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RamView, 12/7/2008: Cardinals 34, Rams 10 (Long)
RamView, December 7, 2008
From The Couch
(Report and opinions on the game.)
Game #13: Cardinals 34, Rams 10
$50 million for a RB who fumbles twice and gives up a touchdown.
$60 million for a QB who throws a 3-yard TD for his team and a 100-yard TD for the other team.
$36 million for a left guard who gets beaten like a dirty rug.
$14 million for a placekicker who misses easy field goals, and indoors!
Watching three more games of a crap franchise, incapable of even staying on the same field as the Arizona Freaking Cardinals for two years now, while they play out the string in their worst season in St. Louis?
Position by position:
* QB: Marc Bulger (22-37-228, 75.1 rating) wasn’t awful today, but the Ram passing game was, if that makes any sense. The Rams had 17 passing yards at halftime, scarcely even trying to throw downfield. Bulger’s long completion for the half was a 10-yarder to Donnie Avery. His highlight was a quickly-thrown 3-yard TD pass to Steven Jackson. I think the only deep throw of the half was by Dane Looker on a WR option attempt. Bulger’s last two passes of the half were stupid screen passes that Arizona was all over for huge losses. The third quarter was almost over before Bulger passed the 58 yards Kurt Warner got out of one first-half completion to Steve Breaston. And since Arizona had a 27-7 lead by that time, they played very soft defense the rest of the way and let Bulger pile up a respectable 135 yards or so in the 4th quarter. That gave Bulger a chance to show he wasn’t the biggest part of the Rams’ woes. There had been costly fumbles by Jackson. Playcalling was lousy. Avery was where he was supposed to be about as often as an electric football player is. At the end of the game, the receivers treated the ball like a live porcupine, with four drops in six attempts. But Bulger threw accurately and moved in the pocket well throughout the game. There was just a lot going on that was out of his control. And by the time Bulger took control, the game was out of control. He had a shot at proving himself in the 4th, engineering an 82-yard drive. On a 3rd-and-long, he stepped up and winged a 16-yard pass to Looker. He found Joe Klopfenstein (!) twice for 36. He drove the Rams all the way to the Cardinal 10. Show us what you’re made of, Marc. Here it comes… an out route at the goal line for Holt, who he’d been hitting well with sideline passes all half… underthrown… picked off by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie… returned 100 yards for a TD. Bulger’s season in a nutshell. The Ram passing game is awful, but it’s not all Bulger’s fault. But he’s not that good, either.
* RB: The Ram offense – hell, the Ram franchise – is geared to be carried by Steven Jackson (19-64), and when he doesn’t get the job done, we’re in for ugly days like today. Jackson’s two third-quarter fumbles, both forced by LB Gerald Hayes, led directly to an Arizona TD and polished off any chance the Rams had of getting back in the game. Hayes clubbed the ball loose from Jackson at the Cardinal 24 to kill a promising drive the Rams had going after halftime. The Rams got the ball back at their own 8, but Hayes broke into the Ram backfield and popped the ball away from Jackson again right as he was trying a spin move, with Darnell Dockett fielding the bounce for a short TD return. So in a five-minute span, the Rams went from a chance to cut the lead to 20-14 to a 27-7 hole, courtesy of Jackson fumbles. And as they should, the fumbles overshadow Jackson’s good plays. He ran hard and through tacklers all day, as on his twisting, driving TD catch in the 2nd. He had a terrific run later, cutting inside a blitz and hurdling Antrell Rolle at midfield en route to a 32-yard gain. But, while his continued poor performance in blitz protection didn’t help the passing game any, Jackson’s crucial turnovers would prove far too difficult for the anemic Ram offense to overcome. Jackson’s supposed to carry the offense but he dropped the ball instead. Twice.
