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    RamView, 11/25/2007: Seahawks 24, Rams 19 (Long)

    RamView, November 25, 2007
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions from the game.)
    Game #11: Seahawks 24, Rams 19

    It looks the same as the other ninety-nine, but the one-yard line, the last yard, was the longest yard for the Rams today, as their injured, self-defeating offense let the Seahawks off the hook for the third time in two seasons and extended the least worthy winning streak in any NFL rivalry to six. Right now, Seattle is the Road Runner; the Rams are Wile E. Coyote. And Marc Bulger just got flattened by another boulder.

    Position by position:
    * QB: Midway through the first quarter, Marc Bulger (3-5-32) threw as staggeringly dumb a pass as he ever has, forcing a shovel pass into a crowd of Seahawks. Patrick Kerney picked it off as Rams Nation wondered, What the hell is Marc thinking? Turns out he wasn't thinking so clearly; he'd suffered a concussion when LeRoy Hill sacked him earlier in the 1st, and Marc left the game for good after the INT. No word yet when or if Marc will return, but after today Gus Frerotte (20-32-161) will have many hoping the answer is "soon". Gus was sacked, and fumbled, on his first play. Fortunately, he recovered, and when Seattle fumbled it back on a punt return, it set Frerotte up to hit Isaac Bruce with nice touch for a TD to put the Rams ahead 16-7. But that ends the Frerotte highlight reel. Working the sidelines almost exclusively, Gus forced a couple of pinpoint passes to Bruce and Torry Holt before paying for it in the 3rd. Marcus Trufant jumped a sideline pass for Holt for an INT that set up a Seattle TD. Frerotte didn't have the answer to Seattle's blitzing. He didn't show the touch to beat the blitz with long passes, overthrowing Holt and Bruce down the sideline. He missed receivers with passes behind them on rare throws over the middle. Seattle gradually took the sideline routes away and rendered the Ram offense helpless. In the second half, the Rams 3-and-outed four times to go with a 4-play drive and a 2-play drive. Seattle turned a 19-7 deficit into a 24-19 lead. Finally, with 2:44 left in the game, Gus steered the Ram offense back into scoring position. After a big DPI penalty and the 2:00 warning, Frerotte hit Bruce at the Seattle 6, and snuck across to convert the 3rd-and-1 with about a minute left. On first-and-goal at the 4, Frerotte then has Bruce wide open at the goal line on a drag, and he lets it fly… INTO THE GROUND, and behind Isaac, who couldn’t have caught that pass if he were Plasticman. Gus had plenty of time to make a good throw, but didn’t really step into it, and missed a wide-open, game-winning TD BY A YARD. A pass to Drew Bennett gained only 2, a Steven Jackson run didn’t work, and now the Rams have 4th-and-goal at the 1, 30 seconds left. What’ll they do? Run Jackson right? Run him left? Play action? QB sneak again? Quick slant? Tight end end-around? Naked bootleg? The possibilities are endless and exciting – what’s going to happen next? Proving himself the diametric opposite of “clutch”, idiot Frerotte FUMBLES THE SNAP, and the game’s over. Perfectly good snap by Andy McCollum, but Frerotte bungled it like a QB in his 14th game vs. one in his 14th season. It can’t be easy to come into an NFL game cold and keep things functioning at their peak, but the bungling, frustrating, Gus-trating Frerotte proved decisively today that he’s not the savvy veteran a team needs at backup QB. Good thing he’s the Rams’ only option right now, huh?

    * RB: The Rams would love their rushing game to take games over, especially games that Marc Bulger gets knocked out of, but that just isn’t happening. It looked highly promising early. When the Rams got the ball back after the safety in the 1st quarter, Steven Jackson (23-90) bolted off the right side behind a super lead block by Joe Klopfenstein, foiled Brian Russell’s genius idea to try to ankle tackle him 30 yards downfield, and sped the rest of the way for a 53-yard TD. That, though, would be more than half of Jackson’s yardage on the day – he averaged an anemic 1.7 yards on his other carries. I’m sure that’s a fine game for an average RB, and I know there were grave blocking issues in front of Steven today. But at the same time, Steven’s not taking games over the way you expect from an elite back. He ran hard and through defenders a few times but also got stopped for a yard or less 11 times. And he didn’t seal the deal at the goal line today the way you expect an elite back to. The Rams got to the 1-yard line in the 2nd, only to see Jackson get stuffed on 1st down and lose 4 on 2nd down. Late in the game, 3rd-and-goal from the 2, Steven can only get one. I know he missed some of the 4th quarter after taking a blow to the head, and I hate to seem to question his effort, but Steven Jackson’s got to take it up a notch. He’s got to be able to see the team needs him to carry it on his back. An elite back expecting to be paid like one after this season needs to be capable of that. The backup RBs did very little. Brian Leonard had two catches for no yards. Antonio Pittman had 5 carries for just 11 yards, though I’d say running him up the middle isn’t the best way to use him. In the end, though, Jackson’s got to re-discover that extra gear and use it to take over games. Average is too average right now.

