RamView, 11/23/2008: Bears 27, Rams 3 (Long)
RamView, November 23, 2008
From Row HH
(Report and opinions from the game.)
Game #11: Bears 27, Rams 3
The Great St. Louis Trainwreck of 2008 rages on, as for the third straight week, the Rams fold like a cheap suit right after the coin toss and phone it in the rest of the day. As long as you’re on the phone, how about calling the doctor about a heart transplant?
Position by position:
* QB: Marc Bulger (2-2-11) didn’t even last one series, getting blasted out of the game with a concussion by Adewale Ogunleye. Lucky Marc. At least he was spared having to watch the rest of this debacle. And “debacle” would be a good way to describe Trent Green’s play (16-30-219, 4 INTS). With a 37.4 rating, Green was the Rams’ FOURTH best passer today, after Bulger (89.6), Brock Berlin (yes, Brock Berlin, 1-3-6, 42.4), and Donnie Jones (0-1, 39.6). JONES FOR QB!!! Everything about Green’s game was bad: his accuracy, his decision-making. On his first pass play, he rolled out but INEXPLICABLY ate the ball and took a 13-yard sack from Ogunleye instead of throwing it away, which he was perfectly allowed to do since he was out of the pocket! Yeah, nice pump fake, dummy! Green missed open receivers downfield several times due to terrible overthrows. Donnie Avery even saved Green an INT by breaking up Mike Brown’s play on a bad overthrow in the 2nd. And these were throws over the middle Green was missing badly, not the more difficult sideline throws. Here’s Green running the 2:00 offense before halftime: terrible overthrow on 1st down, back-footed pass short of and behind Dane Looker and incomplete on 2nd down, long sideline throw for Holt a mile out of bounds on 3rd down. That was a twenty second possession. Then after halftime, Green quit throwing the ball over the defense, as the game turned into a volleyball contest. Lance Briggs blitzed in untouched, Green doesn’t get the pass over him, Briggs tips it to Brian Urlacher for an INT. Urlacher returned the favor in the 4th, tipping a Green pass to Briggs for an INT. That wasn’t even Briggs’ last INT; he got another after Green, under pressure from Mark Anderson, back-footed a throw for Joe Klopfenstein, and with an off-balance Klop falling away from the throw, Briggs jumped the route for a pick. Rolling back to the 3rd quarter, we’ll see some of Green’s worst mental mistakes. He hits Torry Holt deep for 38 with a sweet sideline throw. But the next call is for a draw play. The Rams are in a 4-wide set, while the Bears have 7 men directly on the line of scrimmage. 5 men can’t block 7. Green HAS to audible out of this play. Nope, handoff to Pittman loses five as Urlacher and Briggs stream through unblocked. Green followed that with his third INT, an underthrown bomb and pretty dumb throw for Avery, who was never open on the play. So after today, the answer to “How much worse would it be if Trent Green started ahead of Marc Bulger?”, a question I admit I’ve asked a lot this season, is much, much worse. I feel like Emmitt Smith in the rocking chair in the Just For Men commercial. Ohhhhhh, it’s baaaaad………..
YouTube - Just For Men Sports Legend Commercial
* RB: Even as the Rams ran for a pathetic 14 yards on 19 carries, I’m not going to criticize Antonio Pittman (9-8) or Kenneth Darby (7-10). The two of them got a little done receiving (6-40 combined), and it’s not like Steven Jackson would have gotten much further against the Bears, before or after Jerry Lewis holds the telethon to find a cure for his thigh injury. The Rams were running plays right into Bear blitzes all day. Ram linemen were getting shoved into the backfield all day, sometimes right into the ball carrier. I’ve never seen the Rams have so little room to run in a game. Pittman had back-to-back rushes of 8 and 11 yards in the 2nd, and ended with eight yards total! If you want to fault the RBs for hesitating, or dancing, how can you tell? Every running play was over almost as soon as they got the ball! If you want to fault them for lacking elusiveness, fine, but nothing short of the ability to dematerialize yourself on one side of the line and reappear on the other was going to be enough to keep Bear paws off the Ram RBs today the way the offensive line was (not) blocking. Beam me up, Scotty!