* WR: Like last week, Donnie Avery (2-18) got off to a quick early start but went missing most of the game. He looked so lost today he probably needed a Garmin to find the Ram sideline. There were many times where it was painfully obvious that Avery had made the wrong blitz adjustment or just plain ran the wrong route. A formerly promising rookie season is lost in deep weeds and took the Ram passing game with it. The Cardinals directed extra attention to Dane Looker, who had just a couple of catches for 27, though they converted third downs. That left Torry Holt open often enough to be the leading receiver (5-61), largely on sideline passes, but how sad was it to see the ease with which Rogers-Cromartie pulled away from the veteran on his 100-yard pick six? And Holt wasn’t even targeted in the first half. His biggest play may have been his block on Jackson’s 32-yard run. Avery made a couple of nice blocks but also missed a couple of key ones. Joe Klopfenstein made two good grabs for 36 prior to the INT TD, while fellow TE Daniel Fells (2-25) also caught a couple for first downs. But even those small feel-good moments were blunted at the end of the game by ugly drops by Looker, Keenan Burton, Derek Stanley and Antonio Pittman. Experience is the best teacher, and the Ram receiving corps still has a lot of learning to do.
* Offensive line: Though Adam Goldberg started at RT, punishment for Alex Barron for "breaking team rules", Ram pass protection held up quite well for the second straight week. Orlando Pace had a far better game against Arizona than he did last time. Bulger again had plenty of time to throw most of the game. He wasn't sacked until the 4th quarter, when Karlos Dansby destroyed a typically worthless blitz pickup from Jackson and Adrian Wilson came in unblocked past Barron. Other than that, Bulger had plenty of room to operate. Unfortunately, Jackson, who averaged just 3.4 yards per carry, often didn't. His first carry was stuffed by a LB who beat Brett Romberg. As they've done in the past, the Cardinals run-blitzed the Rams very successfully, including Hayes' on the Jackson fumble/Cardinal TD in the 3rd. Jacob Bell lead-blocked a couple of long runs successfully in the 1st half but was a disaster in the 2nd half. On the fumble TD, he got punked by Antonio Smith, leading Joe Klopfenstein to double-team instead of staying back to pick off Hayes' blitz. Bell got whipped again by Smith right at the end of the 3rd, turning a 3rd-and-2 into a 4th-and-4, and got manhandled another time on a Jackson run the Cardinals stuffed midway through the 4th. Bell stands out as the line's biggest problem establishing the run today. The other Ram to miss a couple of key blocks was, oddly, Avery, though he and (especially) Holt had good blocks downfield on Jackson's 32-yard run in the 2nd. Run-blocking had been getting better bit by bit since the Jet game, but today looked like a step backward. If the Rams mean to be a running team, they have to be more consistent up front.
* Defensive line/LB: The defenses made a gigantic difference in this game. How about a 28-point swing? The Arizona defense scored two TDs, while the Ram defense typically came out and gave up two quick TDs to start the game like they weren’t even there. Anquan Boldin took out Chris Long AND OJ Atogwe on the game’s opening play, a 17-yard end-around by JJ Arrington. Arrington drew for 9 more later, out of a sweep look, with Cliff Ryan and Adam Carriker almost getting wiped off the map. It was rare for a Ram to even get close to Kurt Warner. He effortlessly hit Larry Fitzgerald for 15 down to the 1, then Tim Hightower dived through the hole the Cardinal FB created by blowing up the Rams’ left side for an easy opening TD. Next possession, Warner rapidly gashed the softly-played soft zone for another quick TD. Unusually for this defense, though, they stopped the bleeding for a while, thanks to Pisa Tinoisamoa, who had one of his best games as a Ram, stuffing at least 4 runs today, repeatedly slashing into the backfield like he was a real linebacker or something. That helped the Rams shut down the Cardinal running game for once; they held Arizona to easily a season-best 63 yards rushing. They kicked up the pass pressure and forced an INT out of Warner, leading to a TD. Pisa and James Hall stuffed runs on back-to-back drives to help force FGs. Leonard Little whipped past Levi Brown for a 2nd-half sack of Warner, but pressure on the MVP candidate was much too little, much too late to compensate for atrocious pass coverage, a sputtering offense, and the front seven’s own glacially-slow start. Had the defense started as well as it finished, that excellent performance against the run wouldn’t have gone in vain.
