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    MFranke's Avatar
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    RamView, 12/24/2005: ***** 24, Rams 20 (Long)

    RamView, December 24, 2005
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions from the game.)
    Game 15: ***** 24, Rams 20

    Just for Christmas, the Rams take a big, fat, steaming, stinking dump in their fans' stockings by making themselves the *****ES of a 3-12 team. Get. Out. Of. My. Sight. And don't come back. Happy holidays!

    Position by position:
    * QB: Joe Vitt's best coaching move of the week was re-installing Jamie Martin as the starter. Throwing accurately, hanging tough in the pocket, eluding defenders well, Jamie responded with a career day: 33-41, 354 yards. After scrambling for 9 on an initial 3rd down, Jamie hunted and pecked his way down the field to set up a FG. That drive included a 21-yard completion to Torry Holt, the Rams' first pass over 20 yards in 3 weeks. Though Jamie doesn't have a "long arm", the long play was back in the Ram offense today, because unlike Ryan Fitzpatrick the last three weeks, the veteran Martin can throw all the routes and throw passes on-target to his receivers. 19 to Torry and 30 to Isaac Bruce set up the Rams' first TD. Martin immediately followed that TD drive with another, dropping a dead-on 40-yard bomb into Holt's hands to give the Rams a 17-7 lead. Jamie's play this season has been a lot better than many have realized. In the 2nd half, though, he could not return the Ram offense to the endzone, throwing two crushing INTs, though 49er defenders deserve credit for making good plays on both. At the start of the 4th, a sideline pass for Bruce in the endzone needed just a little more mustard, as Shawntae Spencer was able to dive in front of it and make a spectacular catch. With 1:14 left, Mike Adams did almost the same thing he did Week 1, jumping a pass intended for Kevin Curtis, but this pass ended up deflecting to Ben Emanuel to seal the Rams' doom. The Rams lost, and Jamie committed those two crucial turnovers, but he was still one of the few Rams who actually did their job today. Good grief, he completed 80% of his passes, only took one sack, really spread the ball around (7 different receivers, 14 catches by RBs), and in general, just played smart. I believe both INTs were much more good plays defensively than they were poor plays by Jamie. Martin did everything you could expect from a backup QB and more. He just didn't get enough help from the rest of his team.

    * RB: The Ram running game was completely ineffective. The longest run of the day was a 9-yard Martin scramble. Steven Jackson had another bad game, 16 rushes for 28 yards. The Rams probably could have used more of Marshall Faulk, but he had just five yards on three attempts. Vitt still probably relied too much on the injured, sick, but game, Jackson. But even with his health issues, Steven wasn't the problem today. He ran hard, took on defenders, and kept the amount of dancing down. His 3-yard TD run was a good example of taking a play where it's designed, then bouncing it outside. Steven got met in the backfield far too often by unblocked ***** to believe he was the main source of the running game's woes. His offensive line just never gave him anywhere to go. Madison Hedgecock is developing into a good fullback. He blocked well and caught two passes for 1st downs late in the 3rd. But a running game isn’t going anywhere without help from its offensive line, and Jackson and Faulk got none today.

    * WR: Torry Holt almost carried the Rams to a win single-handedly. He's positioned nicely for another 100-catch season and yet another 1300-yard season after a 10-163 performance today. As often happens, Holt was open at will all day. He made a double-team look silly on his 40-yard TD catch. Isaac Bruce's (6-73) 30-yard reception set up the Rams' first TD. Faulk and Jackson made up some for the team's rushing problems with a combined 12 catches. One thing I notice, though, is too many patterns coming up short on third downs. Shaun McDonald got away with it on a 3rd-and-9 13-yard catch-and-run late in the 3rd, but: 1st quarter, 3rd-and-12, completion to Holt for 10. 2nd quarter, 3rd-and-2, Bryant Young blows up a screen for Faulk for -3. 3rd quarter, 3rd-and-8, completion to Kevin Curtis (2-15) for 3. 4th quarter, 3rd-and-9, 8-yard completion to Bruce, Jackson stuffed for loss next play. Either the intermediate pattern-running's got to get better, or, if these are dumpoffs Martin's forced to take, the Rams have to do a better job getting open downfield on critical downs. They haven't settled for small stuff in so many big situations for a long time.

