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RamView, 12/9/2007: Bengals 19, Rams 10 (Long)
RamView, December 9, 2007
From The Couch
(Report and opinions on the game.)
Game #11: Bengals 19, Rams 10
The Berlin Airlift didnít work for the Rams in Cincinnati, as third-string QB Brock Berlinís shaky play, combined with key defensive mistakes, sent the Rams down to defeat against a very beatable Bengals team. The end just canít come soon enough for this bedraggled, besieged and bewildered team.
Position by position:
* QB: The Rams' injury epidemic thrust an unsuspecting (and apparently lightly practiced) Brock Berlin (17-28-153) into the spotlight. Would Berlin take our breath away and become the next Warner? Bulger? Fitzpatrick? Try Scott Covington. Hit on his first career dropback, Berlin launched a dying quail that Torry Holt luckily came up with for 9 yards. The next play, Brock tripped over a lineman and didn't try to get back up, taking a 6-yard loss. The third down pass was WELL behind Isaac Bruce and looked so bad I have to hope it was tipped. Berlin had occasional trouble just getting the ball over the line of scrimmage, with three or four knockdowns. And he wasn't exactly clutch. After Brian Leonard converted a 4th down at the end of the 1st, the Rams faced a 3rd-and-7, and Berlin's pass for an open Bruce was at least 3 feet behind him and thrown into the ground. The Rams were still in the game at halftime despite Berlin's woeful 6-11-46 performance (though, QB rating wise, he had a better first half than Carson Palmer, 65 to 61.2). Scott Linehan kept Berlin on a short leash, but that hurt the Rams in the 3rd. The defense was on the field for over nine minutes, which the offense followed with a bad three-and-out, with a screen pass on 3rd-and-12. Sensing the Rams' fear to go downfield, Cincinnati came hard and shut down the Rams' next drive. Needing to extend the defense, Berlin made some decent throws in the 4th. He hit Holt on the sideline with a fine throw for 23 and found him a couple of plays later for 14 to set up a long FG. He made a nice play against the grain to get a pass to Steven Jackson late, but that drive, and the game, ended with a long pass intercepted by Dexter Jackson. We wondered what Brock Berlin's got, and found more holes in his game than you'll find in a bowl of Honeycomb. He's not terribly strong-armed. He can hit stationary receivers but can't hit moving receivers. He has a slow release and gets lots of passes knocked down. He's not adept at audibiling out of plays to counter the blitz. I hate to think how he'll look against a team that can actually rush the passer. Brock may not have killed the Rams with mistakes, but he sure sets the offense back with his lack of talent. He's just in way over his head. Sadly, on a day when Gus Frerotte would have been QB enough to beat the Bengals, Brock Berlin was all the Rams had.
* RB: Steven Jackson (18-91) knew heíd have to carry the offense for the Rams to have any chance today, and judging from the primal scream he gave after a 9-yard run in the 1st, he was ready for the task. Steven ran with more urgency and broke more tackles than he has in any game this season. He broke a tackle or two on almost every carry, running hard like the physically dominating RB weíve come to know. Down 10-0 in the 2nd, Jackson briefly ignited the offense with an awesome run. Dexter Jackson met him in the hole but slid off him; he might as well have been trying to tackle a Brahma bull. Torry Holtís block got him the sideline, and Steven smacked Marvin White in the face about half-a-dozen times while sprinting out a 54-yard gain. The Rams failed to score, though, and Dexter got revenge the rest of the half, blitzing in clean to stuff Steven several times, including a fumble he forced by breaking up a handoff. And after the excellent first half, Steven ran for only 10 yards in the 2nd half. Cincinnati had the ball almost the whole third quarter and run blitzed successfully a couple more times for losses, by which time there was too little time left and too many points for the Rams to make up to keep running. Steven had three catches in the 2nd half, and converted a late 4th-and-4, but even his solid efforts werenít enough to get the Ram offense over the hump.