* Secondary: Playing as much Twilight zone as soft zone, the Ram secondary may have had its worst game since the first week of the season. The Dreaded Shallow Crossing Pattern isn’t exactly revolutionizing the league, but the Rams were confused and frightened of it as though they were unfrozen cavemen DBs, repeatedly leaving Larry Fitzgerald (6-73) and Anquan Boldin (5-62) wide open in the middle of the field for completions. He may be having a problem with injuries, but Ron Bartell has struggled the last couple of weeks. Fitzgerald beat him for 23, then beat the whole Ram defense for 15, uncovered near the goal line in the middle of the field, to set up the first Arizona TD. He scored the 2nd Arizona TD in similar fashion. The Rams left him wide open over the middle near the goal line and he trotted in for an easy score. That was set up by a 36-yard Boldin catch-and-run where he faked Corey Chavous into falling on his face. It’s well past time for Chavous to start checking into other career options. Steve Breaston (7-90) beat him for 58 to set up a FG in the 2nd. (That would have been a third TD but Boldin came up a yard short on a 3rd-and-14 after being left, yes, wide open, yes, in the middle of the field, in the red zone.) This is hard to believe for a secondary that employs Fakhir Brown, but Chavous looked more lost trying to find that ball, even turning the wrong way for it, than any Ram DB has looked this season. The Rams continued to get beat on wide open routes over the middle in the 2nd half until Arizona started piling on defensive TDs and called off the onslaught of Dreaded Shallow Crossing Patterns, which God knows the Rams were never going to stop. The rare bright spots in the secondary were Bartell’s INT that set up the Rams’ ONLY TD, and Jason Craft, who stopped a couple of drives with solid, open-field tackles on 3rd downs. Craft is probably the Rams’ best open-field tackler back there since Aeneas Williams. Why wasn’t he in the middle of the field?
* Special teams: I suppose Josh Brown’s happy that he made a 51-yard FG today, and that he’s 24-for-29 this season, but the guy needs to be called out for his knack for demoralizing misses of easy FGs. Down 17-7 in the 2nd, the Rams drove for four minutes and got him a chance to make it a one-score game, but what does Brown do for them? Miffs a 42-yarder that took off like he kicked it into a monsoon, despite a good snap, a good hold, and the fact that he was INDOORS. Is it too much to ask Brown not to **** on the rare offensive momentum the Rams do gather by missing kicks that ought to be cake for the highest-paid kicker in the league? He’s done this two or three other times this season. I don’t care that he hit a FG to make it a 27-10 game. Hit the damn FG that makes it 17-10. Help keep your team in the game. Meanwhile, everyone please go vote Donnie Jones for the Pro Bowl; balloting ends Tuesday. He had 55- and 56-yard blasts. Derek Stanley was kept in check with directional kicking, but had a 32-yard punt return in the 4th to set up a FG. He cut back left to lose a guy, shot up the sideline and broke through a couple of tackles while walking the tightrope. A couple of Rams missed blocks or Stanley probably would have had a TD. At least he’s providing a little spark from special teams, compared to Brown the wet blanket.