    * Offensive line: Jamie Martin apparently bought the offensive line much better Christmas presents than Steven Jackson did. Martin got excellent protection, and the line picked the 49er blitz up much better than they did in San Francisco on Opening Day. But while Martin was sacked just once, the Ram RBs got no room to run at all, a lot of it because of the offensive line's failure to execute. Niner DBs and LBs knifed into the backfield all game long. If I saw Claude Terrell miss a block today, I saw him miss a hundred. He was bad enough to deserve benching. (I know: "For who?") Andy McCollum must have had his worst game of the season. There was a screen to Jackson where McCollum, the lead blocker, ran out there and didn't even touch anybody, just watched Jackson get taken down. And for the second straight week, the line failed on the most crucial play of the game. There was no push whatsoever on Jackson's failed 4th-and-1 run in the 4th; instead, TWO ***** got to the Ram RB for the game-changing stuff. I guess the lesson I should have learned this season is that the Ram offensive line is so finesse the team should never even try to run. The Rams have failed to establish the run almost every week. When you can't get one of the foundations of football right, there's no wondering why you're staring at a 5-10 record on Christmas Day.

    * Defensive line/LB: The Ram pass rush had one of its better days, actually able to put pressure on 49er QB Alex Smith without blitzing, a real rarity for this front four. The Rams notched five sacks, and 49er pass protection was so bad, there were times they actually had to double-team Anthony Hargrove, whose 1.5 sacks probably amount to a career game. Damione Lewis actually had a sack to force a 1st-quarter punt. For those counting, that's one sack this season for D-Lew. In the 2nd, Jimmy Kennedy sacked Alex Smith and forced a fumble. The ***** recovered, but on 3rd down, Hargrove and Tyoka Jackson met Smith in the backfield to end the drive. The Rams went up 20-7 shortly afterward. After Martin's 1st interception in the 4th, Leonard Little's sack kept the ***** from capitalizing. Nobody say I didn't look at the bright side!
    Because most of the game, these guys played like a bunch of gutless losers who I don't care if I ever see in Ram uniforms again after today. On the opening play of the game, Maurice Hicks exploded for a 73-yard TD, as the Rams got caught blitzing, D-Lew overran Hicks in the backfield, Ryan Pickett became a Big Grease spot, and, about 15 yards downfield, Adam Archuleta whiffed at Hicks as badly as anybody has ever whiffed at anything. Blindfolded children come closer with their first swing at their birthday piñatas. For football players, these guys sure play a lot of "Whiffle" ball. Was there a running play today where a 49er RB didn't break at least one tackle? (Leave out the plays where no Ram even touched the 49er RB, smarties.) They ran for 217 yards; over SEVEN yards a handoff. Amazingly, thanks to good pass rush and Martin's heroics, the Rams led the game 20-7 late in the 1st half, but the defense fatefully took the last 3:30 off. San Francisco took all of two minutes to drive 74 yards for their second TD, capped by a 10-yard Frank Gore run where he made like Godzilla and Mike Furrey made like Bambi. The ***** even managed to add a 56-yard Joe Nedney bomb at the gun to close the lead to 20-17. The Rams controlled the football most of the 3rd quarter, and Little's sack stopped the Niners once in the 4th, but Frisco would eventually drive 77 yards for the winning TD, another Gore run where Trev Faulk overran him, Ron Bartell missed him at the line, Pisa Tinoisamoa's poor arm-tackle attempt failed, and once Gore got downfield, guess who's there to blow the tackle, Furrey. The ***** have a poor offensive line; the Rams have no excuse for the way they got dominated on the ground today. Well, other than lack of talent, lack of skill, lack of coaching and lack of desire, that is. This unit doesn't need a shakeup as much as it needs utter demolition.