* WR: Another quiet day for the receiving corps. How many significant plays can they have had when the team scores a lowly three points? Torry Holt (4-84) had statistically his best game of the season, which included a good 38-yard sideline catch. The Rams worked the middle of the field pretty well. Dane Looker had 4 catches for 46 on middle passes and slants, and Daniel Fells (!) had a 26-yard catch up the seam that briefly made it look like the Rams had a pulse. Donnie Avery had just one catch and I wasn’t that impressed with his route-running on Green’s 2nd INT. I don’t know if he’s getting too far outside or what, but Tillman really pinched him off on that route and he never really had a chance at it. And I know he’s fast, but something in the passing game has to be readjusted, because practically every deep ball to him on sideline go routes this season has been underthrown. The Rams probably need to make that Holt’s or Keenan Burton’s route and use Avery on deep posts and the like until they figure how best to use his speed.
* Offensive line: When your offensive line doesn’t come to play, your team’s going to look really, really bad, and really bad things are going to happen. Look no further than the Rams’ first possession. Nobody blocks Alex Brown on an end-around that loses 5. Brett Romberg, Anthony Becht and Adam Goldberg all get beaten badly on a run that gets stuffed. Then Adewale Ogunleye steams up the middle untouched off a simple loop from LDE and kills Bulger dead for the rest of the day. This offensive line hasn’t had an answer for loops and stunts for a very long time now. The press is calling out Richie Incognito for missing the block, but I wouldn’t leave out Becht. They’ve started lining him up in the backfield right behind the guard precisely to prevent this kind of play, but he was late finding Ogunleye and was no help, as usual. This simple strategy kills the Rams time and time again, and it is inexcusable that they haven’t come up with a stop for it. Tommie Harris had little trouble disposing of Jacob Bell to sack Green prior to Josh Brown’s blown FG. The next drive started backward after an Incognito false start. BOOO! The drive after that looked promising before a Bell hold killed rare offensive momentum and the Rams settled for a FG. Pittman lost five on his opening carry of the 2nd half after Alex Brown drove Goldberg right into him. Brown absolutely slaughtered Goldberg on the day, whipping him easily in the 3rd to drop Green for Chicago’s 4th sack. Harris beat Alex Barron easily with an inside move, and Becht again was useless from his pre-snap H-back position. With Romberg at center, we saw why Nick Leckey’s held the starting job all year. There were two plays where Green and the offensive line all false-started while Romberg didn’t move. Sure would be nice if THE CENTER knew the snap count. You can’t give the offensive line just an “F” grade today. They completely deserve a zero. The Bears blew them off the line all game. Goldberg was terrible. Becht was useless. Romberg was poor. Barron struggled. Incognito is a knucklehead (see Cheers section). At least John Greco appeared to hold his own in place of the horrible Bell for much of the second half. Greco appears to be the last great hope that anybody on this line will amount to anything in the near future. Bums.
