RamView, 12/17/2006: Rams 20, Raiders 0 (Long)
RamView, December 17, 2006
From The Couch
(Report and opinions on the game.)
Game #14: Rams 20, Raiders 0
Winning the turnover battle decisively and perhaps irked that they were actually favored to lose to a team as laughably bad as Oakland, the Rams record their first road shutout since 2001. I would call the loss embarrassing for the Raiders, but I doubt they can be embarrassed much more than they already are.
Position by position:
* QB: Lucky for Marc Bulger (11-22-137, 69.7) Pro Bowl balloting was already complete; today would have sunk any chance he had. The Rams 3-and-outed to begin and end the 1st half, sandwiching two drives which ended in FGs after the Rams bogged down in the red zone. Bulger set the 2nd FG up with a nice 41-yard bomb to Isaac Bruce. But that was almost 1/3 of his yardage for the day, as Marc struggled mightily to find open receivers. The Rams bogged down again at midfield right after halftime, but Oakland kept them alive by muffing the punt. Bulger then set up Steven Jacksonís first TD with a 14-yard strike to Torry Holt. The rest of the second half, in which Bulger was 5-11-53, was some of the worst offense weíve seen by a St. Louis Rams team. Failing to get anything going downfield, the Rams had a three-incompletion 3-and-out followed by two more three-and-outs that ended in sacks. After Jackson cashed in a Raider INT with a TD run, the Rams 3-and-outed again, but Matt Turk took off and ran on 4th down instead of punting to extend the drive. From there, heavy doses of Jackson and a 21-yard completion to Holt ate 5-plus minutes off the clock and put the Raiders away. The key to Bulgerís performance today was that he committed no turnovers; other than that, the Rams won despite getting next to nothing out of their passing game.
* RB: Steven Jackson was a workhorse to end all workhorses, grinding out 127 yards and 2 TDs on 31 caries, without catching any passes. He had the big play of the Ramsí first FG drive, bouncing off a big pile-up, breaking two tackles behind the line and taking the play outside for 19 yards. Steven loosened up the Raiders right before the big bomb to Isaac Bruce with a similar 11-yard run, bouncing off a middle blitz and running outside. In the 3rd, he trotted in easily for a 4-yard TD behind good left-side blocking, and he used that again after Ron Bartellís INT in the 4th, surging through a left-side gap and out-accelerating any Raider even thinking about catching him for a 19-yard TD. Those were the highlights, but those were just the lyrics for a background track of heavy-metal power-running right up the middle, with Steven taking hits, breaking tackles, gaining yards after contact all game long. To abuse the workhorse metaphor, Jacksonís playing like a Clydesdale thatís also fast enough to win the Kentucky Derby. Try stopping that.
* WR: Nnamdi Asomugha's name is Igbo for "Jesus lives", though it could also mean "Torry Holt's jockstrap", as often as Nnamdi was in it today. Holt had just 4 catches for 59 yards and had two TD passes denied him by good plays by Asomugha. Isaac Bruce (3-58) was the ONLY other Ram wideout to catch a pass, and he had the big play of the game, a 41-yard bomb that set up a 2nd-quarter FG. Fabian Washington was step-for-step with Isaac the whole route, but Bulgerís throw was wisely inside while Washington was on Bruceís outside shoulder, and Isaac outjumped him for the ball. Highlights were scarce today, as the passing game was rendered all but useless by the Ramsí success running and forcing turnovers, coupled with frequent failure to get anyone open the times the Rams did have to throw.
* Offensive line: Adam Timmerman missed his first game today after playing in 184 straight. Adam wonít make the Hall of Fame, maybe not even the teamís Ring of Honor, but heís earned top billing here to salute a long career of skill and physical toughness, and for his role as a cornerstone of a Rams championship team. The ďline of the futureĒ held up fairly well, despite some errors of inexperience. Kirk Morrison blitzed right up the middle untouched for a sack to kill the Ramsí opening drive, a mistake Jim Hanifan credited to Richie Incognito, playing RG, for blocking in the wrong direction. RT Alex Barron and Joe Klopfenstein false-started the next drive, but it ended in a FG, as did the next drive, even though Kevin Huntley smoked Klop and LT Todd Steussie to drop Bulger for a big 3rd-down loss. Huntleyís face mask penalty, however, kept the drive alive. Jacksonís 1st TD was an easy stroll behind a big block from Steussie, and his 19-yard TD in the 4th was even easier thanks to pancake blocks from Steussie and Klopfenstein. In between those TDs, though, two more Raider sacks ended drives, with Derrick Burgess beating Barron fairly easily for one and Warren Sapp beating LG Mark Setterstrom for the other. The four sacks and 4.0 RB rushing average gives the Ram o-line a draw at best today, but Bulger did have good protection on quite a few throws, Raider blitzes were picked up well and I didnít see any foul-ups from Brett Romberg at center. Even if the future isnít that far away, the Rams may not be too bad off.