    * WR: Extremely quiet day for the WRs, where, as you might guess, the Rams went as Torry Holt went. After an early 21-yard catch in the middle of the Seattle zone, Holt (5-54) wasn’t much of a factor, getting shut down while glued to 2nd-half sideline routes. Similar story for Isaac Bruce (6-63), though he did have a TD catch in the first, a pretty play where the Rams had trips left and guys peeled away until Isaac peeled away from man coverage in the end zone for the score. Isaac’s rolling 8-yard catch late in the game was crucial to keeping the Rams’ last drive alive, and he SHOULD have had the game-winning score after that, but that sad tale’s already been told. With the top two options shut down, you’d think Drew Bennett (4-35) and Randy McMichael (2-26) would have been targeted more than they were. Randy made an amazing juggling catch for 19 yards in the 2nd, but he was doomed to 3rd-fiddle status in this offense long ago.

    * Offensive line: I didn’t want to let Jackson off the hook earlier, but save the 53-yard run where the Rams’ right side caved in the Seattle line and Klopfenstein slammed LeRoy Hill to create the lane, the offensive line was wretched today. There’s a recurring, disturbing pattern here. Seattle has ELEVEN sacks against the Rams in two games. The ***** had TWELVE. That’s nearly a third of Seattle’s sacks this season, and HALF of San Francisco’s. Those two teams have two-thirds of the sacks the Rams have allowed this season. Last year, Seattle had ten sacks against the Rams; San Fran, 8. These are teams the Rams see all the time, and this level of performance is intolerable. Failed blitz protection got Bulger killed by LeRoy Hill in the 1st. Seattle blitzed Hill off LT and Lofa Tatupu up the middle, and Jackson helped Milford Brown with Tatupu, meaning he wasn’t around when Hill stormed in untouched. After that, Patrick Kerney became this week’s Guy the O-Line Refuses to Stop, Ever, beating the woefully overmatched Rob Pettiti with a (sweet, actually) variety of moves. Kerney welcomed Frerotte to the game by spinning Pettiti around and getting to Gus for a sack and fumble. This after Kerney had already intercepted a dumb shovel pass from Bulger. Seattle blitzed a lot and hurried Frerotte’s throws or had him stepping up in the pocket on practically every pass. The Rams were in FG position early in the 4th before Kerney smoked Pettiti with a spin move and sacked Frerotte for -10. And after Seattle took the lead, they 3-and-outed the Rams with what was basically a team sack. Every Seattle lineman beat his man. Kerney split wide, got leverage on Petitti and beat him outside to get there first and get credit for the sack. Seattle completed its decisive win in the trenches by dominating against the run. Besides the Jackson TD, the Rams didn’t even average 2 yards a run. Ram RBs had no room to run virtually the whole game, especially and painfully when the Rams got near the goal line. First and goal from the 1 in the 2nd, nobody clears Rocky Bernard out of the hole, no gain. 2nd-and-goal, a sweep right fails big time, as Todd Steussie is too late on the pull to block Tatupu, and Randy McMichael, stuck on his first-level block, can’t get to the second level to prevent Hill from firing through for a big loss. Jumping to the end of the game, 3rd-and-goal from the 2, Jackson only gains 1 with the safety blitzing and Milford Brown getting only a half-hearted block on Hill. And I have to agree with the post-game analysis that if the final botched play was the run right it looked like, it would also have failed. Tatupu and Hill both sailed through the hole unblocked while Brian Leonard put a half-assed block on Deon Grant. There’s half a chance, I guess, that none of today’s line will be back next season; there’s little use picking these guys apart any more. But when the Rams restock their o-line depth for next season, they have to get stronger at center, more athletic at guard and more everything at RT. Going through a season like this on the offensive line should focus everyone’s efforts on making sure they never get caught with their pants down here ever again.