* WR: The Rams go as, um, Isaac Bruce (0-0) goes, as Berlin failed to connect with #80 even though he was wide open a couple of times. Letís just say that if Brock were playing the duck-shooting game at the carnival, heíd actually hit the balloon salesman two booths over. Torry Holt (8-90) had a good game and seemed to be the only receiver Berlin was on the same page with. He started the game with a fine play to save Berlin from an INT, doubling back from a deep route to dig for Brockís plummeting-Hindenburg pass for a 9-yard gain. Torryís 23-yard sideline catch and 14-yard kneeling catch in the 4th set up a long Wilkins TD, and he also threw a key block on Jacksonís long run in the 2nd. The sideline catch gave the future Hall-of-Famer his eighth straight 1,000-yard season. Congratulations. Randy McMichael (2-23) got the Rams a rare first down in the 1st with a McLeap over Johnathan Joseph. Berlin limited the offense to a mostly short-passing game, but itís still a surprise that Bruce and Drew Bennett both came up catchless.
* Offensive line: The offensive line played like a Berlin wall at times, giving the rookie QB solid protection on most of his throws. Berlin wasn't sacked, didn't get hit that much, and had a solid pocket or room to step up on just about all of his throws. One of the notable hits came on the gameís first play, and Linehan really needs to stop trying to use Todd Steussie as a pull blocker on passing plays. Heís 37 and coming off a broken foot; DEs like Justin Smith are going to whip him on that move, which is what happened. Berlin was hit on his 4th-quarter INT by an unexpected party Ė Steussie. The left DT shoved Todd into Brock. Yeah, offensive linemen should try not to sack their own QB. The line killed the Ramsí momentum in the 2nd after Jacksonís long run. Steven got stuffed for no gain, then Alex Barron and Milford Brown were called for holding a play later, creating a 2nd-and-20 the offense couldnít recover from. More line penalties killed the Rams in the 4th. After reaching midfield, a hold on Brown revoked a good Jackson run, and a chop block call on Steussie the next play put the Rams at 2nd-and-32 from their own 22. Not a high-percentage down, that. The Rams handled some of Cincinnatiís blitzing well, but seemed intent to send Dexter Jackson to the Hall of Fame. In the first half, Dexter stuffed Steven three different times on blitzes, coming in untouched each time. The biggest came in the 2nd with the Rams at Cincinnatiís 29. Dexter blitzed in quick enough to break up the handoff and force a fumble, which John Thornton recovered for the Bengals. That was a very big play. Dexterís perfect timing of his blitzes makes me think the problemís less with the line and more with Berlin not checking off to another play or not mixing up his snap counts. But the line really hurt its cause with the raft of penalties, disappointing given Cincinnatiís less-than-sturdy defense. Like the real version in Germany, the Berlin wall decayed from within.
* Defensive line/LB: The Ram defense had an off day after several solid weeks. And it was an odd day; the pass rush usually had better luck pressuring Carson Palmer with 3- or 4-man rushes than it did with the blitz. The Bengals stunningly ran more than they passed, and the Rams had just one sack. LeíRoi Glover made an early statement, getting inside center and dropping Rudi Johnson in the backfield to force a punt. Heís a whole new man this season. However, the Rams could not withstand the Hall-of-Fame wrath of DEDE F@CKING DORSEY, who burned a lame tackle effort by Fakhir Brown for 19 yards on 3rd-and-11. Will Witherspoon, who was quiet today, committed DPI to put the Bengals at the 1, and no Ram got to Rudi on his TD run. Adam Carriker would have been driven into the stands had the play gone on long enough. In the 2nd, itís F@CKING DORSEY again, beating a blitz and Ron Bartell for 45. At the Ram 35, Chris Draft, who had a super game with 12 tackles, stuffed Rudi for no gain, but then the Rams started getting fooled. Eric Moore was victimized at RDE and LDE on consecutive plays, 9 yards for Kenny Watson and FOURTEEN MORE FOR F@CKING DORSEY. The line was stacked and Moore was left on an island on both plays and got blocked out of the picture. The drive resulted in a FG after Victor Adeyanju missed a sack, and Draft and Bartell missed opportunities for INTs, Bartellís a golden one in the end zone. After the Rams fumbled a handoff away, the D held the lead at 10-0, with Glover and James Hall stuffing Rudi for a loss. Brown cut the lead to 10-7 right after halftime, but the Bengal rushing attack was wearing the Rams down, and thanks to some key 3rd-down passes, they went on a 15-play, 9 Ĺ minute FG drive. Rudi gained 8 to the Ram 15 on 3rd-and-3 with Carriker swamped by a double-team and Draft picked off in the hole by the FB. Rudi rumbled for 7 more, with Glover getting erased and Adeyanju getting taken inside easily. Corey Chavous saved the day by blowing up a handoff, followed by Moore getting the only sack of the game, blowing up the middle untouched off a stunt to drop Palmer and force a FG. The damage was done, though. The Rams were on the field most of the 3rd quarter and really got soft up the middle. Ahead 16-10, the Bengals did what the Rams havenít done in this position all season and ran the ball down the defenseís throats. Rudi through a big hole for 6. Rudi up the middle for 9, with the FB DRILLING Will. Rudi for 9 more across midfield. Rudi for 22 MORE, inside the 30, as the Bengals mauled the right side of the Ram line. Cincy cruised to a game-clinching FG and ended the game with 192 yards rushing. The beatdown in the 4th quarter was made possible when the Rams couldnít get off the field in the 3rd. With one big play on 3rd down, this is a different game. But they didnít have it in them today.
