RamView, 8/26/2006: Chiefs 16, Rams 12 (Long)
RamView, August 25, 2006
From The Couch
(Report and opinions on the game.)
Preseason Game #3: Chiefs 16, Rams 12
You've heard the phrase "the truth lies somewhere in the middle"? Rams Nation has to hope fervently for that modest goal now that it's seen a good game against the Colts, an okay game against Houston, and a bad game by the starters tonight in Kansas City. They can't be this bad, can they?
Position by position:
* QB: There are mitigating circumstances – Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce did not play, and a TD pass was erased by a penalty – but Marc Bulger's (7-11-78) up-and-down play this preseason continues. He could only lead the offense to one FG in two-plus quarters of play. Most of Marc's passes were quick ones, most of which he threw accurately and got out quickly. He also hit Aaron Walker nicely for a big 28-yard play on 4th-and-1 in the first. But his other downfield pass of the night was a bad overthrow for Kevin Curtis, who tipped it to Bernard Pollard for an INT. On a 3rd-and-2 in the 3rd, he had Dane Looker wide open on a short out pattern, but his throw was terrible, barely even in Looker's zip code. Dane didn't appear to slip coming out of his break, so I can't say why that throw was so far ahead of him. Marc may not necessarily be playing bad, but he's played much better than this before. But I wouldn't worry about Gus Frerotte (11-18-135) creating a QB controversy. He threw a couple of poor passes that were nearly picked off. He did make a great 26-yard throw to Taylor Stubblefield in the 3rd, and hit Jerome Collins for a 54-yard catch-and-run TD later that quarter. He drove the Rams to an additional FG in the 4th, but that's a TD if his bomb for Dominique Byrd from the Chief 31 had been a good throw; Byrd was very open. That was it at QB – Ryan Fitzpatrick and Dave Ragone are slated to play Thursday in Miami. But the Rams are not getting the consistent play at QB they'll need if they're to surpass last year's bad record.
* RB: Steven Jackson got a meager 22 yards on 10 carries, and 7 of those yards were on a stat-padding draw play against the Chief prevent defense late in the 1st half. But this section won't be as much about Steven as his blocking, because for the second straight week, I'm just not seeing any running room for him. Jackson's opening run was a 3-yard loss because the Chiefs blitzed and Joe Klopfenstein blocked nobody. Steven's next run lost two, with Klop letting Jared Allen in untouched. The next run went for no gain as Paul Smith and Richie Incognito not only failed at blocking their men, they got in Steven's way and took him down more so than any of the Chiefs did. The next drive, Jackson got 7 behind good blocks from Incognito and Smith, but got snuffed for no gain the next play, as Jared Allen put an embarrassing matador-like move on Smith and got in for the stop. Tony Fisher needed 13 carries to collect 36 rushing yards; nothing to write home about, either. One thing Jackson can improve on is his tackle-breaking, which I didn't really see much of tonight. The only other thing he can do behind this kind of blocking is try to bounce more plays outside, and we saw last season that wasn't really his forte. Ultimately the blocking has got to get better.
* WR: Torry Holt (bruised sternum) and Isaac Bruce ("camp legs") sat this one out. You'd think that would mean lots of those promised passes to the TEs, but not really. For the second week, starting TE Joe Klopfenstein wasn't thrown to once. But there were a couple of big plays for the TEs. Aaron Walker (2-35) handled a 28-yard toss from Bulger on a 4th-and-1 at midfield in the 1st. Jerome Collins topped that with one of the game's few Rams highlights. He got loose in broken coverage in the Chief secondary, and with surprising speed, took a Frerotte pass 54 yards for a TD. Dominique Byrd had a shot at a TD in the 4th, but Frerotte's throw was not on target. Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald started but only had a catch apiece. Brandon Middleton got a ball jarred out of his grasp, with Bernard Pollard grabbing the long ricochet for the Chiefs, to bring the game to an end. I've seen others say so, and looking at tonight's WR setup and performance, and with Holt and Bruce having played a combined 21 seasons, the Rams should look for some size at WR sooner than later.
