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RamView, 11/11/2007: Rams 37, Saints 29 (Long)
RamView, November 11, 2007
From The Couch
(Report and opinions on the game.)
Game #9: Rams 37, Saints 29
Itís no Miracle on Ice, no Shot heard 'Round the World, no Super Bowl XXXIV, but it feels awful good to be able to say the 2007 Rams have won a game. Playing their best all-around game in nearly a calendar year, Marc Bulger and company stunned the Saints in New Orleans with an explosive 37-29 win.
Position by position:
* QB: 2007's had a lot of sour wine for Marc Bulger, but he was vintage today, exploiting a bad, soft Saint defense to the tune of 27-33 for 302 yards and 2 TD's. Bulger was under as little pressure as he's been all season and was aces on third down. Marc may have saved the game for the Rams as early as the 1st, when he converted a 3rd-and-1 with a short pass to Brian Leonard. That prevented a 2nd straight 3-and-out to open the game and kept the Rams from wasting OJ Atogwe's INT. Bulger hit Isaac Bruce for 23 the next play, and hit Drew Bennett twice inside the Saint 23, the first time a hot read to convert a 3rd-and-9, to set up a Steven Jackson TD to tie the game at 7. Having shown they wouldn't lay down to the Saints, the Ram offense proceeded to roll over them. Bulger hit his first six passes for 55 and stayed hot all game. Next drive, he hit Randy McMichael for a 1st down, Torry Holt twice for another, then after taking his 2nd sack, converted 3rd-and-17 by hitting Holt for 21 in the gooey soft center of the Saint pass coverage. That big play and a Saint DPI set up a Jackson TD pass. (Yes, pass.) Bulger ended the first half a sparkling 14-16-128, and the Rams led 17-7 at the break. And they kept moving like a well-oiled machine instead of the battered jalopy with four wheels out of balance they've been most of the season. Bulger hit Holt with a laser on a deep post for 40 to set up a 2nd FG. After the Saints failed on a 4th-down at midfield, Marc hit Bruce for 18, found McMichael with a nice touch pass over a LB's outstretched hand down to the 9, and finished off the drive with a sideline pass to Bruce for a TD and a shocking 27-7 lead. It didn't end there, as Bulger opened the 4th with a 3-yard jump ball TD to Bennett, the red zone play we've been waiting to see all season, for a mind-freaking 34-7 lead. That was enough for the Rams to ride out a bumpy 4th-quarter ride. 2007's been a bumpy ride for Marc Bulger, but he was in rhythm and on fire today, leading the offense to 8-of-13 success on third down and committing NO turnovers, a rarity for the Rams this year. Cool like Miles Davis, smooth like Barry White, Bulger and the Rams played music on offense we'd love to hear the rest of the season.
* RB: Steven Jackson wouldn't make the Pro Bowl with a lot of games like today's 22-76, but he's such a stabilizing factor for the Ram offense he deserves a game ball anyway. Jackson ran for a TD in the 1st, stretching the ball across the goal line from about two feet out for the Rams' FIRST offensive TD on the road this season. He topped off a 14-play, 80-yard, 7:47 drive in the 2nd with an expertly disguised halfback option, lobbing a wobbler to McMichael for a 2-yard TD to give the Rams the lead at 14-7. That was about it for money plays from Jackson today, though it's great to see him making plays in the red zone. Blocking was an area he struggled at today. Hopefully Steven'll come around there with more playing time. He was spelled some by Brian Leonard (2-6), whose most important play was the 6-yard catch out of the fullback position to convert a 3rd-and-1 and set the Rams' first TD drive in motion. One of the Rams' biggest plays came from (of all people) Antonio Pittman (7-53), who exploded through two poor tackle attempts for a 43-yard run that set up the Rams' last TD. Inspired choice to have Pittman active, since he appears to have the best combination of power and speed among the backup RBs. But Jackson's still the straw that stirs the drink, and we've seen the last two weeks how valuable it is to the Ram offense just to have him on the field.