* Secondary: Though Fakhir Brown beautifully jumped a hot route, intercepted Carson Palmer and took it 36 yards for the Ramsí ONLY TD, and Ron Bartell had an INT gifted to him by TJ Houshmandzadeh in the 2nd, critical mistakes by the two starting CBs doomed the Rams to defeat. Brownís terrible, stupid shoulder tackle attempt in the hole sprung DeDe Dorsey outside for a 19-yard gain on 3rd-and-5. DEDE F@CKING DORSEY! A proper tackle there stops him for minimal gain and forces the Bengals to punt; instead, they drive for a TD. In the 2nd, Dorsey took a screen pass, juked Bartell out of his jock, and sprinted up the sideline for a 45-yard gain. DEDE F@CKING DORSEY! Bartell blew a chance to bail his team out of that crappy play by DROPPING an interception in the end zone, and Shayne Graham put the Bengals up 10-0. Bartell seemed to recover from that. T.J. flubbed a pass right into his arms for an INT right after that, and Ron stripped T.J. to stall a Bengal drive in the last minute of the half. Brown opened the second half with the sweet pick six, the Rams were within 10-7, and all looked good in the Ram secondary. But Cincinnati answered with a lengthy drive. T.J. caught Bartell flatfooted to convert a 3rd-and-11 on a drive that led to a FG and really appeared to sap the Ram D. 13-7. The next drive saw Chad Johnson whip Bartell immediately off the line, and Ron was never within five yards of Funfundachtzig after that. The 52-yard bomb set up another FG, 16-7, Bengals. Do corners, especially young ones who usually start at nickel, play mistake-free games as a rule? No. But Bartellís and Brownís mistakes were particularly costly, especially with Cincinnati not even trying to pass that hard. Bartellís got to hang on to that INT. And veteran Brown ABSOLUTELY HAS to make that tackle on Dorsey. DEDE F@CKING DORSEY, Fakhir. DEDE F@CKING DORSEY!
* Special teams: Hard to say how much of it was due to the rainy conditions, but special teams, especially the kicking game, were poor today. Though he stroked a 50-yarder late in the game, Jeff Wilkins also missed from 40, and with Shayne Graham going 4-for-4 for the other side, that miss can only be called another choke in what's been a down season for Wilkins. Donnie Jones can wave Hawaii goodbye after a horrible game, with punts of 29, 32 and 33. The 32-yarder set up Cincinnati at the Ram 42 for their first TD drive. Thanks to fine coverage by Darius Vinnett, a 36-yarder did pin Cincinnati at their 7. Marques Hagans got some kick returns out to the 30, but after coughing up a kick return and a punt return, I don't know how long he ought to be trusted with the role. The Rams were lucky to recover both fumbles. On a day where the Rams could have used a boost from their special teams, they got the usual drag instead.