* Offensive line: You have to be able to control the line of scrimmage to win football games, and, shades of last year, the Rams aren't showing a lot of signs they can do that right now. The RBs averaged roughly 2.5 yards a carry. I've already pointed out some blocking deficiencies at TE, FB and by Richie Incognito, and that ain't the half of it for young #68. He took away a nice gain by Jackson on the opening drive with a chop block penalty. And late in the 1st half, after the Atogwe fumble recovery, and after good blocking by Adam Timmerman and Todd Steussie got Tony Fisher 9 yards down to the KC 13, Marc Bulger's TD pass to Kevin Curtis was taken off the board by another chop block penalty on Incognito. I doubt Richie's trying to play dirty; I suspect it's (very) poor fundamentals. Cogs and Klop did have their moments. Prior to the Bulger INT, Jackson got 8 off a super pull block by Cogs. And on the ensuing 3rd-and-2, Jackson got the 1st behind good blocks by Klop and Kevin Curtis. And after the second chop block on Cogs, Klop did a nice job picking up a blitzing DB. Unfortunately, Moe Williams barely even waved at Jimmy Wilkerson on the other side, the former Sooner sacked Bulger out of FG range, and what had been 7 points became none. On the other sack of Bulger, Tamba Hali stormed an easy path around Todd Steussie and forced a fumble that set up a Chief FG. Rams Nation has to have concerns about the o-line's inability to establish the run going into the season, and has to hope that Incognito's big setback tonight is a short, temporary one.
* Defensive line/LB: The Ram defense didn't look much better than last year's bunch of sad sacks in the first half. I was deeply disappointed with Will Witherspoon's performance on the opening drive, a 7:15, 14-play march, mostly on the ground, for a fairly easy Chief TD. Witherspoon was weak on Larry Johnson's 14-yard run early in that drive, and he and Corey Chavous both got suckered by LJ cutting back along the sideline on an 11-yard run that got KC inside the Ram 15. Pisa Tinoisamoa made a couple of good stops on that drive, including ramming LJ in midair on a 1st-and-goal plunge, but on 2nd-and-goal, Tony Gonzalez threw Pisa down like nothing, Raonall Smith got pancaked, and LJ was in for 6. KC almost passed its way to another TD the following drive. Except for Anthony Hargrove, who played LDE a lot of the night, with Leonard Little at RDE, flushing Green once on the drive, the pass rush was out to lunch. A couple of good run stops by Witherspoon inside the 5, though, prevented another Chief TD. The Chiefs brought in the subs after that, and the Rams still only slowed them down a little. Poor play in the secondary along with 3 Michael Bennett runs for 15 yards in Ram territory set up another FG to make it 13-3 Chiefs. The news gets a lot better after that. The Ram defense allowed only one first down the rest of the game. After Marc Bulger's INT in the 2nd, Pisa and Witherspoon stuffed a screen pass, and on 3rd down, Pisa blitzed in to drop Brodie Croyle for a 14-yard loss. And after Bulger's late 1st-half fumble, the D held KC to a field goal. In the 2nd half, good pass pressures by Victor Adeyanju stifled the Chiefs' first drive. Dexter Coakley and Jamal Brooks strung out a run nicely to stop the next drive on 3rd-and-1. Outstanding run support by Dwaine Carpenter and Tye Hill stuffed the next drive 3-and-out. And they'd create two more 3-and-outs after that, with Brian Howard especially going off in the 4th quarter, stuffing a couple of runs, forcing a fumble and sacking Croyle. Howard made a big statement at the right time, with the first round of cuts looming. I'm happy the subs were dominant, but maybe they should have started the game. The first string really let the Chiefs have their way. Maybe it's a good sign they didn't give up any huge runs like happened so often last season, but they didn't slow Kansas City down much, either. I'd like to see better pass rush, and better consistency from Witherspoon.