    * Defensive line/LB: Terrific play and a terrific game plan by Jim Haslett led to early and complete dominance for the Ram defense. Will Witherspoon scored back-to-back sacks to kill Seattle’s opening drive. He stormed in untouched from MLB for the first, and beat Rob Sims handily with a speed rush from RDE for the second. Will also deflected and nearly intercepted a couple of passes, continues to wreak havoc all over the field, and would be a Pro Bowler if he played for a decent team. Seattle was pinned at their 1 in the first, but not for long, as Adam Carriker flashed in unimpeded and dropped Maurice Morris for a safety, with help from La’Roi Glover. 2-0, Rams. Up 16-7 in the 2nd, Glover stuffed Morris to force a 3-and-out. Up 19-7, Brandon Chillar and Corey Chavous split the Rams’ 3rd sack on a 3rd down where the Rams faked a blitz on Seattle’s left side, then brought the heat from the right. Chillar and Chavous both came in untouched. The Seahawks had only one first down until late in the first half, and had the ball for only 9:20 of the half, but they turned the tide of the game by going to a no-huddle offense. They were picked off before halftime, and a rare sack for the Rams’ 4-man rush, with Glover beating Chris Gray, forced a FG after halftime, but Seattle’s hurry-up was doing its damage, keeping the Rams off-balance and wearing them out. Worse yet, on the FG drive, the Rams lost Pisa Tinoisamoa with a sprained knee, or worse. Morris broke off for 46 on a draw play into a Ram blitz to set up a TD to make it 19-17. The Rams got their 4th and final sack from Chillar, who came in on an alien-looking blitz, but Seattle took the lead in the 4th with an 80-yard drive. Bobby Engram gained 19 over the middle on a pass when Witherspoon was fooled by play-action and left him open. Seattle continued to chew up the Rams’ soft zone, and Will committed a face mask, to set Seattle up at the Ram 5. They only took one play to score, as Leonard Weaver plowed up the middle and dragged Carriker for a TD on a play where the whole Ram defensive front looked like it got knocked backwards five yards. Eric Moore made a couple of late stops of Morris to get the Rams the ball back one last time, but it just wasn’t enough. The Ram defense did everything it could with what it had. They just didn’t get enough help from the team’s other units.

    * Secondary: Seattle won because of its passing game, but that doesn’t mean the Ram secondary necessarily had a poor game. Fakhir Brown and Tye Hill both broke up deep passes and neither really got beaten deep. Corey Chavous was a blitzing weapon, and Ron Bartell had his best game of the season. He was all over the place and made several good tackles. OJ Atogwe got a gift INT late in the first half. Morris had split wide left and was one-on-one with Chillar. Hasselbeck wanted to exploit that matchup with a pass into the end zone, but Morris and Nate Burleson got in each other’s way, and the pass sailed right to OJ for the easy INT. The Rams’ need to blitz made life rough for the secondary in the 2nd half. With the DBs playing deep, Hasselbeck started killing them underneath. Hill disappointingly let Deion Branch get inside him for a 20-yard catch that set up a FG. Brown temporarily saved a TD by catching Morris on his 46-yard run. Hasselbeck really exploited the Ram zone for Seattle’s winning TD, hitting Branch for 16, Bobby Engram for 19, Branch again for 18. I doubt the Rams got too soft too soon. With Seattle’s deep WR corps, and the front pretty much forced to blitz, they might have had to play things as safe as they did. I guess I trust the Ram CBs more than the coaches do; I’d like to see tighter coverages in these situations; I’d like to put the guys in position to be shutdown corners and see what they do. Today didn’t showcase their skills.