* Coaching/discipline: WTF is Al Saunders doing? Seriously, WTF? Was there any doubt Arizona was going to blow up the lame screen passes to Jackson at the end of the first half? And WTF was with those ridiculous screen passes that had Bulger throwing the ball five yards behind the line of scrimmage? It’s one thing to not want to go downfield; did Saunders decide he didn’t even want to try to go forward? WTF was with Saunders’ lame efforts to steal the Wildcat formation? Yeah, more like the Hairball formation. What good is it to snap directly to Jackson and then have him plow straight into the line? Isn’t Wildcat about misdirection? Saunders didn’t even put anybody in the backfield for Jackson to fake a handoff to! But that’s the Saunders trick offense. Every attempted trick play this year, the trick has been on the Rams. Looker had to throw away the pass on a WR option; Arizona wasn’t fooled. Jackson got squat running out of Hairball formation; Arizona wasn’t fooled. Since Saunders tried NOTHING downfield in the first half, a 3rd-and-7 screen pass late in the half didn’t fool Arizona, either. Hell, J.C. Pearson, who’s not exactly Bill Belichick, called out the worthless screen the Rams tried from their own 22 with 0:54 left in the half! The Rams couldn’t convert a 2nd-and-3 early in the 3rd because the play appeared designed to have Donnie Avery as the key blocker. That’s brilliant. Next play, 3rd-and-2, 2 WRs, 2 TEs, no H-back and nothing to make Dansby think the play is anything other than a run, and he stuffs Jackson for 1 yard. My God! Saunders actually ran something clever to get the first down, though, a handoff to Jackson out of the fullback position. And on 3rd-and-1 after Stanley’s long punt return, a play-action pass to Fells down the seam worked beautifully. Al Saunders doesn’t fumble or miss blocks or forget what pattern he’s supposed to run, but his game plans are consistently terrible. Get rid of the stupid and dangerous backwards screen pass, now. Get rid of the stupid Bulger pass fake after he’s handed off and Jackson has already gotten stuffed for a loss. It obviously doesn’t work. And maybe try throwing downfield before halftime of the next game? As far as Rams history goes, Saunders has become the offensive equivalent of Larry Marmie.
And Rick Venturi was probably the biggest problem with the Ram defense today. It took two Cardinal touchdowns before he figured out it might be a good idea to blitz once in a while (breaking the whitebread blitzless pattern of the last two weeks). Gee, you mean the strategy of a light rush from a 4-man front that never gets the job done combined with a soft zone apparently designed to leave receivers all alone in the middle of the field wasn’t working? Horrors! As soon as Venturi pulled his head out and started blitzing, what happened? Warner finally feels some pressure and fires a pass right to Bartell to set up a TD! Once Venturi showed a little strategic aggression, his players, led by Pisa, followed suit and played a pretty decent game. The Rams got their only sack off a highly-creative formation. 3rd-and-9. Pisa stacked up behind Hall at RDE. Glover lined up at LDE, with Little lined up way outside him. Culberson and Chavous were stacked up behind them. There was no NT; Witherspoon stood over center but three yards off the line. Then right before the snap, everybody but the linemen dropped off, and Little smoked in for the sack. More of that, please! Less cowardice! And figure out the damn shallow crossing route, will ya?
And to me, all this strategic passiveness is a symptom of a coaching staff that has quit, or at the least, doesn’t believe in its team. On one hand, who’d blame them? On the other hand, how dare they? This is pro football. Unlike Oklahoma vs. Missouri, both teams actually have a chance to win. Jim Haslett is supposed to be this bulldog of a coach who accepts nothing less than 100% from his players and can motivate players into playing above their ability. Where’s the guy who was the thorn in the GSOT’s side for two years? Would he have accepted an offensive game plan that didn’t want to throw over five yards downfield or a defensive game plan that wanted to sit back, put no pressure on the QB and let dangerous receivers catch passes in front of it all day? Where’s that guy who put Kyle Turley into halftime roid rages and called out Mike Martz’s B.S. offense? Instead, the Rams have got the guy who looked like he quit on the defense the first month of the season as a way to get Scott Linehan fired and get an angle on his job.
The President has just declared Rams Park a federal disaster area.
* Upon further review: I usually don’t criticize Walt Coleman’s crew much, and this week isn’t much different. The Rams could have used these guys a couple of weeks ago when the Bears got big plays off after the play clock ran out; Coleman actually paid attention and called a couple of delay of games. That offset a 3rd-quarter snafu where Bulger had to call a timeout that the Rams appeared to get back due to a play clock problem. They were correct not to call Bartell for horse-collar on a tackle of Breaston in the 3rd. And though I enjoyed the hell out of Dockett’s Michael Kennedy impression after his TD, it was properly flagged as an excessive celebration. I would like to hear what Incognidiot did to offset that penalty. I thought the Cardinals got a couple of too-friendly spots on their first FG drive, and they missed a tough call on Stanley stepping out of bounds on his long punt return (reversed after replay), but overall, not too bad.