* Secondary: The secondary had its moments. Fakhir Brown should "grade out" well. He defended a couple of red zone passes well and even drew an offensive PI penalty late in the 1st half. There was good run support throughout the game by Travis Fisher, Tye Hill and especially Dwaine Carpenter, who really stepped up nicely tonight. Hill and Coakley broke up passes to help hold the Chiefs to one first down in the 2nd half. Unfortunately, a lot of bad 1st half plays go along with those good plays. The Rams somehow managed not to cover Eddie Freaking Kennison all night, which helped the Chiefs' first two scoring drives, and Samie Parker made big plays on the first two FG drives. He was WIDE OPEN for 23 on 3rd-and-7 early in the 1st FG drive, and he survived a spinebuster from OJ Atogwe at the Ram 2 for a 22-yard catch on 3rd-and-6. On that play, Fisher came in clean on a blitz but blew the sack of Trent Green miserably. Miserably! Parker burned Tye Hill for a 35-yard interference penalty on the next drive. A good throw from Brodie Croyle there's probably a TD. Hill was only close enough to interfere because Parker had to slow down for the pass, and Atogwe wasn't in the picture when he should have been. That drive had another chance to be a TD but wide-open Jeff Webb unbelievably did not keep his left foot in on a catch at the Ram 6, forcing KC to settle for another FG. Again, a unit I'm looking for more consistency from. The frequency of wide open receivers deep downfield has to be addressed pronto. Hill looks all right, but is having his "rookie moments" and will need to be ready for opposing QBs to test him deep.
* Special teams: Dante Hall returned two kickoffs, both long, both with Dwaine Carpenter making safety-valve tackles to keep the damage from being even worse. Chavous played Hall's 2nd return badly, and I'd consider him a liability on special teams this summer. Jeff Wilkins kicked a 48-yard FG, and Remy Hamilton nailed a 47-yarder, but that was after he nailed the goal post on the PAT after the Collins TD. But special teams still had a pretty good game, especially the punting team. Matt Turk punted well, with good hang time. Andy Groom blasted a 58-yard punt in the 3rd, and Atogwe was not only there for the tackle, he stripped the ball out and recovered it to set up a (blown) scoring opportunity deep in Chief territory. The returning situation is still unsettled. I though Marques Hagans outplayed Brad Pyatt tonight, so that position may not get settled until Thursday night.
* Coaching/discipline: When Scott Linehan chose to go for it on 4th-and-1 after a failed 3rd-and-1 at midfield in the 1st, I thought he was trying to send a message to the offensive line and would smash Jackson at the Chief front again, but instead, psych! it's a play-action long pass to the TE. Super call, but would you do that in regular season? I'm also starting to see the offensive playcalling hampering the running game. I think all of Jackson's runs were up the middle; I know outside running's not his strength, but he's got the burst of speed to force defenses to respect that. Spread that defense out, Coach; give the running game some variety. Also, the way the Chiefs were stacking up against the run, more passing would have been in order. I don't think the absences of Bruce and Holt should have necessarily dictated against that, but it's sure easier to do with them on the field. In a sideline interview, Jackson blamed some of the Rams' offensive problems tonight on crowd noise. Hopefully some of the kinks we saw tonight do stem from it being the new staff's first road game and they can work those kinks out.
Jim Haslett disappointed me at the beginning of the game because I saw only two blitzes on the Chiefs' 14-play opening TD drive. Far too vanilla and like last year's defense. After that first drive, though, Haslett really took charge. They obviously dominated the second half. Travis Fisher should have sacked Green in the 1st, which would have saved the Rams three points. The big thing Haslett needs to address is all of the breakdowns in the secondary. Can't be having that against Denver.
* Waiver bait: The first roster cutdown, to 75 players, has to be done by Tuesday. There's 84 on the NFL.com Rams roster (the Rams website's roster IS WRONG), and though I'm not sure if Fred Russell counts against the total, I'll cut 9 players: RBs Antoine Bagwell and John David Washington, WR Jeremy Carter, TEs Rob Trafford and Alex Holmes, T Adam Haayer, DBs Deandre Eiland and Kevin Timothee, and K Remy Hamilton. Mainly guys at the bottom of the depth chart that I'm not seeing much in games.
And kickers who doink PATs. If I get five of these right, I'm patting myself on the back.