    * Special teams: Dante Hall’s harder to keep up with than Robin Williams after a case of Red Bull. He zipped around and returned a punt 37 yards in the 3rd, and brought most kickoffs out to the 30, but he appeared to re-aggravate his hamstring on the long punt return and was ineffective afterwards. Donnie Jones and Classy Eric Bassey set up the Rams’ safety with a punt downed perfectly at the Seattle 2. Pisa Tinoisamoa drilled the ball loose from Nate Burleson on a 1st-quarter punt return to set up a TD. And all this good play is completely RUINED by more Keystone Kops-quality work from the worthless Rams kick coverage unit. The stupid call is for a short kick, which comes to Josh Wilson at the 11. (Note: Wilson is the UP MAN, not the regular kick returner.) Popup kicks never freaking work, but that never stops the idiot Rams from kicking them. Wilson sweeps left, and when David Kirtman blasts Travis Minor on his ass with a superb block, Wilson has a huge lane to break through. He doesn’t have to beat anybody till Jeff Wilkins dives at him near midfield and misses. Wilson tightropes the sideline, and Jonathan Wade, who has been useless on STs all season, trails him to the Ram 35, then lets up when Ron Bartell enters the picture. Right then, Wilson cuts back to the middle of the field and makes Bartell, Wade, Bassey and Hanik Milligan look like idiots. Milligan looks even dumber at the 20, when the slightest little fake from Wilson sends him careening out of control like Darth Vader’s TIE fighter at the end of Star Wars, and Bassey allows Wilson to finish off the TD by clubbing at the ball at the 5 yard line instead of tackling him. I counted NINE things wrong about that play, and when special teams give up seven points in a game the Rams lose by five, these guys make me just want to puke. When is this EVER going to get consistently better?

    * Coaching/discipline: Much of the game, Jim Haslett looked like the Mike Martz of defense. What didn’t he throw at the Seahawks, including the kitchen sink? Witherspoon blitzing from MLB, RDE, LDE. Fake blitz from the left side and come hard from the overloaded right side. In the 3rd, Haslett ran a play I swear he stole from The Waterboy. OK, he didn’t line up all 11 guys over RT like the Mud Dogs, but this was about as crazy-looking. They lined up a nose tackle, put 4 guys over RT and put the RDE on a wide split. The key to the play, though, is Chillar and the DB, who blitzed up the middle from five yards back of the RDE, and Chillar got the sack. Though that play worked, Seattle had already adjusted for Haslett’s blitzing ways before halftime. Mike Holmgren, who actually outcoached somebody for a change, went to a hurry-up, no-huddle offense, making it harder for the Rams to put in blitz packages. And though their game plan was pass-happy, Holmgren mixed in enough running to keep the Rams off balance, especially the 46-yard Morris draw where the Rams got caught blitzing. Unable to generate pass rush without blitzing, Haslett played it very carefully with the DBs, laying them well back so the Rams wouldn’t get burned deep. While that worked, Hasselbeck pecked the Rams to death with underneath passes. Seattle’s depth at WR forced Haslett to play it safer, giving the Ram defense an Achilles’ heel. Give Haslett credit for a dynamic game plan, and give Holmgren a ton of credit for figuring a way around it. Coaching chess at its best.

    Scott Linehan, meanwhile, is still working on that golf-tee jumping puzzle at the Cracker Barrel. Though it’s evident it’s far from Gus’ best throw, Linehan continually had him working the sidelines, even after Seattle had shut it down, and ignored the middle of the field. Jackson’s TD run caught Seattle in a blitz, but other anti-blitzing calls by Linehan failed, like the shovel pass and the no-gain Dante Hall end-around. Meanwhile, no draws, screens or quick slants. True, if Frerotte completes a STUPID FOUR-YARD PASS, the Rams’ winning streak would still be intact. The plays after that didn’t work, though. The only way the slant to Bennett works is if Seattle is blitzing, which Linehan was inviting with the empty backfield, but since they could read that as pass all the way, Seattle played it smart and safe. Then on 3rd down, Seattle did blitz, the Rams weren’t expecting it, and Jackson came up short. As far as the 4th down play, Linehan should just tell everyone it was a 90-flip left to Jackson, because we all know a run right wasn’t going to work. The Rams overloaded the right side, but so did the Seahawks, who seemed to know what was coming. And now, who knows what’s coming next for Linehan, who’s 0-4 vs. Seattle, 3-8 vs. the NFC West, and who’s never adjusted well for the defenses of two of the team’s biggest rivals. (See the offensive line breakdown.) While he’s polishing up his resume, Linehan should probably leave that stuff off.

    * Upon further review: The Walt Coleman-led officiating crew brought its "A" game. Like a good crew, they didn't stand out much. And the key plays at the end of the game, for better or worse, all check out. Isaac was grabbed for the DPI before the 2:00 warning, and two plays later, he made a clean catch at the 6 and was down by contact before the ball came out. Jackson was down before he put the ball on the goal line on 3rd-and-goal. If all refereeing was as good as today's, RamView wouldn't need this section. Hell of a job.