* Defensive line/LB: Did the defense even come to play this week? You tell me. Chicago was in the end zone before two minutes had even elapsed. They fooled the Rams with a 20-yard Devin Hester reverse on the opening play, with Chris Long receiving the key block from THE QB, Kyle Orton. Matt Forte (20-132) scored an easy 13-yard like a minute later, as the Rams weren’t just blown off the ball, they were demolished. RG Roberto Garza (cool how his initials match his position) destroyed Cliff Ryan. RT John Tait engulfed Corey Chavous. Will Witherspoon followed the FB outside and wasn’t even in the play. 7-0, Chicago. Witherspoon blew up a screen to Hester to end the next drive, but Hester and Pisa Tinoisamoa took over for their teams the next drive, for good and for bad (guess which). Hester caught a long pass on 3rd-and-6, then gained 12 around right tackle out of “Wildcat” formation. To my knowledge, Hester has never played QB, but Pisa still completely bought his play action fake, got caught up inside and left Hester all kinds of room. A little later, Pisa gives up a TD to FB Jason McKie, chasing after TE Desmond Clark in the end zone instead, with OJ Atogwe already pursuing him. 14-0, Chicago. The Rams briefly held when Long held Forte up long enough for Atogwe to come in and force a fumble, but the rookie got his revenge not long afterward with a 47-yard TD run. The Rams were in an “under” formation, with a big gap between the NT and the RDE. Guess where Forte went. Lots of great blocking by the Bears, too. Olin Kreutz twisted Ryan like a pretzel. Garza bounced out to the 2nd level (do either of the Rams’ guards EVER do that?) and rode off Witherspoon. Forte pops through and makes Atogwe look stupid with a fake while Chavous blows a tackle from behind at the same time. Couple of good blocks downfield, and buh-bye, ball-game! 21-0, Chicago, less than a minute into the first quarter. Soft up the middle all day, with little help from the rear guard, same as every week, the Rams yielded 201 yards on the ground this week. Adrian (No, Not That One) Peterson broke a Chavous tackle to gain 16 and set up a late 1st-half FG. Chicago averaged over six yards a carry. The Bears didn’t really have to throw, and the Rams didn’t pressure them when they did. They got their only sack because Orton tripped over his lineman. About the only time they pressured Orton, on a 3rd-and-7 inside the Bear 10, Orton shoveled to Forte, Witherspoon overran him badly, Pisa blew an ankle tackle and Forte gained the first down, running through Witherspoon’s tackle at the end. (Would have been a first down either way; Chavous was called for holding.) The tackles got mauled all day. The ends couldn’t pressure the QB. The LBs, like most of the season, were usually out of the play. The secondary doesn’t tackle well enough to help any. The only offense that can’t move with ease against these guys is probably the one they line up across from at practice every day. Hmm, maybe that’s part of the problem.
* Secondary: Running for 201 yards means the Bears didn’t exactly have to throw much, so pass coverage looked good in comparison today, with Kyle Orton throwing for just 139 yards. Devin Hester (5-57) ran a little wild in the Ram secondary early, and beat Ron Bartell for 27 on 3rd-and-6 to extend their 2nd TD drive, but OJ Atogwe kept a couple of scores off the board by forcing turnovers, and the Rams locked down pretty well on a lot of the short stuff. Well, except that 2nd TD, where Pisa and Atogwe both chased after Desmond Clark in the end zone while neither covered FB Jason McKie out of the backfield. That’s two guys covering one guy and no guys covering the other. DOH, and an easy 7-yard TD, Chicago. Pretty sure Pisa blew the coverage there. Fakhir Brown recovered a fumble but also blew a gift INT late in the game. The secondary’s biggest liability was its poor run support. Atogwe got faked badly on the long Forte TD. Corey Chavous, after a couple of decent weeks, went right back to blowing one tackle after another in the hole. As bad as the Rams are up front, the secondary’s not helping things.
* Special teams: Special teams had bright spots and lowlights. The best player of the 2008 Rams, punter Donnie Jones, averaged nearly 50 yards a kick, while punt coverage of Devin Hester was actually pretty good. Then again, Jonathan Wade blew the tackle in the hole to let Danieal Manning cross midfield with the opening kickoff. Derek Stanley had a terrific game on returns, including a 75-yard return late in the 1st. On that return, the wedge actually worked, with Becht getting a super block and Greco getting a good one. Fells picked off a guy outside, then Stanley set up a block for Todd Johnson with a terrific cut inside and was off to the races. Then again, Stanley got caught by Garrett Wolfe to save the TD, and a few plays later, Josh Brown F$%^@CKING BLEW A 40-YARD FG. $14 million to miss 40-yarders indoors. I am so sick of Brown’s act. Somebody wheel Jeff Wilkins back in here. Jones caught the Bears with their pants down and had Classy Eric Bassey wide open on a fake punt in the 2nd. Then again, we learned that you’re allowed to interfere with the receiver on passes thrown out of punt formation. The Rams, meanwhile, were flagged so much on special teams in the second half I could have sworn I was watching a preseason game. Wait a minute. The crowd was dead, Brock Berlin was playing, the Rams had a penalty on every special teams play – I WAS watching a preseason game! This has all been a bad dream! When does the regular season start?
