RamView, 12/4/2005: Redskins 24, Rams 9 (Long)
RamView, December 4, 2005
From Row HH
(Report and opinions on the game.)
Game 12: Redskins 24, Rams 9
The basics of football are blocking, tackling and running, and the Rams were thoroughly dominated at all three of those today, as the Redskins give them a 24-9 brushoff.
Position by position:
* QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick (21-36-163) looked a lot more like a rookie this week than last week. Before and during the game, he suffered from a lot of misthrows, especially on sideline patterns, at which he struggled all day. Ryan overthrew at least half a dozen sideline routes that Marc Bulger hits in his sleep. Jamie Martin probably hits most of them, too, but that's the price of getting down to where your starting QB's a rookie (and Dane Looker is your third-stringer). The Washington blitz got to Ryan a lot, though none of the three first-half sacks he took were really his fault. He ran out of trouble several times, 5 times for 22 yards, to be exact. One of those was a very nifty 7-yard TD run where he made three stop moves in the backfield before bolting upfield and crashing headfirst across the goal line. That tied the game at 7-7, but that was the last time the Ram offense would score, thanks to a total zero of a running game and Ryan's own mistakes. He completely blew short passes to Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce that would have converted third downs if he had had better touch. All his long passes were well underthrown. One never got close to Isaac Bruce down the Ram sideline, hitting Shawn Springs in the back; one never got to well-covered Kevin Curtis in the end zone; a third got to Torry Holt for 44 yards but came back due to a holding penalty. After the Ram defense scored a safety in the 4th to bring the Rams within 17-9, Fitz dropped a handoff exchange, and the Redskins fell on the ball and went on to put the game away. Ryan would add an interception on the Rams' last possession, a throw he forced for Holt trying to make a play, but underthrew again. The level of competition changed today, and so did the quality of Ryan Fitzpatrick's play. Based on the number of poor throws he made, the future, if he's the Ram QB of the future, is still pretty far off. But I liked Ryan's composure against the blitz, and especially like his mobility. He's earned a shot at making that future reality.
* RB: Steven Jackson looked like 1995 Jerome Bettis today, with a weak 24 yards on 11 carries behind the kind of blocking Jerome used to get from the likes of the Road Grader. Steven seemed to run hesitantly again, though I don't know how much of that was due to Redskins continually meeting him in the backfield. There seemed to be opportunities for him to take a run upfield, but he balked and kept hunting-and-pecking outside. He didnít break many tackles, always getting taken down by the first defender to get to him. Itís highly discouraging as a fan to think a drive is going to stall because the Rams just handed Steven the ball, but thatís whatís happening. Four of his rushes were for losses. Itís really inexcusable that a back of Stevenís physical stature is no longer a physical back. Itís especially dumb of the Rams to use him like the worldís largest scatback, always running him outside, when he lacks the speed and moves for it. If the Rams donít start running Steven more up the middle of the field, (especially Ė AHEM Ė on say, third-and-1?) and if he doesnít start delivering punishment instead of taking it, a once-promising RB prospect will be ruined.
* WR: Torry Holt was Fitzpatrickís favorite receiver, with six catches for 75. He had receptions on three straight plays to get the Rams out to midfield on their TD drive. Itís too bad Fitz couldnít have gone to Holt more, because none of the Redskin DBs were exactly threatening him for supremacy out there. For Holt, 6-75 is really a quiet game, and the rest of the WR corps followed suit Ė Isaac Bruce was just 4-33, Kevin Curtis (2-6) barely registered, and Shaun McDonald (2-27) barely got on the field and made just a couple of garbage-time catches. WRs got open downfield several times for deep shots, but pressured Fitzpatrick couldnít make them the best of throws. The time the Rams did make a long connection, Holtís 44-yard jump ball catch came back for a penalty. Did the Redskins cover the Ram WRs well? I wouldnít say that, but their blitzing had the Ram passing game covered anyway, rendering it ineffective.
