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RamView, 8/17/2013: Packers 19, Rams 7 (Long)
RamView, August 17, 2013
From Row HH
(Report and opinions on and from the game.)
Preseason Game #2: Packers 19, Rams 7
The Rams fail to inspire much confidence in their home preseason opener, with an even sloppier effort than last week. Time to step up the urgency, fellas.
Position by position:
* QB: Sam Bradford's numbers (8-12-156, PR 109.7) were fine, and he made some gorgeous throws again this week, but he came up short in the money zone, a problem Ram offenses have been unable to shake for way too long. Sam started the night with a pretty pass to Daryl Richardson on a wheel route for 24, and later in the 1st, hit Chris Givens perfectly behind the deep safety for a 57-yard gain inside the 5. I think any questions about Sam's deep passing have been answered. The problem, though, is that the Rams didn't score from there. 2nd-and-goal, Tavon Austin pops wide open at the far pylon and Bradford throws it a mile over his head. That missed opportunity was compounded on 4th-and-goal when Bradford bobbled away a perfectly good snap by Scott Wells to send the offense back to the sideline with nothing to show for their efforts. Bradford connected with Jared Cook for the first time in preseason – a dumpoff to beat a blitz for a big gain – but penalties on Austin killed that drive. Bradford obviously got the Rams into position for a couple of FG attempts, but, been there, done that. The starting offense has to be more productive than it's been so far this summer. Bradford played almost the whole first half, and then, to use a much-too-easy line, God chose to punish us with a quarter-plus of awful play from Kellen Clemens (2-11, 27 yards, 2 INT, passer rating of... 0.0). His first pass was nearly a pick-six. He threw two more interceptions, one off ANOTHER pass tipped at the line, one foolishly forced into triple-coverage at the goal line. Sure, he was forced to run often, but there's also the 3rd-and-2 quick hitch pass that went a mile over Brian Quick's head. Nothing redeeming at all about Clemens' performance unless you're a Packer fan. I'd move Austin Davis (7-15-114, TD, PR 94.9) back up the depth chart. The scrubs also had him running around, and the game situation had him in a lot of no-huddle, but that's more his style, and he looked sharper than he did last week. He looked more decisive, got the ball out quicker and had nice consistent zip on his throws. Davis led the Rams to their only TD in the game's waning moments, but if the 2013 season is going to be any improvement over 2012 at all, the phrase “only TD” needs to stop appearing in this part of the recap.
* RB: Isaiah Pead (11-19) got the start and an extended look at RB, but as you can see, the results, which include an 11-yard run on his first carry, weren't very good. Mind you, Pead could have used more help. Run blocking wasn't very good. He'd have had a short TD right after the bomb to Givens if Scott Wells' shotgun snap hadn't been way too high and thrown off the timing of the exchange. But it's not like Pead's a proven commodity himself. He didn't really look quick, at least not decisive. He just doesn't seem to see the field well. He had a couple of opportunities to cut plays back for gains and didn't. He ran up his own blockers' backs a lot. On a kickoff return in the 2nd, he ran smack into a strong drive block by Ray Ray Armstrong that should have sprung him. They actually questioned if Pead would make the final roster on postgame radio. I should think he's done enough to avoid getting cut. He did hold on to the ball this week, and he juked a man in the open field to get 10 on a flare route in the 2nd. Pead's blitz pickup has been good in both preseason games; excellent this week, actually. That's important. Is it enough? We'll see. Bennie Cunningham (6-19) had a similar game. No blocking, most of his yardage on one run; in this case, a we-give-up 17-yard draw on 3rd-and-18 (naturally). Terrance Ganaway didn't get in until very late but looked quite good on blitz pickup, which really helped Davis drive the Rams to their only TD. With Daryl Richardson, who should be the clear-cut starter, pretty much getting the week off, it's still hard to know what to expect from the Ram running game.