* WR: Torry Holt (8-124) and Isaac Bruce (4-62) found frequent holes in the Saint zone and abused their sorry group of DBs throughout the game. Bruce beat Jason David, who covers receivers about as well as Larry David, for 23 to ignite the Rams' first TD drive. The big play that drive, though, was by the resurgent Drew Bennett (4-37). With the Saints blitzing on 3rd-and-9, he got Bulger's hot pass, turned up the sideline and extended the ball across the Saint 13 to barely gain a clutch 1st down. The next drive was almost all Holt. He had 3 catches, including a huge 21-yarder on 3rd-and-17, sitting all alone in the middle of the soft Saint zone, and drew a DPI from Mike McKenzie. Randy McMichael finished off the drive with a 16-yard reception, getting down to the Saint 2 with an attempted McMichael McLeap, and next catching a 2-yard TD from Jackson to give the Rams a lead they'd never lose. After halftime, Holt curbed David's enthusiasm by grabbing a 40-yard rope from Bulger to set up a FG. Scott Linehan curiously called several timing routes to Holt with the Rams in scoring range. Not Torry's bread and butter, but Bruce caught a short pass on the sideline for the Rams 3rd TD, and Bennett opened the 4th with the Rams' final TD, reaching over the DB for Bulger's lob pass and barely tapping his second foot in while spinning out of bounds. Bennett's fine play today was just the icing on the cake for the Rams receiving corps, which dominated the cowering Saint secondary as thoroughly as they've dominated a defense in a long time.
* Offensive line: The ragtag Ram offensive line had an opponent nearly as beaten up as they are for a change, as the Saints were without Charles Grant and Brian Young. From left to right, Alex Barron, Milford Brown, Andy McCollum, Nick Leckey and Brandon Gorin (with Rob Petitti also getting snaps at RT) didnít dominate up front Ė they gave up 4 sacks and Jackson didnít see a lot of running room Ė but Bulger got so much time on the large majority of his passes that they still earned a solid win. It didnít start well, as Will Smith made Barron whiff and didnít get much resistance from Jackson while sacking Bulger on the Ramsí first series. Both block attempts were so half-hearted I think the play was meant to be a pass for Jackson with Barron pulling. Smith just destroyed the timing. Protection solidified on the first TD drive, as Bulger had forever to find Bruce for 23 to get the drive moving. It broke down briefly on the 2nd TD drive, as an apparent missed assignment left a giant gap for Brian Simmons to blitz through for the Saintsí 2nd sack. Bulger got all day the next play, though, to convert the 3rd-and-forever, and I donít think there was a Saint in the picture when Jackson got off the halfback option pass for the TD. That capped off a nearly eight-minute-long drive; the Rams had the ball for ten minutes in the 1st, ten in the 2nd, and twelve in the 3rd. Hollis Thomas scored a coverage sack late in the 2nd, and Josh Bullocks blitzed past an unaware Jackson for another early in the 3rd, but that was all for the game. Joe Klopfensteinís name was called a lot for good(!) blocks, and McMichael helped spring Pittmanís long run. The Saintsí injuries and passive game plan (soft zones, little blitzing) helped, but the Ram o-line was generally able to dictate the game and keep Bulger upright, a big part of earning the ďWĒ today and hopefully a few more times down the stretch.
* Defensive line/LB: The Rams were supposed to be super-motivated by a fiery speech from Jim Haslett the ex-Saint the night before the game, but there was a distinct delay before anything kicked in. Aaron Freaking Stecker ran through a huge hole at Victor Adeyanjuís LDE position for 13 on the gameís opening play. Reggie Bush ended the drive with a 7-yard TD run. OJ Atogwe missed him behind the line and Corey Chavous blew a woeful ankle-tackle attempt. The Saints had scored in just 2:15, and I was already wondering what else was on TV. Good thing it was just ďAmazing DiscoveriesĒ. With the Saints threatening to run away with it early, Adam Carriker stopped things by engulfing Bush for a loss at the NO 29. The Rams then blitzed Corey Chavous and ALL THREE LBs to force Drew Breesí first INT. The Saints answered the Ramsí tying TD with a big kick return, but Will Witherspoon (leading tackler with 8) ended that by whizzing past two Saint blockers for a 3rd down sack/fumble that knocked New Orleans well out of FG range. Brandon Chillar, who may have had one of his best games to date, kept Brees misfiring the next possession. On a