    * Secondary: Alex Smith isn't exactly taxing secondaries in his rookie year, and he threw for just 131 yards today, yet the Rams still let him complete 75% of his passes, turning him into a QB with a passer rating near 100 instead of his season's average of 26. Alex went 6-7-79 in the last 3:30 of the 1st half as the ***** put up 10 cheap points. After his whiff on the first play of the game, Adam Archuleta finished his transition from pretty-good safety to pretty-boy safety with a miserable effort at holding TE Terry Jones up at the sideline. By failing to even grab Jones' jersey, Adam turned a short play into a 21-yard completion, setting up Gore's first TD. Adam's decline as a tackler is as dramatic as it is disappointing. He's not exactly making a statement in his contract year. And thanks to the Ram organization's lousy job at finding safety help, Mike Furrey has been put in one miserable spot after another. I like the guy, but honestly, he's worse than Rich Coady. Furrey tackles like he's really a WR. Which he is. What does the fact that he's the starter the Rams roll out every week say about almost every phase of the Ram operation? The front office couldn't find a better veteran by now? The coaching staff couldn't develop a better young player by now? Because Ram fans, and Furrey himself, deserved far better than to watch him flop like a fish every week and give up one big play after another. Atrocious safety play has really exacerbated the defense's other problems this year.

    * Special teams: Jeff Wilkins is on fire, blasting two 50+ yard FGs today to make it four straight FG bombs over three games. Maybe, just maybe, Vitt should have given him a crack at a 53-yarder early in the 3rd instead of punting. Tough call, but evidence over the last three weeks is that Wilkie would have drilled it. As it was, Brian Barker's punt made it to the endzone, 16-yard net and a probable writeup in TMQ on Tuesday. What puzzles me is when Wilkins' kickoffs barely travel as far as some of his FGs. Let's start booting that thing into the endzone. Chris Johnson was lousy on kickoff returns; just like the RBs, he got no blocking. But the Rams have their punt returner for next year, and his name is Dane Looker. Not only does he actually run forward after he catches the ball, he averaged over 10 yards a return today. His 17-yard return in the 2nd set up a short FG drive and was as good as any Ram punt return in 2 years. And who knows how many yards he saved when he ran up a good 15 yards to field a poor 49er punt at the 25 earlier in that quarter? I hope the next coaching staff will see that #89 is one of the Rams' few real keepers.

    * Coaching/discipline: TMQ wouldn't berate Joe Vitt for going for it on 4th-and-1 from the S.F. 22 with 9:16 left in the game; Kick It Early, Go For It Late. Really, how much better is a potential 6-point lead than a 3-point lead? Vitt kicks the figgie there, he gets raked over the coals for lacking killer instinct when the Rams lose 24-23. I'm fine with his decision to go for it and try to put the Niners away then and there. You've got good momentum going, and you only need a damn yard, you know, that yard that you deserve to lose the game if you can't get it? The problem was yet another horrible play-call by Steve Fairchild, and a repeat of his stupid call from last week's also-critical and also-failed 4th-down play, a run to the OUTSIDE. If Jackson screwed up the play, I couldn't say, as I thankfully failed to record the game. But I certainly can't say why it is such a staple in the Martz / Fairchild system to run outside in that situation, when I've been hearing since I was a little kid that you should never do that, and I'm almost as old as instant replay.
    Live by the sword, die by the sword, which we fans of aggressive defensive strategy learned on the very first play. Larry Marmie blitzed Bartell and Chillar from the *****' right; they ran left; a few seconds and a few bad tackles later, it’s a one-play TD. That blitz makes me think Marmie thought the ***** would come out passing. With Alex Smith? As the game wore on, it really looked like the ***** could counter whatever Marmie dialed up. A lot of blitzes got picked up easily, so Marmie fell back more on those exotic shifts where Little or Hargrove would drop back into MLB position before the snap. Except he would then stunt Little with a DT from that alignment. What does that do, other than increase the time it takes for Leonard to get to the QB? And put a defensive line that had been near-dominant in pass rush back on its heels? Now the soft coverage of the Ram secondary could be exploited by Frisco's switch to a quick-passing set to the tune of a 75% completion rate. But even with all that said, the Ram defense's problem today wasn't tactical. Far from it. Marmie wasn't one of the guys out there missing a tackle on nearly every play.