* Cheers: Another awful Rams game wasn’t enhanced by awful work from Fox’s Matt Vasgersian, who I don’t believe is even paying attention to the game half the time. There were plays where he was announcing the exact opposite of what was happening. On a play in the 4th where Boldin was called for holding, Vasgersian called the flag a horse-collar on Bartell (and that would have been a poor call – Bartell clearly let up) and left it completely up to the home viewer to figure out Arizona now had the ball first-and-18. I don’t think he knew down and distance again that whole series. In the third, he claimed that Coleman had charged the Rams a timeout they didn’t call, but Haslett talked the referee out of it. No way. It was clear as crystal that Bulger called a timeout, to stop the play clock. I’m fairly sure Haslett argued the play clock wasn’t reset correctly, and Coleman restored the timeout. I don’t know what Vasgersian was looking at not to see Bulger signaling timeout, though Arizona does have nice cheerleaders. Then again, Vasgersian later had Haslett challenging the call on Stanley’s punt return when it was actually Ken Whisenhunt challenging for Arizona, so maybe he’s just a doofus, like the Fox director who decided to run highlight packages of Adrian Peterson and Brett Freaking Favre during a game that involved neither. It even looked like the yellow first-down line was wrong a bunch of times. Was the whole crew drunk? Or hung over? Rams games are hard enough to watch; we don’t need three hours of stupid broadcaster tricks on top of it all.
* Who’s next?: Seattle was 2-10 going into today and gave New England a game behind second-string QB Seneca Wallace. The Rams were 2-10 going into today and got wiped off the field. One of Seattle’s two wins this year was a 24-point wipeout of the Rams in September. That’s pretty much all we need to know about next week and the rest of this fiasco of a football season. It’s time to quit thinking Jim Haslett can motivate this team into wins any more. No motivational ploy is working. Win it for the coach! Not working. Win it for the home fans! Not working. Beat a divisional rival! Definitely not working. Win it to save your jobs!?! Even that’s not working. That’s how bad this team is. The pride was played out of this team long ago and they’re just going through the depressing motions.
See if this sounds familiar. Last time in Seattle, the Ram o-line only let Bulger get sacked once but couldn’t establish the run, while the Ram defense got dominated, rarely pressuring Matt Hasselbeck, giving up a ton of rushing yards and failing to cover a decidedly mediocre set of Seahawk receivers. Did you guess? It’s almost every game this season! Maybe the Rams will do a better job pounding Jackson up the middle. Maybe the defense will build on its two weeks of relative success against the run and force Seattle into 3rd-and-longs. “Yeah, maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.” Good one, Madonna!
Anyway, congratulations at least to Kurt Warner for making it back to the playoffs. If there’s a way to root for you without rooting for your team, I’ll try to find it.
Game stats from nfl.com
Re: RamView, 12/7/2008: Cardinals 34, Rams 10 (Long)
A splinded detailed assessment of the Rams vs Cardinals. Right on about FOX announcer Matt Vasgersian, clearly not interested in this ballgame, very unprofessional, maybe he would've preferred better to have called the Steeler-Cowboys game.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
Re: RamView, 12/7/2008: Cardinals 34, Rams 10 (Long)
So if you get paid 50 mil does that mean you have to be flawless every game?
Did Barry Sanders play flawless every Sunday? How about LT or CP. Your expecatations are way too high. If you feel the need to judge him wait until the Rams surround him with some talent. I would not worry about Jackson he has more than enough skill and plays with more than enough passion.
Re: RamView, 12/7/2008: Cardinals 34, Rams 10 (Long)
When it rains, it pours, especially when you have a garbage team, like we do.
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