middle blitz, he split two blockers to get in Breesí face and force a poor throw that Pisa Tinoisamoa picked off. That set up a FG. Chillar stopped the Saints at midfield before halftime by blowing up an attempted draw to Bush, nearly taking the handoff himself and forcing a 6-yard loss. Claude Wroten, about the only lineman who could get to Brees today, tackled him after a blown snap to end the drive. They held the explosive Saints to 74 offensive yards in the 1st half. Desperate to get his offense moving after halftime, Sean Payton went for it on 4th-and-2 near midfield down 17-7. That blew up in his face when Cliff Ryan drove half the Saint line backward, funneling Bush to Pisa for a loss. Though he had mysterious success running up the middle at the goal line, (a TD and two 2-pointers), Bush was held to a fairly harmless 44 total yards. The turnover on downs helped put the Rams up 27-7. Bush got stunned by Pisa in the 4th, but that was about the only stunning thing the Rams did in the quarter. Up 34-7, they quit blitzing, and except for occasional unleashing of the Wroten, the straight-up pass rush put almost no pressure on Brees. They gave up 3 TDs and nearly 200 passing yards. They were jumping on every hard count. Nobody even thought to cover Billy Miller when he came free off the end of the line for an easy 1-yard TD catch to get the Saint bandwagon rolling. Pisa was beaten late by another TE TD pass. The Saints very nearly got a chance to tie the game and give Rams Nation more heartburn than itís ever deserved. A lesson should have, better have, been learned here. The Ram front four cannot pressure the QB effectively by itself. If the Rams donít blitz, they donít sack the QB, they donít force turnovers. But they do make life three times as hard for the secondary. The Rams found the blueprint and went by it the first three quarters, and I canít fathom a reason to deviate from todayís aggressive, attacking, and most of all, successful, scheme the rest of the season.
* Secondary: The Ram secondary had a super game today. Ignore the 4th quarter with the Rams playing extra-soft prevent with a large lead, and ignore the RIDICULOUS DPI call against Unca Fakhir Brown in the 1st that set up the first Saint TD but should NEVER have been called. Brown was a little late finding the ball, but one thing he didnít do on the play was interfere with Marques Colston. Colston had just two catches before the Saints went nuts in the 4th; Brown and Tye Hill both had super games. No one besides Colston topped 38 yards receiving. OJ Atogwe picked off Brees in the 1st to set up the Ramsí first TD and blew up a screen to Bush to slow the Saints down after a long kick return. Brown would blow up a screen after halftime with the Rams up 27-7 to put a big bow on the Ramsí surprising victory. The 4th quarter, where Brees threw for nearly 200 of his 272 yards, didnít do the Ram secondary justice. The yards and points they gave up in soft defense are a shame after three quarters of excellent, aggressive play. Jim Haslett took risks today hoping he could rely heavily on the secondary, and they came through with flying colors.
* Special teams: Hidden plays were key to special teams. Kicking was fine; Jeff Wilkins was 3-for-3 on FGs and Donnie Jones averaged 44.5 and got a punt downed at the 1. Coverage was acceptable except for Pierre Thomas' 64-yard return right after the Rams tied the game at 7. Along with an early stumble by Quinton Culberson, Jonathan Wadeís slip at the Ram 35 proved nearly fatal, but making a big hidden play, Chillar blazed in from out of nowhere to prevent the TD and a huge momentum shift away from the Rams. The other hidden play came late in the game from Klopfenstein, as he jarred Josh Bullocks in midair enough to prevent him from recovering the Saintsí 2nd onside kick attempt. STs were good enough to win, but Bullocks nearly recovered both onside kicks, Thomas nearly had the TD, and Lance Moore nearly broke off a big punt return. Iíd sure like to see them playing with a larger margin for error.
* Coaching/discipline: Scott Linehan and Jim Haslett deserve ample credit. For the first time this year, the Rams had solid gameplans on both sides of the ball. Not to be a turd in the punchbowl, but whereís this been all season? Does this coaching staff need two weeks to gameplan effectively for an opponent? Canít Jim Haslett attack an offense aggressively unless itís his old teamís? If thereís anything frustrating about todayís win, itís that it involved plays the Rams could have, and should have, been using all season.