* Coaching/discipline: Tactically, this seemed like a game the Rams should have won, especially on defense. Scared by the rain and/or the Ramsí recent blitz-happy ways, the Bengal offense was deeply conservative, running more times than they threw. Jim Haslett seemed to foil them by going with 3- or 4- man rushes and dropping 7 or 8 in coverage. That almost nullified Quatre-vingt-cinque as a factor; Palmer only even targeted him 4 or 5 times. Haslett had taken Cincyís biggest weapon away, and with Palmer getting real comfortable dumping off to T.J., Haslett set them up after halftime. Chavous and Witherspoon blitzed, Palmer checked off to T.J., and a play designed to let Brown gamble paid off in what ought to have been a game-changing pick-six. Cincinnati stuck with their ground-and-pound strategy, though, and Haslett got caught overshifting a couple of times, and the Bengal running game started rolling downhill. Funny how a couple of calls can change the course of a game.
Sameís true on the offensive side of the ball. Scott Linehan played it mostly the way I thought he should have. He relied on Steven Jackson, and Jackson carried them for a half. Yes, screen passes on 3rd-and-long suck, but Berlin was so shaky, I wouldnít have trusted him on throws beyond 10 yards, either. Hindsightís talking here, but after Jacksonís long burst in the 2nd, Linehan could have started play-actioning the Bengals to death, but he remained very conservative until the 4th, when the Rams moved the ball successfully with a lot of play-action. If he had started that a series earlier, in the 3rd, the Bengals couldnít have sold out on D the way they did, knowing the perimeter of the Ram pass offense was drawn at the 10-yard mark. In turn, the Rams might not have 3-and-outed and sent a tired defense back onto the field. But failing to answer Cincinnatiís long drive with some first downs of their own sealed the Ramsí fate. But itís hard to say Linehan waited too long to do this or that when the Bengals held the ball 13:00 of the 3rd quarter. Inability to stop Dexter Jackson on the blitz hurt. Linehanís got to get Berlin coached up enough to check down out of that, or to mix up his snap counts better so Dexter canít time him perfectly. Maybe a full week of practice will help; goodness knows Brock needs it. Since I donít think Berlinís skills yesterday made it practical to open up the downfield passing game early on, I have to feel Linehan did the best he could have with the players he had available. If this season were a poker tournament, Scott Linehan would definitely be short-stacked. But Iím not going to criticize him today for not going all in with 7-2 offsuit.
* Upon further review: Larry Nemmers' crew was worse on the Bengals than on the Rams. A questionable spot on a 3rd-and-15 Kenny Watson shovel pass kept the Rams in the game with just over 5:00 left. Stranger still, Cincinnati challenged, and it looked like a first down on replay, but Nemmers didn't overrule. On the ensuing drive, Berlin got away with a brutal grounding penalty when Nemmers ruled he had "sprinted out of the pocket." Yeah, I think that was the previous play, Larry. On the play in question, Berlin might have moved a total of one half-step to his right. (Then again, that is a sprint for Marc Bulger.) The other call I question was the first quarter DPI on Witherspoon that set Cincinnati up at the 1. Will definitely got in a grab, but the ball was well overthrown and uncatchable. The call should have been defensive holding, and the mistake could have cost the Rams four points. Deltha OíNeal got away with much worse DPI than Willís while ďcoveringĒ Bruce late in the 2nd. Neither side will give the officials a good grade today.
* Cheers: Fears that Pat Summerall would call today's game like a senile old man were not allayed when he identified the opening kickoff returner as "Marques Haynes". Then Summerall started making fun of Berlin Ė yeah, buddy, you've got a lot of business doing that when you can't even tell Marques Hagans, who he'd also call "Marquise", from a legend of the Harlem Globetrotters. Summerall predictably mistook Holt for Bruce, butchered Victor Adeyanju's name, identified a Ram LB as "Bryant Chill-AR", and repeatedly mistook Chris Draft for Will Witherspoon. Cincinnati didn't get off much better, with Pat mistaking Dexter Jackson for Leon Hall and identifying T.J. as Reggie Kelly on one play. Um, Pat? You can tell those guys apart because one has a really, really long name on his jersey. Brian Baldinger is good on the NFL Network's "Playbook" shows but wasn't a big help here, claiming a Ram DE (Trevor Johnson?) gave Carson Palmer a shot to the knee, which is apparently in the seat of Carson's pants, and messing up call on T.J.'s fumble at the end of the 1st half, making it sound like he had been called down. Should Summerall be forced into permanent retirement? Nah, he was OK in the 2nd half, and I liked how he gave frequent credit to the Bengals fans who showed up. Mizzou fans will have to hope Pat's more prepared for the Second Fiddle, er, Cotton, Bowl, than he sounded for today's, admittedly his first game in probably almost a year.