* Offensive line: Though the Ram tackles were playing hurt (Orlando Pace) or were very raw (Rex Tucker), the middle of the Ram line really failed the Ram offense in a game that saw Washington dominate both sides of the line of scrimmage. On the Rams' first play, a screen to Cam Cleeland lost 7, as Adam Timmerman didn't block anybody. Two plays later, Marcus Washington blew right by Andy McCollum for a sack. There was no run-blocking for Jackson at all. Timmerman, for one, probably needs to do it better before his next complaint to the press that the Rams aren't running enough. A very promising screen to Jackson against a Redskin blitz ended up a 5-yard disappointment after Timmerman and McCollum blocked nobody. Fitzpatrick was sacked three times and was harassed frequently, as the Rams struggled with the blitz yet again. In the 1st, two DBs came in untouched against an empty backfield alignment to take Fitz down easily. The Rams' last drive of the first half died after Brandon Manumaleuna's lame half-whiff block of blitzing Sean Taylor, who got an easy sack. It is time for the Rams to blow up the TE position and bring in somebody who can block. Manu represents everything that is wrong with this team. Though big, he is a finesse player who does not get the physical job of football done. In the 3rd, Timmerman topped off an already-bad game by erasing a 44-yard pass to Holt with a holding penalty, the turning point of a game that was still 10-7 at the time. In the end, the game of football up front is all about physical domination. The Rams lost badly at it today and haven't shown it for some time.
* Defensive line/LB: Another week, another massive meltdown by the shiftless Ram defense, which actually managed to allow TWO 100-yard rushers in a game that saw them surrender 257 yards on the ground. Clinton Portis (27-136) got things going early, thanks to the game's unsung hero, RG Randy Thomas, who made plays the Rams' guards don't seem to have in them. From the Ram 47 in the first, Larry Marmie graciously left Clinton a huge gap on the left side of the Ram line to run to. As RT Jon Jansen blocks Ron Bartell out, TE Chris Cooley dumps lightweight Dexter Coakley on his ass, and at the same time, Thomas deposits Trev Faulk on his ass. And Thomas isn't done; he leads Portis downfield and flattens Mike Furrey, who was out-of-position anyway, for his SECOND pancake of the play. Portis cruises untouched for a 47-yard TD, as 5'10", 185-pound WR Santana Moss takes out DeJuan Groce AND Jerome Carter at the tail end of the play. Great blocking and physical domination by the Redskins. In the 2nd, a fellow named Rock Cartwright set up a FG with a 52-yard run on 3rd-and-1, even though the Rams had nine men in the box. Larry Marmie invited Rock to run to the huge gap in the line to Brandon Green's right, so he did. Green got blocked, the fullback led and buried Coakley, Thomas gets another pancake, Pisa this time, and Mike Furrey takes one of many terrible angles to allow the big play. Cartwright (9-118) averaged over 13 yards a rush. Portis got going again right away after halftime, 21 yards on 2 runs that saw Jansen dominate Leonard Little (remember him?) and Pisa Tinoisamoa get buried by the fullback. Little did deliver the defense's one big play of the day in the 3rd, earning an end zone sack and a safety by getting to Mark Brunell after a fumble. The offense squandered that momentum, though, and Portis, Cartwright and the Redskin offensive line took the opportunity to run right over the Ram defense for a game-cinching TD drive. On the Ram FA LB Watch, Chris Claiborne (7 tackles) replaced a flu-bugged Trev Faulk and made some plays, though he really is a liability in pass coverage. Coakley's season is over Ė he got rolled up on and suffered a broken leg & dislocated ankle. The defense did make some stops, notably Pisa and Claiborne stuffing a QB sneak on 3rd-and-1 late in the 1st which led to a missed FG. But the overwhelming impression from this game is of the Redskins grinding the Ram defense into the turf. It's pretty embarrassing that the Ram defense is as helpless as it is against physical attacks like that. That simply has to improve.