* Coaching/discipline: The 2009 Rams are going to have to be rebuilt from scratch. It looks less and less by the week that Jim Haslett should be the coach leading that project. The local press needs to start focusing less on what a “great quote” Haslett is and start asking when his Rams are next going to look even remotely prepared to play. This team exhibited every hallmark of a poorly-coached team today – no competitiveness, lousy fundamentals, poor blocking, poor tackling, sloppy penalties, turnovers. As much as he did his first three weeks, Haslett has done nothing the past three to demonstrate he should be head coach of this team next year. All he’s proving lately is that he can look as bad as Scott Linehan did. These three straight complete fiascoes are more than enough evidence to question whether Haslett should be first in line for head coach in 2009. If he doesn’t quickly, and dramatically, step up the quality and effort of this team’s play, the Rams have to take a serious look outside the organization for 2009. They should anyway.
Al Saunders hasn’t fooled anyone this year, other than those of us who actually thought he could run a competent offense here this season. He has yet to call a trick play in 2008 that fools the opposing defense (though I’m open if anyone knows one I’m missing). End-around to Avery the opening possession – Bears are all over it and it loses five. Draw for Darby on 3rd-and-20 from the Ram 10, which you call because you’re expecting the opponent to be playing pass – runs right into an Urlacher blitz and loses two. A good portion of the failure of the running game owes to the Rams running smack into blitzes so often. That’s an offense that’s getting outschemed and outblocked. I mean, come on, you don’t know Brian Urlacher’s going to come at you right up the middle? That’s Bears Defense 101. Saunders tried to help pass blocking by putting Becht in the backfield just behind the line, but it didn’t work. And I said last week the Bears had too much speed for the Rams to attack the edge, so what does Saunders come out trying? Attacking the edge! Gah! You have to account for the other team’s strengths a lot better than that, but the Ram offense hasn’t accounted for much of anything this year.
Rick Venturi didn’t have any answers today, either. The Craft blitzes that worked so well in San Francisco were easy pickups for Chicago. That was a big problem because a) that’s about the only blitz that’s working lately and b) Venturi didn’t call that many blitzes in the first place. And that’s just lunacy. Venturi has surely seen the front four’s inability to pressure QBs on their own. They have to have blitz help. But my impression is, like last week, Venturi got burned by an early blitz, this time on the 3rd-and-6 bomb to Hester, and went into a conservative shell to keep from getting burned further. Not only can he not do that, it’s on Venturi as much as it is on Saunders to start coming up with ways to catch the opponent by surprise. The last three weeks, the playcalling seems to have run out of as much steam as the players have.
* Upon further review: You learn something new every day, and today, it’s that pass interference is legal on passes thrown out of punt formation, per today’s referee, Terry McAulay. What a stupid rule. Why should the punt coverage unit be excused for not being able to tell a punt from a pass? McAulay and crew got several tough calls right, in particular, two of the Chicago INTs that were close to being incompletions. Tillman got both feet in on his, though, and Briggs kept the 3rd INT off the ground with his legs. But McAulay also had that brilliant sequence late in the 2nd where he called a personal foul on the Rams and marked it off against the Bears. Lovie Smith got that rectified, forced a re-punt, and netted 40 yards out of it. The Bears benefited from other officiating errors, though. They got credit for two plays where the ball was snapped clearly after the play clock expired, including the early bomb to Hester. A crew really shoots itself in the foot when it can dig up arcane rules but can’t be bothered to keep an eye on the play clock. Grrr.