    * Upon further review: The key call of today's game by the Ron Winter crew was the 4th-quarter goal line interception by Shawntae Spencer. From the initial Jumbotron relay, it appeared there was no way Spencer made a valid catch. But thanks to a rare additional replay, from a different angle, it was apparent that he drug his right foot before his left knee touched out of bounds. So credit to the officials for getting a tough call right the first time. Aside from some long and meaningless conferences, not a bad job overall.

    * Cheers: Strange happenings in the Dome weren't limited to pathetic defensive play. What was with the fans doing "The Wave" in the 2nd half? First, that is so 1990s, but second – the Rams had the ball! You're making extra noise when your own team has the ball? Does the Dome crowd have to retake Rooting for Your Team 101?? I'm guessing about 35,000 showed up; they made nice noise at times when Frisco had the ball, but the two loudest noises of the day were booing the defense on the opening play, and then that stupid Wave! What the hell? But even more disturbing than that, at the end of the game on the Jumbotron, they played a series of highlights apparently intended as a farewell tribute to Marshall Faulk! What did I miss – when did it become obvious that Marshall won't return next year? Heck, five minutes before the tribute ran, Steve Savard on radio called Marshall the best RB on the team! (Jim Hanifan on radio was awesome today, just ripping guys left and right.) To me, running the Faulk tribute was akin to printing an obituary for someone who hasn't died. I hope rumors of Marshall's retirement have been greatly exaggerated.

    * Who’s next?: The Greatest Show on Earth has been cancelled; Sunday night will mark the end of its run. There's little use breaking the game itself down, but there are a couple of things that matter. The game could be important to the Dallas Cowboys; we'll know by kickoff. For the integrity of the league, the Rams may owe a solid effort. If today's Jumbotron was right, it could be Marshall Faulk's last game as a Ram. If offseason negotiations fail, it could be Isaac Bruce's, too. Sunday night's a good time to appreciate what those two have done for the team. It's also a good night to appreciate the heights to which Mike Martz helped bring the franchise in a short amount of time.
    Much less nostalgically, Sunday night's the last night Rams fans will have to put up with many of the malingerers on this team that pose as professional football players. It'll be the last game of the Martz Era, the last Rams game for a coaching staff that pretty well needs to be cleaned out, witnessing the depths to which the franchise has plunged in a short amount of time. Depths we'll be reminded of Sunday night every time the Rams blow a tackle or block like crap on a running play. Which they will continue to do, because they've been playing only for pride for at least two weeks and shown just about none. They're not going to show any New Year's Night, either. Somebody take this dog of a season, this dog of a team, out back and shoot it. As for me, cue the Who:

    I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    Then I'll get on my knees and pray
    We don't get fooled again

    -- Mike
    Game stats from nfl.com


  2. #2
    RAMarkable is online now Registered User
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    Re: RamView, 12/24/2005: ***** 24, Rams 20 (Long)

    Mike, thanx for your detailed review; although I would imagine this was one of the most painful ones for you this year-or any year for that matter. I didn't see the game (since it was played on the Sabbath); but I do have a few questions for you if you don't mind.

    1.) Many of the Clan have criticised the TE position and ManuManu specifically; do you think his play this year has been adequate; especially in regards to his blocking?

    2.) I am encouraged that A. Hardgrove has 2.5 sacks in his last 2 games; does he look better to you or is it just one of those things?

    3.) B. Chillar has been starting last 3-4 games for Coakley; do you think he could become a quality OLB or should we look for another?

    4.) What is your overall impression of R. Bartell? Does he have starter or nickel back potential for next year?

    5.) Did you see much of either Atogwe or Chris Johnson in the game and, if so, what were your thoughts?