* Receivers: The Rams also made extra effort to get the ball to Tavon Austin (4-28), from which we learned he's still very much a rookie. The Packers looked committed to stopping him and swarmed on him whenever he got the ball, so that didn't help. But they didn't bite on any of his moves after the catch or on punt returns, either. He tried to run around with one punt return like he was Dante Hall making a return for the Chiefs. He ended up looking like Dante Hall making a return for the Rams (no gain). Austin killed one drive with a couple of penalties. On 4th-and-5 in the 1st, he ran a four-yard pattern and failed to get the 1st down, but had lined up wrong for an illegal formation penalty anyway. He popped open for catches in soft zone coverage a couple of times, but Green Bay matched up on him successfully by getting physical. Welcome to the NFL, kid. Last week's other conspicuously-unused receiver, Jared Cook, was only thrown to once, but did he ever make the most of it, tearing off with a little dumpoff from Bradford for 37 yards. There we got to see his freakish speed for a tight end. Chris Givens' only catch was even better, a 57-yard bomb in the 1st. Hey, we're not wasting all those big plays on preseason, are we? Drops weren't a big problem this week, but Givens did have one to 3-and-out the Rams in the 2nd. Receivers had problems getting open in the first half. Packer CB Davon House played so poorly last week against Arizona, he was actually offering apologies in the local press; the Rams made him look like Darrelle Revis this week. Brian Quick (1-20) wasn't near as busy as last week but did convert a 3rd-and-16 in the 3rd. He's becoming a more and more reliable target over the middle. There's still a good horse race for the bottom of the depth chart. Nick Johnson (3-58) came up big in garbage time, including the winning TD catch, on which he completely snookered the DB with a double move. Ended up open by 10 yards. Andrew Helmick (1-30) showed no sign of his recent hamstring injury and turned a shallow drag route into a big gain in the 4th. Justin Veltung had a nice punt return in the 3rd. Down the stretch they come!
* Offensive line: The starting offensive line did enough to get by, but can, and will have to, do better. There were few good run blocks over the 60 minutes and the Packers beat the Rams off the snap most of the game. Harvey Dahl and Joseph Barksdale got Pead a nice running alley for an 11-yard gain on his first carry, about the last time all game he had room to run. The next carry got stuffed when Cory Harkey couldn't budge Ryan Pickett – now there's a mismatch. Missed assignments against constant Packer blitzing appeared to be one problem, as when no one blocked the blitzing safety who stuffed Pead for a 5-yard loss. The Rams also struggled mightily throughout the game with Green Bay's big men, especially Johnny Jolly, playing his second game after three years away from the game, which included six months in jail. Yeah, that's nice. Scott Wells' snap on Bradford's goal line fumble looked fine, but a couple of plays earlier, he nearly put a shotgun snap over Sam's head, and by the time Pead got the handoff, the hole he was supposed to hit had already closed. Bradford's jersey stayed clean for the second straight week, though, thanks a lot to good blitz pickup work by Pead and Harkey. Barksdale and Shelley Smith held their own on the right side. About the worst play by a starter came when Jake Long got burned by Clay Matthews in the 2nd and forced Bradford to scramble. Play by the backups was much worse and raises concerns about the offensive line depth. The Rams sure can't afford to lose another tackle, not with the backups trying to send Andy Mulumba, Rob Francois and Nate Palmer to the Pro Bowl. The next tackles up appear to be Chris Williams and Ty Nsekhe, neither of whom looked good. Mulumba bull-rushed and absolutely whipped Williams to sack Clemens in the 3rd, then both tackles got embarrassed the next play to flush Clemens again. Brandon Washington didn't fare well at RT, getting beaten twice by Palmer, leading to a hit on Clemens and a sack. He also got pushed around by Mulumba and got Cunningham's first carry stuffed. With Tim Barnes getting significant reps at LG, 4th-round pick Barrett Jones manned center, and struggled. He was beaten twice for pass deflections, including the Clemens INT, and was also beaten late for a sack of Davis by former SEC rival Josh Boyd. Recently-acquired tackle D.J. Young won't be around long at this rate, getting beaten on the edge by Palmer badly and repeatedly. What we mainly witnessed (again) this week was a team that intends to blitz freely in preseason attacking a Rams team that doesn't seem to want to game-plan for blitzing yet. I trust that will change very quickly.