    * Cheers: The Rams have a hard enough time winning St. Louis over while playing second fiddle to the Cardinals; now, they're not even first chair in football, since the Missouri Tigers have moved to #1 in the BCS after beating Kansas Saturday night. Highlights of that game drew easily the biggest cheers of the day in the Dome. The Rams still squandered a good home field advantage. The near-capacity crowd made good noise and drew a couple of false starts, including one right before the safety, only to be let down again in the end. Well, the end came sooner for about half the fans, who packed up and left right after Seattle took the lead with six minutes still to go. The halftime show, which should have been next week, was the annual appearance of the Frisbee dogs, highlighted by Jumpin’ Jack and a German shepherd nearly taking out a Seattle coach in the end zone while dueling for a disc. Too bad Michael Vick wasn't around to see that.

    * Who’s next?: With 10-1 Green Bay and (probably) 8-3 Pittsburgh on the horizon, it looks like the Rams’ last realistic chance to win a freaking home game this year comes next Sunday against the 3-8 Falcons. Now that somebody has figured out a way to contain Michael Vick (GUFFAW), Atlanta’s playing a shell game at QB – we could see Joey Harrington or Byron Leftwich there. Either way, you’re looking at a not-terribly mobile, not-terribly accurate QB who’s susceptible to pressure. Leftwich holds the ball way too long and takes a lot of sacks. Harrington’s easily pressured into dumb-mistake throws. I expect Jim Haslett to continue to bring the heat against Atlanta’s undersized, subpar offensive line. My main concern is that Haslett will be too worried about TE Alge Crumpler to keep the heat on. Crumpler’s average game this year, though, is 3 catches for 32 yards – we’re not talking Winslow Jr. here. Roddy White has been a pleasant surprise for Atlanta at WR; vital the Ram secondary doesn’t let him beat them deep. Atlanta’s RBs also give some reason for concern. Veteran Warrick Dunn’s been a career Ram-killer, and Jerious Norwood has a ton of speed and moves, a big play waiting to happen. But like the Rams’ o-line lately, the Falcon o-line’s had plenty of trouble making running room for its RBs, and if the Rams stay solid up front, they’ll contain the two dynamic Falcon RBs. Atlanta’s given up the 4th-most sacks in the league (the Rams are 2nd), so the Rams ought to be able to pressure the Falcon QB as well.

    The Falcons have some star power on the defensive side of the ball, enough to be the NFL’s #8 pass defense, at least. A crucial matchup’s going to be between their sack leader, John Abraham, and whoever the Rams put at RT. If the Rams get pwned there again, they’re in for another long day. The Rams are going to have to watch out for all-pro LB Keith Brooking, as well as Michael Boley, who had three sacks on Thanksgiving against the Colts, another team having a lot of problems with the RT position right now. Demorrio Williams makes his share of plays and rounds out a solid LB corps. CB DeAngelo Hall’s capable of shutdown corner work; I’d expect Frerotte to throw away from him and at fast-but-green rookie Chris Houston. Then again, I’m expecting Scott Linehan to use the whole field in the passing game, which is probably silly on my part. For that and for Frerotte-based reasons, Rams Nation’s real hope is for Steven Jackson to take over the game early and keep it that way, more than possible against the league’s 7th-worst run defense at 123.5 ypg.

    Going into today, you’d say the Seattle game looked winnable, and it was; the Rams let it get away. Seattle’s a lot better than Atlanta, which means the Falcon game isn’t a game the Rams could win; it’s a game the Rams should win. With his job likely on the line, it shouldn’t be too much to ask of Scott Linehan to put together a gameplan that wins a game instead of losing it. In my eyes, it’s as simple as that. Beat a bad team at home and live to fight another day; lose, and hello, Martyball! Linehan doesn’t have to be Don Coryell or Bill Walsh or even Mike Martz to win next Sunday. He just needs to be the Linehan who’s been smart enough to win a few games in the time he’s been here. Don’t let this one get away, coach.

    -- Mike
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    Re: RamView, 11/25/2007: Seahawks 24, Rams 19 (Long)

    Franke, thanks for your article on such a lame game.

    No one here has commented on the face mask proclivity in this game. Besides what was called on both sides, did anyone else see Rotens attempt to tear his mans head clean off and get away with it?
    Look away. I'm hideous. __ Cozmo Kramer

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    Re: RamView, 11/25/2007: Seahawks 24, Rams 19 (Long)

    the Rams are Wile E. Coyote. And Marc Bulger just got flattened by another boulder. :x:\
    Good stuff Mike.....thanks for the write up. I can't believe we let this one slip away.

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