* Secondary: When the free-agent period kicks off after this season, remember how badly the Rams missed Adam Archuleta today. Jerome Carter and Mike Furrey had terrible games at safety, turning in flurries of missed tackles. Carter hasnít looked much better lately than Jason Shivers did before he got cut last preseason. Furrey has looked all right against the pass but is reliving the Jason Sehorn lowlight reel against the run. Ron Bartell made some positive plays, including good defense on an attempted halfback option pass late in the 3rd, but he also badly blew a couple of tackles of his own. Right after that halfback option, on 3rd-and-9, Santana Moss (5-53) made his only impact play of the day, a 30-yard catch over Carter, who was way late figuring out the ball was coming. That set up the 2nd Portis TD. Corey Ivy was the Rams' best DB today, with a couple of nice pass breakups early on. But in the 4th, Chris Cooley (5-53) put the fork in the Rams with a 4 yard TD that showed why Chris Claiborne hasnít been in on passing situations, since he got completely lost on the play, and Cooley slipped out of a creative formation (2 TEs in the backfield, flanking the RB) uncovered and untouched. Washington didn't have to pass much because of their success on the ground, but the Rams still found ways to make critical mistakes in the passing game. With good health, they should be decent at CB in 2006, but some competent safety help has got to come this offseason.
* Special teams: How bad was it for the Rams today? The star of the game was probably punter Bryan Barker, who averaged 46.6 a kick, including blasts of 47, 49, 50, 60 and 63 yards. Where did that come from? If it can't be detected after peeing into a cup, the Rams may have a punter for next year, though Barker'll be 42 by then. Corey Ivy made a nice play to stop Antonio Brown at the 10 after Barker's 60-yard punt, but every other punt, the Rams had nobody within 10 yards of the returner when he caught it, while David Allen was swamped by unblocked Redskin defenders on his return attempts. Even if you grade special teams out OK for today, there's no denying they have been outworked almost every week, including today. And that's disgusting. Special teams is about desire to play, and the Rams haven't shown much.
* Coaching/discipline: There was a lot of media defense of Larry Marmie after today's game, some of which I'll go along with. Marmie's pacifist approach to defense is sensible against an offense like Washington's, meaning it isn't an offense you need to blitz a lot. And a lot of times today, the Rams had a player in the right place to make a play, but he blew it, which is on the player, not the coach. Fine. But don't absolve Marmie from blame today without noting that two of the Redskins' biggest runs went through the massive gaps the Rams gave them when they lined up. If this defense is ever going to prevent big plays, to stop depending on overwhelmed rookie DBs to bail them out, maybe it just shouldn't hand the opponent a five-yard gap in the middle of the line of scrimmage. Marmie's weird line alignments are as much a defensive death wish as Mike Martz's apparent death wish for Marc Bulger some weeks.
Steve Fairchild looks more like a Martz protťgť every week. With a rookie QB making his first career start, he abandoned the run after halftime (with the Rams down only three!) and averaged 4 passes for every run. And he was more than happy to leave Fitzpatrick in empty or overshifted backfields in the face of Redskin blitzes. Fairchild continued to use downhill runner Jackson like an outside runner, and rarely ran him behind a fullback, even after that alignment showed some rare success on the ground. He made an especially brutal call in the 2nd, sweeping Steven way right for a yard loss, instead of running him up the middle, ON THIRD AND 1. This team isn't going to be successful if it can't run the ball, protect the QB or foil the blitz. Fairchildís playcalling isnít consistently getting any of those three things done.
* Upon further review: With all the big games today, it was odd that the NFL's best crew, Bill Carollo's, worked this one. The biggest call was the holding penalty on Timmerman that took away a 44-yard pass to Holt, and 3 points at least, with the Rams trailing 10-7 in the 3rd. I'd have to say the call was right, though. I and a lot of other fans wanted a penalty when Holt got clocked well out of bounds on an incompletion in (I believe) the 4th. It doesnít matter whether the ball is catchable Ė you can't hit a guy that far out of bounds, especially an elite player like Holt. This game had an officiating first Ė on the opening coin flip, the coin stuck in the turf on its edge, and Carollo had to re-toss it. Strange start, but a well-officiated game.
* Cheers: Without Kurt Warner around to root for, the Dome crowd took the week off. In the crowd's defense, the Ram run defense didn't exactly do much to keep the fans in the game early. Even so, the place was way too much like a library. The one time the crowd really got some noise going, thanks to about five minutes of timeout cheerleading by Pisa, the result was the Brunell fumble/safety. With the game as close on the scoreboard as long as it was, it's a shame the crowd didn't sustain anything. It's a two-way street Ė the defense has to do something Ė but the 55,000 or so Rams fans who did show up left it in park today.