* Defensive line: The starters were a little more impactful than they were in Cleveland but still haven't looked much like the dominant force they appeared to be early in training camp. Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford got a little better push, but still neither has looked very disruptive so far. Brockers missed a tackle in the backfield on Eddie Lacy's bruising 15-yard run early in the game. Robert Quinn rocketed inside of rookie David Bakhtiari to sack Aaron Rodgers in the 2nd, and played the run well, but Chris Long's effect on the game was OK at best, and he was most visible jumping offsides a couple of times. Quinn's was the Rams' only sack of the night, as the Packer QBs tended to get the ball out too fast in their no-huddle offense for the Ram rush to make a difference. Stepping in at #2 RDE for Eugene Sims, Gerald Rivers is starting to show enough to make a run at a practice squad spot, especially with Sammy Brown sitting almost all of camp due to a calf injury. You can see that he has difference-making speed, enough to get decent blindside pressure at times. It looks like he's on the verge of producing some sacks. He also played well against the run, blowing up a sweep nicely in the 4th, so he can play the run when he wants to. Will Hayes didn't seem to play a whole lot but did have a run stuff and a QB pressure. Matt Conrath and Mason Brodine weren't as strong inside as last week, though Conrath's quickness off the ball was still a factor at times. Sims' absence gained Brodine some snaps at DE, but he lost containment on a 3rd-down scramble by Young that got the Packers out of a hole in the 3rd. We seem mainly to be waiting here for the starting d-line to unleash the fury. If they do live up to their training camp promise, look out below when that happens.
* LB: For the first time in RamView, the LBs get their own section! |CHOMP| What was that noise, you ask? What noise? |CHOMP| Oh, that. That's a Ram linebacker, more than likely Alec Ogletree, biting way too hard on play-action. Don't they play-action in the SEC? Ogletree acted like he'd never seen play-action in his life, falling for the fake handoff every stinking time. He wasn't alone – veteran Will Witherspoon CHOMPed on the first big gainer from Aaron Rodgers to Jermichael Finley in the 1st – but Ogletree was a repeat offender. Later in the first, play-action, |CHOMP|, Rodgers luckily misses Finley wide open in the seam. 2nd-and-8 in the 2nd, play-action, |CHOMP|, Finley wide open for a 33-yard gain. Tight ends |CHOMP| have run freely through the Ram secondary |CHOMP| for two weeks, |CHOMP|, and it's not going to |CHOMP| stop until |CHOMP| Ogletree quits |CHOMP| biting on |CHOMP| play-fakes like a |CHOMP| rank |CHOMP| rookie. James Laurinaitis looked fine against the run, but the Rams' most impressive player on either side of the ball this week might have been Ray Ray Armstrong. He was the Rams' best tackler, closed quickly on anything run or thrown to his side and showed some ability as a blitzer. He stuffed a short pass in the 3rd, leaped a mile high on a blitz to disrupt a Vince Young pass attempt, and had another blitz pressure that nearly forced a turnover. Yes, he gave up a TD pass to Jake Stoneburner, but he was all but draped on the guy, who got a perfect throw from B.J. Coleman. Ray Ray closed like lightning on a dumpoff later to force a 3-and-out, breaking down and tackling perfectly with the back trying to make a move on him. Not only should Armstrong have made the team already, the way some of these other guys are tackling, he may be starting.