* Upon further review: I have to grade the Bill Carollo crew well because I don't recall getting angry over any incorrect calls. I thought Bulger was going to get the tuck rule on his fumble, but that was indeed a good call, as were the pass interference penalties on both teams. I wish we'd gotten better looks at Incognito's chop blocks. The first time, I thought he was in front of the defender when he threw the block. There was a fumble by Samie Parker that should not have been called down by contact, but it looked like he got it back anyway. Looked like a well-officiated game overall.
* Cheers: The Rams went with the white pants for the first time, and I guess that's okay since it's not Labor Day yet. Actually, it wasn't too bad a look, though I would be remiss if I did not mention the Rams' all-time record in non-gold pants is now 1-5. This was my first chance to listen to the new TV team of Martin Kilcoyne and Rickey Proehl, who weren't too bad, though Kilcoyne seemed to stray into color man territory a lot. Proehl had too many instances of having to call a player's number off and then pause while he looked the guy's name up. Hell yeah, I do that all the time myself, but I'm not calling a game on TV at the time. Proehl admirably wasn't afraid to criticize the Rams, a welcome quality in a market chockfull of homer sports reporters. Not surprisingly, he wanted more passing on offense, but he made a great call in the 4th by asking where Fred Russell was. Good question. After some really bad years, the preseason broadcasts now are getting better every year.
* RamView update: The 2003 archive and the first week of the Preseason Challenge are up. The archives probably won't be updated again until I complete the Preseason Challenge, or die trying…
* Who’s next?: Quick turnaround for Linehan and the Rams, who are only five days from their next and final preseason game, in Miami, where Linehan worked last season. Like the Rams', the Dolphin running game doesn't really have anybody talking this preseason, though it should be noted they've been trying to run against the fronts of Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Carolina. Their offense will rely on second-year RB Ronnie Brown and relocated and rehabilitated (knee, that is) QB Daunte Culpepper, who looks like he's all the way back from last year's season-ending injury. Chris Chambers and Randy McMichael give Culpepper good targets and can give defenses bad headaches. The traditionally-strong Dolphin D features Zach Thomas at MLB, Jason Taylor at one DE, and gives Rams fans a chance to see Kevin Carter at LDE again. The Jagwires burned the hell out of the Miami secondary in the first preseason game, but the Fins shut down Jake Delhomme in Carolina last night.
The only problem with this analysis is a big one: since it's the last week of preseason, we're likely to see very little, if any, of those guys, all starters. Most teams' only goal for the fourth preseason game is to get out of it without any major injuries. That'll be the Rams' goal, too, even though I don't see a team right now that's ready to hit the ground running when the regular season begins. Bulger's downfield passing is still somewhat suspect and the running game isn't hitting on many cylinders, let alone all. The secondary's making too many mental mistakes, the d-line doesn't mount a consistent pass rush, and the special teams still have one big issue a week. But instead of the starters honing their games for the regular season, we'll get some last info on the ongoing roster battles, like third QB, punt & kick returner, and how the backup RBs, d-line depth and secondary depth shake out. The offensive line could be one area where starters see some action, so keep an eye on the trenches Thursday night, the place where games (and seasons) are won and lost. That could tell us as much about how prepared the Rams are for the regular season as anything.
Game stats from nfl.com
Re: RamView, 8/26/2006: Chiefs 16, Rams 12 (Long)
Great job Mike, but since I didn't see the game I have a few questions I'd like for you to ponder.
1.) Have you been able to evaluate Raonall Smith's play much of this preseason?
2.) You mentioned Dante Hall had two long returns, How long, yards-wise, were they?
3.) Did you see Dominic Thompson,wr or Fred Russell play?
4.) Does it appear to you that maybe Bulger's shoulder is still injured or perhaps he is favoring it somehow?
We all appreciate your hard work in this forum, keep up the good work!!
WHAT SAY YE?
Re: RamView, 8/26/2006: Chiefs 16, Rams 12 (Long)
RAMarkable, good questions but I doubt my answers will measure up.
Thanks for reading.
Originally Posted by RAMarkable