    BTW The Who song is appropriate, but how about "Paranoid" for the Rams Front office?

    WHAT SAY YE?

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    RamJackson39's Avatar
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    Re: RamView, 12/24/2005: ***** 24, Rams 20 (Long)

    I can answer these

    1.) Many of the Clan have criticised the TE position and ManuManu specifically; do you think his play this year has been adequate; especially in regards to his blocking?

    No. He has been one of the biggest problems with the O-Line. He often just gets blown up on the line. His pass catching is decent, but he fumbles far too often and for a big guy, he is far too finesse.

    2.) I am encouraged that A. Hardgrove has 2.5 sacks in his last 2 games; does he look better to you or is it just one of those things?

    He looks like he's settling down. Although he needs to be more disciplined in the running game, he has really been impressive in pass rush.

    3.) B. Chillar has been starting last 3-4 games for Coakley; do you think he could become a quality OLB or should we look for another?

    He's a good transition guy. He's not a starter in my eyes. The Rams need to draft either Demeco Ryans or Chad Greenway to settle the OLB position once and for all.

    4.) What is your overall impression of R. Bartell? Does he have starter or nickel back potential for next year?

    He has the potential to be a star in this league. He's the reason why I think it would be foolish to draft a DB. A starting set with him and Jermaterius Butler would be a force.

    5.) Did you see much of either Atogwe or Chris Johnson in the game and, if so, what were your thoughts?

    Chris Johnson is not good. He was a waste. I dont know if it's because he's young, but he cannot cover. Atogwe is interesting because he hasnt played much. What I have seen from him though, has been impressive. He has been pretty good in coverage and good in run support. I'm really surprised that he has not seen more playing time this season.
    The Roman and The Prince. Playmakers until the end.


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    RAMarkable is online now Registered User
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    Re: RamView, 12/24/2005: ***** 24, Rams 20 (Long)

    Appreciate your answers RamJackson39, but allow me to pose a few questions on your comments:

    1.) You mentioned D. Ryans and C. Greenway for OLB, but Rams are projected to have 8th pick in first round , would you select one of these 2 players with the 8th pick?

    2.) You say it would be "foolish to draft a DB." But would you pass on a Jimmy Williams (CB VATech) if he were available with the 8th pick?

    3.) Don't you think that a shut-down corner or a quality pass rusher is more valuable in the top ten of the draft than an OLB?

    WHAT SAY YE?

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    MFranke's Avatar
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    Re: RamView, 12/24/2005: ***** 24, Rams 20 (Long)

    RamJackson39, I like your answers. I should just steal those.

    1. Manu is SOFT and the Rams were idiots to match Carolina's offer. Manu misses too many critical run blocks and can't pick up the blitz. He has nice hands, but never delivers any punishment after the catch. He is a finesse WR in a big TE's body, does not, will not, never did, get the tough job done he is supposed to do.

    2. I'm not a Hargrove fan yet. Last 2 wks. of sacks are off of poor competition; SF line and Philly 3rd-stringer. I hope some decent coaching can turn him into a legit pass-rusher, because he has good speed and strength, and it appears Mario Williams won't be on the board when the Rams pick in the 1st round.

    3. I'd call Chillar average at best. He's been some of the problem when teams rush against the nickel package. Experience would help him a lot, but not enough to pass on a LB with the first pick.

    4. I'm shaky on Bartell, but it looks like he can cover. I would like to see him in more man coverage than Marmie soft zone garbage. Don't care for his tackling right now. If you accept that he was drafted as a "project", his development so far seems ok.

    5. For Johnson to make next year's team, it would have to be as the kick returner, which isn't impossible, though he stunk at it Saturday. Atogwe has apparently been limited by a foot(?) injury all year, so hopefully he's healthy for the '06 training camp.

    Another poster has reminded me I left out the Who line,

    Meet the new boss
    Same as the old boss

    Very appropriate regarding the FO.