* Secondary: Tackling was a complete mess this week, and the safety position especially looks like a big problem. Darian Stewart missed a tackle badly on the first play of the game and later got hurt AGAIN (hamstring). T.J. McDonald needs to learn how to tackle sometime soon, with two more unpleasant blown tackles in the 1st. Trumaine Johnson blew a couple of tackles of his own. The majority of the missed tackles was by the starters, which is difficult to tolerate. Craig Dahl's suddenly looking better these days. There was some good news. Cortland Finnegan tackled well – maybe he and Armstrong should give the rest of the team lessons? - and for the 2nd straight week, Janoris Jenkins wasn't really thrown at. 5th-round pick Brandon McGee, who's spoiling to take TruJo's job, nearly forced a turnover in the 2nd but got a DPI flag for what looked like good defense from row HH. The bottom of the safety depth chart continues to be hard to sort out, for good reasons. After a long absence due to a torn ACL, Matt Daniels barely missed a beat, covering ground well, providing help when and where he was supposed to, and tackling well, including a 3rd-down stop of Myles White in the 3rd to force a FG. Rashard Hall closed nicely to break up a sideline pass in the 3rd to force a (too rare) 3-and-out. He and Cody Davis continue to play well in run support. Hall did get away with completely losing a TE that Young didn't see, though, and Davis let White run free for what should have been a TD on Young's first play. Drew Thomas forced a fumble in the 4th that Daren Bates would have recovered for a turnover had he not fallen on it from out of bounds. The flashes are great, but Jenkins and Finnegan are going to have their work cut out for them if they're not joined by some DBs with more complete games. People who can tackle would be especially welcome.
* Special teams: The one area of the team that improved over last week was punt coverage. Quinton Pointer (who should probably be getting more reps at safety) made a big hit to stuff one return. Colby Prince and Thomas combined excellently to down a 44-yard Johnny Hekker (49.5 avg) punt at the 1. Demetrius Fields had a fine game. He suckered a Packer up-man into touching a bouncing punt for a turnover, recovered by Jonathan Stewart in the 3rd, and nearly blocked a punt in the 4th. Good job making himself a tough cut. Jorgen Hus – yes, Jorgen Hus – may not be a tough cut, but he made one of my favorite plays in football in the 2nd half: long snapper makes the tackle on the punt return. The Rams are also tantalizingly close to blocking a field goal. Guys flashed in from the edge and appeared to barely miss a couple of times. Brodine impressively hurdled the line on one attempt and had a shot at a block. Cody Davis actually got his hand on a Mason Crosby kick in the 3rd but it fluttered through anyway. On the down side, the only decent return of any kind was Veltung's 20-yard punt return in the 3rd, and Greg Zuerlein missed a 50-yarder in the 1st half that he kicked straight, but never on target. Well, at least special teams tackling was good. We'll take what we can get.
* Strategery: Though in some ways not a big surprise, this was not a win for Jeff Fisher and the coaching staff. While the Rams remain determined to be vanilla (or, as Jim Thomas humorously put it in his game preview, they moved up to French vanilla) in preseason, the Packers looked like they were trying to clinch a playoff berth in August, with their non-stop no-huddle offense and with defensive coordinator Dom Capers apparently determined to blitz on every play. The Rams appeared ready for neither of those schemes. Their problems, though, go well beyond their flavor or the opponents' flavor right now anyway. Tackling has been terrible for two games now. The offense got at least three penalties caused by lining up incorrectly. The defense extended Packer drives by jumping offsides. These kind of problems just shouldn't be this big this close to the start of the season. The team committed 9 penalties; the most penalized team in the league last season averaged just over 8 a game. And that was the Rams. Defensively, they blitzed more than last week, but nothing got through. And sure, it helps that the Packer o-line probably gets blitzed every play in practice while the Ram o-line doesn't. I'm just as sure that Arizona's not calling off the dogs when they come here opening day. The offense was about as crisp as a bucketful of Jell-o. 0-for-3 on 4th down, an absolutely miserable 1-of-14 on 3rd down, 0-for-2 in the red zone (at best settling for FGs, still not getting the job done, if this had been a regular-season game). We all saw this team last year. They're better than this. Jeff Fisher is a much better coach than this game's results indicate. The Rams need a major turnaround in their play, though, or the only flavor they're going to be this season is Rocky Road.