* Whoís next?: With their own playoff hopes all but gone, the Rams travel next week to Minnesota, who have miraculously resurrected their playoff chances with a five-game winning streak behind Brad Johnson, in place of the injured Daunte Culpepper. (Weirdly, this is the Ramsí first road trip to Minnesota since the team came to St. Louis almost 11 years ago.) Johnson isnít setting the world on fire, but he isnít making a lot of mistakes, either. Another thing thatís helped the Vikings go on their winning streak, if Steve Fairchild would like to pay attention, is that theyíve discovered the running game. After a couple of strong weeks from bowling ball/RB Mewelde Moore, they got a nice game from Michael Bennett (after an ankle injury to Moore) in beating Detroit today. Maybe it just took the Vikings a while to get over the Randy Moss trade. Theyíve established Koren Robinson as a big-play threat and Marcus Robinson as a red-zone threat, and are very effective at utilizing their TEs. The Ramsí secondaryís hands will be full. Johnson has always been a QB you could rattle or put out of the game pretty easily with some hits, but itís not as if we can expect the Ram defensive line to get to the QB any more. The Vikings have a good offensive line, anyway, so though the Rams have dominated this rivalry recently, chances donít look good on paper for that trend to continue.
After several years of wondering, Vikings fans are finally getting to find out what their team would be like if it had a defense. Though Detroit topped 100 yards today, Minnesotaís shown some ability to shut down the run. A team determined to run could probably dent their defense, but thatís not the Rams. And the Rams were terrorized by DT Pat Williams in Buffalo last year anyway. They may catch a break with Kevin Williams being injured, but his replacement played well yesterday. The Vikes seem to have some trouble with running QBs, though, which could present Fitzpatrick some opportunities. Fitzís problem, though, will be that the Viking defense has become very good at forcing mistakes. During the winning streak, theyíve intercepted Eli Manning 4 times and sacked Trent Dilfer 5 times. Darren Sharper has a remarkable 6 INTs in that stretch, keying a secondary that also has capable CBs Antoine Winfield and Brian Williams, who seem able to give the Ram WRs more challenge than they usually get. And just ask the Giants if the Vikings are dangerous on special teams. The Rams may be helped by a couple of factors. Orlando Pace will draw their best sacker, Lance Johnstone. And while I donít have a book on this yearís Vikings, DC Ted Cottrell has historically been a coach that doesnít blitz much. (The stats back this up: Minnesota has just 4.5 sacks from non-linemen.) So style-wise, the Rams may catch a break. But theyíre certainly not catching a break in facing a team on a hot streak, in their place, given their poor play this season on the road, or against almost any quality NFL team. Itís sensible now that the Rams start playing for next year, but I doubt thatíll help any in the Homerdome next week.
Game stats from nfl.com
Re: RamView, 12/4/2005: Redskins 24, Rams 9 (Long)
Excellent analysis,as usual, Mike. I didn't see the game (fortunately) but how did C. Terrell perform? Also did O.J. Atogwe get in the game for any length of time?
I appreciate your response.
WHAT SAY YE?
Re: RamView, 12/4/2005: Redskins 24, Rams 9 (Long)
I unfortunately don't really have a read on either player. I wouldn't blame Terrell for any of the sacks but I don't know how much he was getting beaten by the blitz. I don't think anybody was run-blocking effectively.
I saw Atogwe on the field late in the game for a blitz, like in OT in Houston, and he was on special teams, but I'm not sure he got a whole lot of plays.
I'll gladly defer to anybody who got a good look, though.
Re: RamView, 12/4/2005: Redskins 24, Rams 9 (Long)
There was no push at all at the line of scrimmage in the run game so its tough to say how terrell did. He sure didnt dominate anyone. Experience is key for big claude, i believe that he will be a starting guard next year. He needs to play every single down from now until the end of the year. Only time will tell in the long run of course, but for a 4th round pick, he looks awfully competitive and he sure is big as a house.
ramming speed to all