* Defensive line/LB: A DT finally showed up for the Rams today, and that was LaRoi Glover, who apparently doesnít like the Raiders very much. Glover had easily his best game of the season. He rushed an Aaron Brooks pass on Oaklandís opening possession with good pressure, leading to an INT, and sacked Brooks at the Ram 44 to end the next drive. That sack was a gigantic play; a Ram DB slipped and fell right after the snap, giving a Raider WR a free run to the end zone. Brooks never saw him. After going up 3-0 in the 2nd, the Rams stopped Oakland again thanks to a crafty blitz by Raonall Smith. The Raiders had just crossed midfield again, but on 3rd-and-4, Smith hid in the weeds and then burst through a gap to get to Brooks untouched for a big sack. The Rams blitzed the Raiders into a 3-and-out before halftime, and kept the pressure up in the 3rd. Claude Wroten stuffed a Zack Crockett run, helping Leonard Little force a fumble. Oakland got as far as the Ram 31 the next drive, but Little got Brooks for his first sack, after which the Rams got away with terrible pass coverage and a soft 4-man rush on 4th down. Brooks beat the Rams with one scramble but they kept him from hurting them with rollouts as he has done so often in the pass. In fact, Brooks (11-19-98, 49.9) was so ineffective, Art Shell replaced him with Andrew Walter, who fared even worse (14-20-141, 48.1). On his first drive, Walter held the ball on one play longer than it took me to find a parking space at the mall this weekend, giving Little plenty of time to overcome being steered outside to burst back inside for his second sack. The next drive wasnít Brandon Chillarís highlight reel: he tried to tackle Ronald Curry without using his arms on one play and committed a bad DPI a couple of plays later, but Dexter Coakley intercepted a Johnnie Morant bobble to effectively stick a fork in the Raiders. Coakley had a good game, with six tackles, and if youíre wondering where this weekís opposing 100-yard rusher went, donít; there wasnít one. Justin Fargas gained just 43 yards on 12 carries and the Raiders ran for only 57 as a team. As in the teamís better days, the Rams stopped the running game by forcing turnovers and getting out to a sizable lead, turning the Raiders into a one-dimensional passing offense, and a bad one at that. The Ram front seven didnít make a lot of big plays, but they were solid, which they frankly should have been given the level of their competition.
* Secondary: Turnovers were the key to the game, and the Ram secondaryís opportunistic play was a necessity, because they didnít look that good at covering Oaklandís receiving corps, even without Randy Moss. Fakhir Brown started things on the right track, though, with a nice diving INT of a stupid Brooks pass on the gameís opening possession. After getting embarrassed by Justin Fargas on a 10-yard run in the 1st, Corey Chavous got revenge by blitzing him for a loss on 2nd-and-3 to help kill Oaklandís next drive. Chavous had nine tackles and had a strong day in run support. With the Raiders in the red zone in the 3rd, Tye Hill recovered Leonard Littleís strip of Zack Crockett. Ronald Curry (9-87) was a lot more effective than I thought he should have been, though. The Rams played their zone defenses way too loose, with an annoying tendency to leave the first-down line between themselves and their receiver. This was glaring on a crucial 4th-and-5 late in the 3rd. Curry was wide open at the sideline, with two Rams laying off him behind the first down line, but Brooks missed him badly. That brought in Walter, who promptly threw Ron Bartellís first career INT. Nice catch and nice safety play there by Bartell, setting up a TD. Dexter Coakley picked off a pass the next drive, and that was pretty much all she wrote. Like last week, the Ram DBs didnít really allow anything deep, but Iím ready for tighter coverage nearer the line of scrimmage, less ďbendĒ to the bend-but-donít-break philosophy.