    --Mike

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    RamJackson39's Avatar
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    Re: RamView, 12/24/2005: ***** 24, Rams 20 (Long)

    1.) You mentioned D. Ryans and C. Greenway for OLB, but Rams are projected to have 8th pick in first round , would you select one of these 2 players with the 8th pick?

    If A.J. Hawk is available and the Rams dont pick up Lavar Arrington in Free Agency, then yes. A great LB can change an entire defense and both of these guys are great LBs with great speed.

    2.) You say it would be "foolish to draft a DB." But would you pass on a Jimmy Williams (CB VATech) if he were available with the 8th pick?

    Yes I would. I would draft the best LB available. I'm not a fan of adding even more youth to an already young secondary. Butler and Bartell as the starting 2 CBs with a healthy Fisher as the NCB is fine with me.

    3.) Don't you think that a shut-down corner or a quality pass rusher is more valuable in the top ten of the draft than an OLB?

    Yes I do, but it's really a crap shoot with corners. Just look at Pac-Man. He hasnt been the shut down corner that he's supposed to be. I think having Butler back healthy is going to settle a LOT of problems in the secondary. Pass rushers are not a first day pick in my eyes. An all around DE is fine with me, but if you're drafting a guy just to rush the passer, than that can wait.
    The Roman and The Prince. Playmakers until the end.


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    RAMarkable is online now Registered User
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    Re: RamView, 12/24/2005: ***** 24, Rams 20 (Long)

    RJ39: You have made some valid comments; however, I would like to respond to your statement "a great LB can change an entire defense..." IMHO this true only if the guy plays at MLB or if he's a pass rushing OLB. Players like Urlacher and Lawrence Taylor certainly can spark a defense; but neither Hawk nor Ryans play the middle and the Rams don't blitz their OLBs enough to utilize them as pass rushers. Therefore all of Hawk's and Ryans' speed will be used to cover the flat or short zones on the field. This is not enough to warrent a top 10 pick in any draft.

    BTW my comment on a pass rushing DE was not intended to implie a specialist. Anyone taken in the top 10 must have the talent and potential to be a complete player. Actually this same logic applied to Hawk and Ryans would disqualify them from the top 10--unless the Rams totally retool their defensive scheme and maybe go with a 3--4 formation.

    WHAT SAY YE?

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    Re: RamView, 12/24/2005: ***** 24, Rams 20 (Long)

    RJ39: You have made some valid comments; however, I would like to respond to your statement "a great LB can change an entire defense..." IMHO this true only if the guy plays at MLB or if he's a pass rushing OLB. Players like Urlacher and Lawrence Taylor certainly can spark a defense; but neither Hawk nor Ryans play the middle and the Rams don't blitz their OLBs enough to utilize them as pass rushers. Therefore all of Hawk's and Ryans' speed will be used to cover the flat or short zones on the field. This is not enough to warrent a top 10 pick in any draft.

    BTW my comment on a pass rushing DE was not intended to implie a specialist. Anyone taken in the top 10 must have the talent and potential to be a complete player. Actually this same logic applied to Hawk and Ryans would disqualify them from the top 10--unless the Rams totally retool their defensive scheme and maybe go with a 3--4 formation.
    You do bring a good point. If the DE from North Carolina is available, he would be the pick without a second thought. Ryans is great in coverage. He's one of the main reasons why Alabama's defense was so good. He can rush the passer, fill running lanes, and cover in the flat. He's great in every aspect. This fills many needs at once. You now have a guy who can rush the QB, cover TEs and WRs, and fill running lanes to stop the running back. I believe that this DOES warrant a top ten pick. Mainly since it improves your defense in every way.

    Before you can say how these players will be used though, you must remember that we will have a new DC. There is no telling what type of defense that the Rams will be running. Unfortunately, the game has become wait and see.
    The Roman and The Prince. Playmakers until the end.


  9. #9
    bruce_wannabe Guest

    Re: RamView, 12/24/2005: ***** 24, Rams 20 (Long)

    at least it will be more exciting than watching what we have put on the field this year...it is hurrendous

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