Haslett easily got the better of Brees and Sean Payton. Assuredly, the Saints never saw anything on tape like the blitzes Haslett brought today. Payton (along with me) was likely expecting the soft-zone, low-blitzing, passive D like his own team ran, like the D thatís been getting the Rams picked apart all season. Like the D that got the Rams picked apart for the opening TD. But Haslett found the blitz amplifier and cranked it to 11. Down 7-0 in the 1st, the Rams blitzed FOUR and pressured Brees into throwing a desperation lob to Atogwe. Further aggression paid off after Pierre Thomasí long kick return. An Atogwe blitz blew up a screen, and a beautiful Witherspoon blitz ended the drive. Will basically went into motion from the Mike position, paused outside LDE, and stormed in for, curiously, the Ramsí only sack, beating Bush and the RT, each of whom thought the other guy was going to block Will. Something else the Saints couldnít have seen much of on tape was the middle blitz Chillar ran to scare Brees into his second INT. The Rams kept blitzing after halftime and harassed Payton into taking a big 4th-down risk at midfield that failed. Score a big one for Haslett. He relied on his corners, covering with man instead of his usual 20-yards-off safety zones, and he blitzed aggressively. If Haslett paid attention to what happened in the 4th once he took the defenseís aggression completely away, heíll know what he has to do to keep the Rams in games the rest of the season.
Scott Linehan probably had his best game as the Ramsí play-caller. He rediscovered the fullback. Leonardís key 3rd-down catch in the 1st was run from that position. He had the sense to attack the woeful Saint secondary down the field. And it took a year and a half, but Linehan has FINALLY dusted off some offensive trickery. Not just Jacksonís halfback option, though that was the most successful ruse. Fake end-arounds opened up running room, and though a real one for Bruce in the 1st gained nothing, the threat of it keeps defenses on their heels. They also did a fair share of running out of 3- and 4- WR formations, and on the 2nd TD drive, had Leonard split wide a number of times. Linehan had the ball coming out quickly, balanced pass and run 50/50, and had the Saints guessing all game. He also deserves credit for challenging the spot on the McMichael catch late in the 1st. That smart move kept a TD drive alive and may have been a turning point of the game. As close to a maestro performance for Linehan as heís had here. Shouldnít have taken so long to get here, but Iíll take it.
* Upon further review: Scott Green and crew got off to a TERRIBLE start, hitting Unca Fakhir early on with a long DPI against Marques Colston. How do you call DPI when the defender DOESNíT EVEN TOUCH the receiver? That was a reputation-based call all the way, and a bad one. Late in the 1st, they blew the spot on a McMichael catch, marking him down when he hit the tacklerís body, not the ground. The successful replay overturn was big for the Rams. The grounding penalty on Brees late in the first was a good catch, but Chillar really roughed him on a later hit. A fine may still be coming for that one. Even when itís the other team, youíve gotta protect players better than that, refs. They called the pass incomplete when Atogwe hit Colston helmet-to-helmet, (he actually caught it), and said Bushís forward progress had stopped on the play in the 4th when he was injured by Pisa and actually fumbled. OK, McMichael got that same call a couple of weeks ago, but that doesnít do much to set off a poorly-officiated game overall.
* Cheers: Iíll miss Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan a lot assuming we get stuck with Matt Vasgersian for the 49er game next week. I appreciate their no-nonsense approach, and Ryan was Jim Hanifan-like today in his ability to break down line play, especially when pointing out Cliff Ryanís play on the 4th-down Reggie Bush stuff. Analysis of the challenged calls on the McMichael 1st down and the Bush almost-fumble was also good. Heck, Rosen got the McMichael play right on the live call. They did their homework, too, and did the most thorough job of any TV crew this year to explain the Ramsí deluge of injuries. SIX different right guards this season? Good research, good reactions, good broadcast, maybe the best this year.
* Whoís next?: Man, it feels good to finally get a "1" in the win column. Anybody for two? Itís altogether possible; next weekís opponent, the *****, havenít won since (grr) they beat the Rams in St. Louis in week 2. Theyíve fallen to last in the NFL in passing and total offense. Alex Smithís passer rating is a miserable 57.6. Going into tonightís game at Seattle, Smith has just 2 TD passes all season, and is coming off a 3-INT, 22.8 passer rating performance at Atlanta. He has only one game over 200 yards in 2007 and isnít developing the way the ***** hoped when they took him #1 overall in the 2005 draft. Frank Goreís season has been even worse, because expectations for him coming into the season were huge, and instead, heís still looking for his FIRST 100-yard game of the season. Gore also has only 3 TDs, and hasnít found paydirt since he scored twice in, yep, St. Louis seven games ago. Darrell Jacksonís been a bust, with only 20 catches. Vernon Davis, with 13 catches in 2 weeks, has become Smithís #1 receiving option. Jim Haslettís directed extra attention to top TEs this year Ė Jason Witten and Kellen Winslow Ė only to get burned by WRs in man-to-man coverage Ė Braylon Edwards and Patrick Crayton. That really shouldnít happen next week. Brown and Hill should handle the mediocre 49er wideouts. Haslett has to be careful, though. He has to be ready to roll help over if itís needed. And Haslett HAS to know he canít just sit back in zone and rush four at Smith. That would be a disaster in the making. The ***** are down two starters on their offensive line and have a rookie at RT; do what everyone else has done to the Rams. Blitz their heads off.