* Whoís next?: Brett Favre will be the dominating story in the NFL next week, as he is very likely to pass Dan Marino for the all-time passing yardage crown here in the Dome. He needs 184 yards to add that record to the career passing TD record he gained earlier this season. Something tells me there will be Ram PSL holders getting more than face value for their tickets this week. The remarkable Favre, at the age of 38, is having a career-best season for yards per game, completion percentage and yards per completion, while having his best season for passer rating and interceptions since 1995. Outside Americaís Dairyland, we all get tired of fawning coverage of Favre to one degree or another. But this Sunday will likely truly be Brettís day; St. Louis is just the lucky host. Weíre the Washington Generals.
And just in time to make the Packer offense lethally dangerous, Ryan Grantís had five straight games of 88 rushing yards or more, topped by 156 in a 38-7 romp over Oakland this week. The Packer receivers are really going to make the Rams miss Tye Hill, whose speed theyíll wish they had to keep Greg Jennings honest. The big-play speedster leads the Pack with 11 TDs and seems reliable for at least one big play a game. Donald Driver leads the Packers with 73 catches and is an excellent foil to Jennings. And when youíre playing Green Bay, youíd better watch out for the TE, Donald Lee, at the goal line. Defenses used to be able to cajole Favre into frequent stupid throws, but heís just not doing that this year, helped by an offensive line thatís top-6 in preventing sacks. I expect the Rams to defense Favre a lot like they did Carson Palmer today: less blitzing and a lot more dropping men back in coverage. And hope Jonathan Wade has the speed to keep Jennings from getting behind him.
The Ram offensive line is going to have its hands decidedly full. Green Bayís DEs are among the league leaders in sacks: Aaron Kampman has 11; Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila has 10. That makes you hope the Rams can establish the run; so, theyíre going to run at? Ryan Pickett, whoís a good run defender and should be fired up to face his old team. The Packers are a solid defense from front to back. The CB tandem of Al Harris and Charles Woodson (4 INT) are as good as anybodyís. Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk arenít big blitz threats but are as good a pair of LBs as anybody has. Dallas and Chicago both had success throwing to their TEs in wins over Green Bay; will Scott Linehan follow suit and unleash the Ramsí cast of 1000 TEs? Seems doubtful, but Linehan has to find ways to keep the heat off of Berlin. Utilizing Jackson as a receiver more could help. Whatever Linehan chooses, the ball had better be coming out of Berlinís hand quickly.
I havenít even touched on the biggest surprise of the weekend, the news that Scott Linehanís very likely returning as Rams HC next year, John Shaw having written him a get-out-of-jail-free card with respect to the teamís 12,000 injuries this season. Now widely expected to finish the season 3-13, Linehanís job now is to lay down building blocks for next season. The Packers are going to the playoffs. Favre is going into the record books and the Hall of Fame. If the Rams give Green Bay a good fight, they can look toward next season, and in the mirror, with some self-respect, which is what itís all about right now.
Game stats from nfl.com
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Re: RamView, 12/9/2007: Bengals 19, Rams 10 (Long)
I'm shocked, Mike, really shocked!! You didn't even mention the FACT that Joey The Klop actually caught his FIRST PASS OF THE SEASON!!! Sure it was only for 1 yard, but that's not the point. O.K. I have no idea what is the point; but no matter, Klop is now on the stat sheet and all is well with the Western world. BTW between Klop and our other scintillating 2nd round pick- Mr. Leonard- they actually touched the ball 3 times this past Sunsday for the grand total of 5 yards. Wow, with production like this I can hardly wait to see who we take in the 2nd round in the '08 draft.
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