* Special teams: It was a pretty wild day on special teams, especially for Matt Turk, who saved the Rams' bacon (mutton?) a couple of times. He unloaded a 74-yard punt late in the first half to get the Rams out of a hole. In the 3rd, he had a 55-yarder taken off the board because Isaiah Kacyvenski lined up wrong. On the retry, Brandon Chillar whiffed pathetically on Jarrod Cooper, who steamed in for the block, but Turk, who has never had a punt blocked, foiled him by dropping the ball instead of attempting the kick. And since such a play is a rare occurrence for Turk, it's hard to fault him for picking up the ball and trying to run with it instead of getting off a quick punt. Raonall Smith was flagged for the punt team's 2nd straight illegal formation on the play anyway. Turk hilariously took off again, on his own, in the 4th for 16 yards and a first down. Quite an eventful day for a punter. Kickoff coverage was wildly inconsistent, and Chris Carr was helped immeasurably on returns by ridiculously short kicks that came down around the 15-yard line. Why the hell aren't the Rams kicking DEEP? Punt coverage scored a big play, though, when Carr muffed one away in the 3rd, and how awesome is it that the loose ball was recovered by the long snapper, Chris Massey? What's the last time a punter or a long snapper earned a game ball? They sure did today.
* Coaching/discipline: Though the Raiders are a dreadfully awful team, letís give the Rams a little credit for starters. Scott Linehanís team is still playing hard, and won a game today they were ďsupposedĒ to win. Doing it on the road and with a short week speaks well to the Ramsí level of preparation, as does the good start the defense got off to. Jim Haslett blitzed the Raiders mercilessly, which was responsible for a lot of Oaklandís turnovers, incompletions, sacks and rushes for loss. And if Haslett has gotten one thing right this year, itís been that he has neutralized some dangerous rollout passers. The one call I largely question was the soft zone coverage and soft 4-man rush when Oakland went for it on 4th down in the 3rd. If Aaron Brooks didnít suck, that would have been a routine first down. But even with the opponentís low skill level, the Rams deserve credit for throwing a shutout and for their season-best day against the run.
You are not having a good day, though, when you commit more penalties than the Oakland freaking Raiders, and Linehan needs to make reducing penalties a top priority heading into next season. The penalties the Rams are taking are primarily dumb and are a hallmark of subpar coaching. Kennedy offsides on the opening drive, Klopfenstein false-starting in the 1st two plays after Barron did, Holt offsides in the 3rd two plays after a Bruce false start, Kacyvenski and R.Smith drawing illegal formation penalties on back-to-back punts, Wroten and R.Smith offsides on the last drive of the gameÖ this team still has a problem getting focused, and Linehan has to get it straightened out.
The game plan was extremely conservative, more running than passing, and Iíll be darned if there werenít a couple of passes called that also should have been runs. In the 2nd, they got inside the 5 and then passed on 2nd and 3rd downs. Yuk. They settled for a second FG after a 3rd-and-10 screen pass to Stephen Davis from the Raider 17. Yuk. Just across midfield in the 3rd, on 3rd-and-1, a throw for Curtis? Double yuk. And to then punt on 4th-and-1, when your defense has legitimately been effective today? Triple yuk. Good thing for Linehan that Carr muffed that fraidy-cat punt. Jacksonís first TD was a nice call, a run off a play-action pass, but then up 13-0, Greg Olson got pass-happy, throwing 7 of the next 9 plays instead of keeping the clock moving with rushes. Septuple yuk. So while weíre all happy the Rams won, and acknowledge what they did right, there is still a lot to clean up here for this team to continue winning games.
* Upon further review: One of the big surprises of the day was that Tony Corrente, a Bay Area native who's butchered plenty of calls against the Rams in San Francisco in the past, doesn't extend that charity across the Bay Bridge. Isaac Bruce should have gotten an OPI late in the first; that wasn't incidental contact in the end zone; he shoved Fabian Washington to the ground, which may have prevented an INT. I was very afraid Dane Looker would be flagged for interference on Chris Carr's muffed punt; it must have been ruled he was still engaged by the blocker. In addition, a cheesy taunting call against Courtney Anderson in the 3rd stopped a promising Raider drive. Anderson got that call primarily for wearing silver and black. Didn't care for Corrente laughing during the offsides call on Torry Holt, but they called DPI well, and showed good teamwork catching Kevin Huntley face masking Bulger in the 2nd. Today's game was called competently enough to bump Corrente off the bottom of the NFL's officiating barrel, which welcomes Jeff Triplette.
* Cheers: Another surprise was that Fox used four people to announce today's game. Maybe someday they'll hire a couple who can tell Torry Holt from Isaac Bruce, huh? Lead announcer Matt Vasgersian did refer to Bruce as a future Hall-of-Famer, though, so he scored some points. With Justin Fargas playing, I sadly neglected to keep track of the Huggy Bear Index on the TV broadcast. On radio, Steve Savard didn't mention Huggy Bear until the 2nd quarter, which could be a record for any account of a Justin Fargas game. Savard got the quarter the game was in wrong a couple of times, and Jim Hanifan, who can still see more going on in the trenches than I ever will, insisted Turk's fake punt was called from the sidelines, but those are subtle mistakes compared to the ridiculous play-calling I've heard elsewhere this week. In the Carolina game, Dick Enberg called a pass to "Keyshawn Foster" incomplete, when it was actually a complete pass to Drew Carter. Then there's TV's worst play-by-play man, Bryant Gumbel, who identified the *****' star RB as "Al Gore" at least three times Thursday night. And, please, Dick Vermeil, get well soon. Marshall Faulk was filling in capably for the ailing DV Saturday night, but then some brilliant producer had to send Peon Deion to the booth, apparently to shout Marshall down and analyze plays poorly. NFL Network's learning quickly, I hope, that putting on a game isn't as easy as it may look.
