fall for that trap, slamming Jackson at the bottom-quartile Jagwire run D 31 times, vs. only 23 passes. That imbalance doesn’t mean Fairchild wasn’t mixing in the pass well. The TD bomb to Curtis likely loosened up the Jagwire defense for lots of Jackson bashing. The problem with the successful bomb was that Fairchild kept going to the well, and Martin’s 1st and 3rd INTs were deep balls that were underthrown – nothing new there from Jamie. Though I thought they’d attack the edge more than they did, I find very little fault with today’s game plan, and also feel pretty certain Martz would have gone the opposite way, and I wonder if the Rams would have won that way. And I wonder if the coaches will remember the run in future weeks, with Marc Bulger, Torry Holt and others returning to the lineup. Because they should. Blitzing didn’t work much today, and Larry Marmie got punk’d by it a couple of times. One of Taylor’s early long runs (it may even have been the TD) was run away from a blitz, as was the big Pearman run that set up the last Jags TD. Not exactly showing Marmie’d learned his lesson, here comes Ivy blitzing on 4th-and-10 with 1:30 left, but that worked. Though the Marmie defense was again confounded by simple maneuvers like “stretch” runs and crossing patterns, I’ll cut him some slack (for a change) for managing to win without Leonard Little or his two intended starting cornerbacks.
* Upon further review: Decent game called by Walt Anderson and crew today. The most glaring mistake was that no flag was thrown when Jackson was dragged down by the facemask on his late long run. That's a 15-yard penalty every other time. Barron actually committed a couple of false starts that weren't called. Anthony Hargrove got a penalty for interfering with a fair catch that was barely signaled. I'd like to see the NFL tighten that up. Too many returners, including Terry Fair, make fair catch signals that would barely shoo away a fly. The idea behind the signal is that it should be clear for the defenders to see.
* Cheers: Just about a perfect game from the crowd today. Everyone actually respected the pregame moment of silence for Wellington Mara, but there'd be no more silence the rest of the game, as the crowd put on its best 60-minute effort of the season. Every third down was loud; so were most of the defensive downs. Though crowd noise drew a couple of false starts at best, the Ram defense had an obvious 12th man today, and all we should hear about Dome fans in the press or from the players for the next couple of weeks is how much ass we kicked. After two long years, we finally got to see the Ram cheerleaders in Halloween costumes again. My carefully-researched favorites: #5, Foxy Cleopatra; #4, the bobby-soxer in the mini-poodle-skirt; #3, Daisy Duke in the Daisy Dukes; #2, the classic French maid; and #1, the cheerleader who I think was supposed to be a pilot, but was a riding crop away from giving today's game a PG-13 rating.
* Who’s next?: The Rams have a week off, then a rematch in Seattle that their playoff chances could very well hinge on. Catching the Seahawks is the Rams’ likeliest ticket to any postseason destination. Seattle is at Arizona next week; maybe they'll get caught looking ahead; maybe the Big Dead can soften the Seahawks up a little. The Rams will take any advantage they can get. It certainly won’t hurt at all to have Marc Bulger (336 yards the first meeting) and Torry Holt (9-126) back, maybe even Isaac Bruce, too. Of course, the Rams lost the first meeting even with Bulger and Holt. Improving on the offense’s first effort against Seattle will be pretty much on Bulger. He has to show better pocket presence than he did the first meeting, when he took four pretty unnecessary sacks. Jackson could be as deadly a receiver as a runner against Seattle; he was open constantly against them three weeks ago. Whether it’s by land or by air, Jackson needs to be an important part of the Ram attack.
For its minor flaws, the offense was fine against Seattle the first time out, but the defense (except for Tyoka Jackson) was abominable. Shaun Alexander had 119 yards and 2 TDs, but Seattle really punished the Rams with their passing game. Larry Marmie managed to turn Matt Hasselbeck into Donovan McNabb in the first meeting, as the Ram defense put no pressure on the Seattle QB and made him look invincible on rollouts, en route to a 300-yard day passing, without his top 2 WRs. Maybe this time, Marmie will turn him back into last year’s Hasselbeck. The Rams are going to have to play much more physically and much less passively to accomplish that. Let Claiborne clock the first Seahawk who runs a crossing pattern. Get Ivy plenty of work; he shut down that pattern against the Saints. The Rams have blitzed Hasselbeck successfully in the past; Marmie needs not to be a fraidy-cat about it in two weeks. Blitzing will get to Hasselbeck a lot quicker than slow line stunts. Leonard Little at 100% should help the pass rush out, and Tyoka should get a lot of work; he always has good games against Seattle. You know who could be another key player? Brian Barker, since Reggie Hodges’ pathetic punts kept Seattle in Ram territory constantly last time. Not to ignore Alexander, but the Rams have to shut down the passing game if they don’t want a repeat of last time. Seattle’s good, but not as good as the Rams made them look then. We saw last year what happens when you make Mike Humgrum and the Seahawks nervous. Let’s hope the Rams can get on their nerves.
Game stats from nfl.com
Re: RamView, 10/30/2005: Rams 24, Jagwires 21 (Long)
Now here is where you could do some a favor and be more detailed in your description of some of the better assets of the Rams' organization.
Originally Posted by MFranke
Why the technical director or CBS producer didn't find it necessary to get any close-ups of the costumes is really beyond me.
For crying out loud, they could even do a piece on comparing the choreography of the current Rams dancers with say some chorus line dancing of a showgirl from the past. Just an idea mind you while you keep on locking Marmie out of Rams Park ...