* Cheers: Somewhat hilariously, Rams fans proved good on Richie Incognito’s ill-advised remarks in the press earlier this week. Just like he said, the Dome would have been dead today if not for Bears fans. A good chunk of the sellout crowd was pulling for the visitors, but their presence wasn’t nearly as overwhelming for this year’s now 6-5 team as it was for the Super Bowl-bound team of a couple of years ago. The only time Rams fans really piped up was to let, yes, Incognito have it after his false start in the 2nd. Unwilling to accept being right graciously, Incognito was shown on TV tonight taunting home fans on his way to the showers, and if that yutz doesn’t have more important things than that on his mind after his team takes a 27-3 smackdown, then this is a great week to start getting Roy Schuening playing time. A brief but interesting video package ushered Carroll Rosenbloom into the Ring of Fame at halftime. The Rams had Steve Rosenbloom as a guest – how awkward was that, seeing as Georgia pretty much took the team from him after Carroll’s death? The Lincoln University (Jefferson City) band nailed the halftime show; let’s bring them back every year. Let’s not bring back those dumb, cheap banner things they’ve been giving away before games for several years now. What they should be giving away before games this year is blindfolds.
* Who’s next?: Tony Soprano leads the Miami Mafia into town next week (don’t think for a minute I’m ever calling the Miami HC by his correct name). Funny how this was supposed to be the easy win on the whole Rams’ schedule when it originally came out. The Dolphin team the Rams will play next week can beat them without even playing a QB. The Rams have been completely clueless against the “Wildcat” formation against the ***** and Bears the last two weeks; now this week, they’re supposed to stop the team that brought it into the league this year, runs it the most, and runs it the best. I hope a) you’ve got Ronnie Brown in your fantasy lineup, and b) you’re not playing against me. With little expectation they’ll slow down the Miami run, there’s little reason to think the Rams can exploit Chad Pennington’s popgun arm. Greg Camarillo and Ted Ginn Jr. are probably good enough weapons to bail Miami out of any rare trouble they do get into. The most interesting matchup when Miami has the ball should be the #2 pick vs. the #1 pick, Chris Long vs. Jake Long. Get this! They drafted ahead of us this year! They were worse than us last year! A few months later, they’re in the playoff race; we’re in a race for the first draft pick! Again!
The guy the Ram offense has to locate on every play, Soprano’s #1 hit man, is Joey Porter, who is having a stunning season and is a legitimate MVP candidate with 14 sacks and 3 forced fumbles already. (The entire Ram defense has 21 sacks and 11 forced fumbles.) Porter’s half their sacks, though. If the Rams can run at him and account for him on passing plays, they’ve got a good shot at damaging a fairly poor secondary. Matt Cassel threw for over 400 yards yesterday against the now 28th-ranked pass defense in the league. Yeah, I know. Who the heck’s going to quarterback this mess, who is the running back going to be, and especially, who the hell is going to block anybody. As James Gandolfini might have said in his TV role of some note, Whaddya gonna do?
Anybody need any more lame organized crime fiction jokes? Unless Haslett gets this team’s collective head pulled out of its collective behind, the Rams are going to get whacked Sunday. If they sleepwalk against the Dolphins, they’re going to sleep with the fishes. If the Rams are ever going to get out of this mess, they’re going to have to make quite a few people an offer they can’t refuse. This thing we do requires heart. Mental toughness. Ruthless aggression. The Rams need a bunch of Tony Sopranos, mother issues or not, out there. What they have are a bunch of A.J.s. One day, we may call on them to do a favor for us. But I doubt they’re going to be able to pay us back any time soon.
Game stats from nfl.com
Re: RamView, 11/23/2008: Bears 27, Rams 3 (Long)
Jerry Lewis telethon to find a cure for Jackson's injury is priceless!!!:D
Re: RamView, 11/23/2008: Bears 27, Rams 3 (Long)
"The only offense that can’t move with ease against these guys is probably the one they line up across from at practice every day. Hmm, maybe that’s part of the problem."
This is probably a huge part of everything. Haz always says things like we did not do this or that in practice, or we had a good week at practice and executed well, tackled well, etc. Hello! Our D is only good against our inept O and vice versa. When you practice well against the JV, don't expect to compete with the Varsity. With what little we have to prepare against, it is no wonder that we stink it up each week...We seem to realize on both sides that we are in over our head after the first series in each game and then it is downhill from there...