* Whoís next?: The NFL didn't exactly show a lot of holiday spirit by scheduling the Rams to host the Redskins this Christmas Eve. Though Washington is just 5-9 this season, they're also a team the Rams almost never beat. The Rams are 1-5 against the Redskins since moving to St. Louis. Washington has won all four meetings in the Dome, and are on a seven-game winning streak right here in River City, where they haven't lost since 1984. The opposing coaches in that 26-24 Big Dead win? Jim Hanifan andÖ Joe Gibbs.
The Redskins lost Clinton Portis for the season five weeks ago, but unfortunately, you can tell hardly any difference from their running game. Ladell Betts has broken the 100-yard mark four straight weeks and is averaging over 5 yards a carry this month. The Skins are 5th in the league in rushing yards, helped in no small part by a solid run-blocking offensive line, where, for my money, Randy Thomas is the best run-blocking guard in football. The Redskin running game will also have fans wincing back to last year, when Portis not only gashed them for 136, the immortal Rock Cartwright (Betts was injured) burned them for 118 on just 9 carries. With luck, the Rams will only see Rock returning kickoffs Sunday. Jim Haslett probably wonít blitz Jason Campbell a lot; his secondary will have its hands full with a ton of WR speed in Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-El, and with those two, you absolutely positively have to be on the lookout for end-arounds and gadget plays. The Skins distribute the ball very evenly, so the Rams also have to watch for Betts out of the backfield, and for TE Chris Cooley, who has broken off some long plays lately. The Rams have to hope to force Campbell into making mistakes while somehow keeping the clamps on Betts, but the Redskins donít give up a lot of sacks, so itís a tough task.
The defensive book on the Redskins had been to run on them, and that theyíre weak at CB. Then today, they go and beat the Saints in New Orleans, allowing just 71 yards rushing and getting big plays from CBs Carlos Rogers and Shawn Springs. That secondary still has only 6 INTs this season, though, which equals the number of picks Rogers has reportedly dropped. The Skins also have only 17 sacks this season, led by LDE Andre Carter with 4. Carter also had a big game in the Big Easy; Alex Barron has to at least fight him to a draw for the Rams to be effective against a defense that has had trouble stopping the run (20th in the league, 124+ a game) and forcing mistakes. And that'll mean getting Jackson rolling. Both teams have favorable matchups on paper in the passing game, but these are both run-first teams and don't figure to stray far from their root philosophy. Old fashioned, ground-and-pound football. Sadly, the Rams likely won't have Adam Archuleta to pick on, as the most overpaid safety in NFL history has been demoted to most overpaid special teams player in NFL history. They'll have to run over other people to win Sunday.
Does pulling off the upset in New Orleans mean the Redskins are getting their act together, or are they headed for a letdown? Will this week's win give the Rams new confidence, or a false sense of security? Washington proved the "any given Sunday" adage last week by playing with fire and motivation, especially on defense. If the Rams don't take that lesson to heart, they are very likely to suffer the same fate as the Saints. If they take that lesson to heart, and play with heart, they could very well take a step closer to .500.
Game stats from nfl.com
Re: RamView, 12/17/2006: Rams 20, Raiders 0 (Long)
Wow very good stuff thanks.
Re: RamView, 12/17/2006: Rams 20, Raiders 0 (Long)
Thanx again Mike for your prescient comments. As I was watching this debacle..er.. "game" the thought occurred to me that this is such a lousy contest that maybe even Mr. Franke won't bother to review it. But fortunately, I was wrong.
WHAT SAY YE?
Re: RamView, 12/17/2006: Rams 20, Raiders 0 (Long)
My wife and I happened to be up in Yosemite this last weekend.
I was pleasantly surprised when going into the Yosemite Lounge and the game was on. Plenty of Raider fans. Lots of laughs for me! :)
One thing I have a problem with is the Lounge - a full bar - does not have a restroom. Had to make your way outside and down the path for a restroom break.
Other than that........always makes my day when the team wins.
GO RAMS !!!!!