This gameís going to be won or lost when the Rams have the ball, so theyíd better protect Bulger, who got six sacks and a side order of cracked ribs in the 17-16 loss. Theyíd also better take a lot better care of the doggone ball. Turnovers by Holt and Dante Hall in the first game were killers. Theyíd also finally better come up with a counter for the 49er blitz. Theyíve blitzed the Ramsí heads off the entire Linehan Era. Bulgerís been sacked 14 times in the last 3 49er games. You know theyíre blitzing, Linehan, do something about it. Slant to Holt. Draw to Jackson. Hit Ďem with some screens. And, for the love of Nate Hobgood-Chittick, SOMEBODY BLOCK 9,000-YEAR-OLD BRYANT YOUNG. Heís the teamís leading sacker, with 4, THREE OF THEM AGAINST THE RAMS IN SEPTEMBER. The last time he sacked anybody. BLOCK HIM! The Niners have just 13 sacks, 5 INTs, and are only 21st in the NFL in total defense, behind the #18 Rams, despite large off-season investments on that side of the ball. I hate to sound cocky after winning one whole game in nine weeks, but guys, the ***** suck! Theyíre not good enough to shut down the Ram offense the way they have in the Linehan Era! (16.3 points a game) Take it to them!
I also hate to sound ungrateful for todayís win, but to be worth keeping around another season, Scott Linehan canít invalidate the win over the Saints by going to San Francisco and losing to the lousy *****. Heís not only 1-2 against that lousy team, heís a pathetic 2-7 against the combined joke of an NFC West. Todayís win is great, but itís no laurel to rest on. If Linehan and company canít come away with more wins over divisional rivals, especially BAD ones like San Francisco, theyíre not really any use to anyone around here. The Rams hit this game with pretty good health and high confidence. Theyíve shown, finally, that they can game-plan an opponent under the table. So do it again. Letís keep the team moving forward.
Game stats from nfl.com
Re: RamView, 11/11/2007: Rams 37, Saints 29 (Long)
As always, great analysis. I look forward each week to your take on each segment of the game.
However, you mysteriously left out one important issue which is crying out to be addressed. What in the hell's the deal with L'Roy Glover's pants? They looked like deep sea divers pants; minus the lead boots. Martin Short played a guy...well, never mind.
Last edited by live4ramin; -11-12-2007 at 07:40 PM. Reason: too many ons.Patient, not saintly.
-11-12-2007 #3Registered User
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Re: RamView, 11/11/2007: Rams 37, Saints 29 (Long)
Superb work as always, Mike. One question though: you mentioned that Linehan "curiously called several timing routes to Holt.....not Torry's bread and butter." Since I didn't see the game what are you trying to say here? I always kinda thought that timing routes were a big part of Torry's game.
WHAT SAY YE?
Re: RamView, 11/11/2007: Rams 37, Saints 29 (Long)
They went to Holt 3-4 times from close to the goal line (left the field position out) on plays I thought were intended to set him up to outjump the defender for the ball, but the play never really came together. That's a play I don't really associate with Torry, more with taller receivers like Bennett, who did score one that way. I always struggle to describe that play and call it a timing route. On further review, isn't every route a timing route? I'll try to describe it instead as an "end zone fade", maybe, in the future.
Re: RamView, 11/11/2007: Rams 37, Saints 29 (Long)
Just one more thing about this disturbing pants thing. I've thought about it all night and the answer probably lies in where Glover's (XXXL) locker is in relation to Milford Brown's (XXXXXXL).
Last edited by live4ramin; -11-13-2007 at 12:45 PM. Reason: poor skillsPatient, not saintly.
Re: RamView, 11/11/2007: Rams 37, Saints 29 (Long)
One more and I'll quit.
It seemed like the camera shot just stayed on Glove forever, like the director was goading the announcers to comment. This showed dicipline and composure on a plane known only by few great Tibetan masters.Patient, not saintly.
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