* Upon further review: Mike Carey and crew were probably in midseason form. They did well to catch the face mask committed on Pead near the goal line in the 1st, and to pick up the dangerous low block committed on Brodine later. The reviewed fumble recovery Daren Bates just missed out on late in the game was a tricky call they got right the first time. They were fairly consistent in “letting 'em play” in pass coverage, though McGee's play that would have set up an INT for McLeod in the 2nd appeared to be fine by their standards and still got flagged. A little later, Quick was clearly interfered with trying to come back for a bomb. The big miss, if it was one, because it was awfully close – Cunningham did not appear to be down on a second-effort run in the 3rd that would have gone for a very big play. He got spun, but neither knee or shin touched the ground. TV showed the umpire with a pretty clean look right at it, too. B-plus
* Cheers: Supplemented by the expected large contingent of Packer fans, the crowd appeared to be in the 35-40,000 range, or less for exhibition football than for either of the major European soccer exhibition games that were played here in St. Louis this summer. Maybe the Rams should try to sign Cristiano Ronaldo to play safety. His tackling wouldn't be any worse. The home fans showed good energy early, but the biggest reaction of the night was loud booing when poor Sara Dayley explained the NFL's new no-purses policy on the big screen. I'm not sure if we were booing the policy or that it was being explained for the millionth time. The video with Hekker and Rampage was really all we needed. Who wears a ***** pack, anyway? Boot.
* Waiver bait: There was some thought this would be Tim Jenkins' big week to get into a game, but, no. Raymond Radway might have hurt his cause with another drop and nothing else. Most of the 3rd-string linemen got pushed around on both sides of the ball. There is still a lot of sorting out to be done on the roster; quite a few guys have made themselves difficult cuts. Writers always claim the roster battles make the last preseason games fascinating; this year they may actually be right.
* Who’s next?: I don't know that mountain altitude and probably three quarters of Peyton Manning on national TV are really what the Rams need right now, but that's going to be the case next Saturday night when they face the Broncos in Denver in the all-important third game of preseason. How big a surprise this is may be debatable, but the Rams have a lot of work left to do. The running game hasn't produced a lot (much more Daryl Richardson, please) and the receivers have to get better production out of the chances they're getting. The Rams face three 3-4 defenses in the first four regular season games and have to get their blocking cleaned up against that scheme. The D is not getting to the quarterback enough, and that's not likely to change against Manning, so the Rams ABSOLUTELY have to improve their tackling, which has been atrocious, especially considering that this is a Jeff Fisher team. Dumb mistakes can cause the Rams losses in August, but that's also when they need to go away. This team can't let dumb mistakes cost it wins in September. A lot of cleaning up to get done here, Coach. Gotta go to work.
Game stats from nfl.com
Re: RamView, 8/17/2013: Packers 19, Rams 7 (Long)
I couldn't watch the game live, so I tried to watch the NFL Network replay, but I couldn't watch that either. The TV would be broken.
First part of the frustration was the RAMS still playing out of sync. I think Bradford is alergic to the endzone. HOW????? does he miss Austin on the pass at the two? And then two plays later he fumbles the snap by turning before the ball got to him.
But I could watch the game to see if they could get better if the officials weren't making sure they wouldn't. That PI (wasn't called, of course) that caused Givens to miss a first down catch was inexcusable, but to follow it up by calling PI to negate an INT, that was no where near as much contact is criminal. That biased ref, and his band of blind bats, should have been arrested for points shaving.
Fortunately Quinn got that sack early in the game, becuse the packers fan in stripes surely ignored holding on the same play. No wonder the pack running game was so proficient; these officials had their backs.
Has this officiating crew ever given the RAMS a fair game? I cringe every time I seem him as the ref. Crap, has any officiating crew given the RAMS an equal chance to win a game? When are the RAMS gonna get a fairly officiated game?
What a pathetic league. I wish I could just quit watching it, but I love the game too much. And that is why this pisses me off so bad, because the game I love is being distroyed by biased officiating. It is not only in the RAMS games, but right now, they're the only games I can muster up enough energy to try and watch. Seeing the "popular team" always getting the "breaks" from the officials is getting REALLY OLD.
Re: RamView, 8/17/2013: Packers 19, Rams 7 (Long)
Rams should at this point just scale down to the roaster limit--there is nothing more to see with games 3 and 4 and use the time playing first string to get themselves into shape. At this point I don't see the Rams winning game one (against the Cards) let alone put a respectable showing in week 2 of the regular season
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