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    MFranke's Avatar
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    RamView, 9/17/2006: Whiners 20, Rams 13 (Long)

    RamView, September 17, 2006
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Game #2: Whiners 20, Rams 13

    The San Francisco Whiners have won five of their last eighteen football games. And three of those are now, intolerably, at the expense of the St. Louis Rams. Key injuries and big, bad misplays by the Ram secondary didn't help, but Scott Linehan has got to get the Ram passing game in gear. Now.

    Position by position:
    * QB: Marc Bulger (19-34-185) is getting better in some areas, but for the most part, the Ram passing game has become The Gratingest Show On Earth. They've scored one TD in eight quarters, managing only 13 points today against a defense that just gave up 34. Bulger looks tentative and confused in the pocket, holding the ball forever while straining to figure out where he's supposed to be going with it. For the (I stress) moment, the Ram passing game? Has been Marmie'd. But I see a lot fewer physical mistakes out of Marc, even as some of the numb-nut local sports departments show legitimate throwaways from this game as examples of hideous inaccuracy. Actually, I'd argue he was much more successful on sideline passes than he was last week, hitting a bunch of them. He hit Isaac Bruce for 24 early. On the Rams' first FG drive, he hit a sliding Torry Holt for 17 and a kneeling Shaun McDonald for 8, both completions converting third downs. The Rams' first TD drive of the year followed, with Marc hitting Kevin Curtis for "exactly" 6 on 3rd-and-6 from the 49er 19 before hitting Holt with a seeing-eye 3-yard TD pass off a roll right. After the Whiners went up 17-10, Bulger struck back by hitting Bruce for 19 on a 3rd down and Holt for a very-quick 2 on 4th-and-1, but the Rams only got a missed FG out of the drive. They did close to 17-13, thanks to a 23-yard completion on 2nd-and-20 to Isaac and a 23-yarder to Joe Klopfenstein on 3rd-and-3 to set up the FG. That's quite a few clutch plays, but far from enough, since Marc had some noticeable problems. The Rams took at least four shots deep, but none could be caught. Bulger badly overthrew Holt on one that could have been a TD, and Holt had to play DB to save an INT on another. The timing of the Ram offense still seems to be way off, no thanks to the Whiners blitzing a makeshift Ram offensive line. But Bulger (and/or Linehan) have got to help them out there by getting the ball out quicker. Blitzing, or just a solid pass rush, doesn't give a QB time to be confused or make slow reads. The Ram passing game has got to get its timing down, and Bulger has got to get his mental game up to snuff, for this offense to be better than mediocre, and, gee, you would have thought they’d have had plenty of time to practice it, no?

    * RB: 39-and-1. For the first time in the St. Louis era, the Rams had a 100-yard rusher but lost the game. Despite that, Steven Jackson (22-103) has emerged as the runner the Rams were hoping for when they drafted him, running with power and nice elusiveness today. He started the game with an 11-yard run right up the 49er gut. The Rams’ next drive saw nice deception by Scott Linehan as Jackson ran for 14 left after a faked end-around right. That drew a 3rd-and-1, on which Jackson got stuffed, thanks to poor blocking by the Rams’ makeshift line. That happened a couple of times to Jackson in the first half. Late in the first half, Jackson took an 11-yard run down to the SF 2, but got stuffed trying to dance around the next play. That was forgiven by a short TD pass, though. Stephen Davis (5-16) got a surprising amount of play in the 2nd, apparently just to keep Jackson fresh. I’m surprised to see Davis isn’t a big fumbler; he carried the ball today like a fumble risk. The Ram offense continued to run through Jackson in the second half, though he committed his biggest error on the half’s first play, blowing a blitz pickup that helped get Bulger sacked for a big loss. He nearly made up for that by making a nice cutback to take a dumpoff pass for 18 yards, but it was 3rd-and-20. Jackson continued to run well with the Rams trailing, but a 14-yard run from midfield with another nice cutback was wasted when he lost 3 a few plays later, as Manny Lawson whipped Joe Klopfenstein, then Jeff Wilkins missed a long FG. He had 7- and 11-yard runs in the 4th, the 11-yarder a nice power run right through several defenders, but not much more, as the trailing Rams went more to the pass. I have little problem with Jackson’s play today. He produced. He got a lot of tough yards on his own, and his losses were more due to offensive line problems than to him dancing (though there was some of that). He did his job, and is at a point where he should be pushed to take the next step and become a Larry Johnson-style dominator. Steven Jackson’s got that potential.

    * WR: Where you at, 81? The Rams don’t do well when Torry Holt has low-impact games, and even with a 3-yard TD catch in the 2nd, today was one of those, as Torry collected just 30 yards on 5 catches. I didn’t expect Torry to get blanketed by the likes of Walt Harris, but it looked like Harris was in the 81 jersey most of the day. Torry’s a team leader and simply has to do better than that. Isaac Bruce led the receivers with 77 yards on 5 catches and got much more open than Holt ever did, so possibly Torry got some extra attention. Joe Klopfenstein got active with a couple of catches, and set up a FG by holding on to a 23-yard pass after getting DRILLED by Harris, an impressive play by both players. Kevin Curtis caught 3 for just 13, and Shaun McDonald had one kneeling catch for 8 yards. Bulger struggled a lot to find open receivers today, and some of that’s him, but the Ram receivers have done a bad job in all three of these recent 49er losses in getting open consistently, despite a sizable talent advantage. Step it up, fellas.

    * Offensive line: The 49er defense looked like the Ram defense was supposed to, officially getting to Bulger six times, including twice on the Rams' first possession. Bulger took a big loss on 2nd-and-15 when Klop let one Chad Williams in untouched, with Alex Barron also getting beaten woefully on the right side. Rough start again this week for Klop. Todd Steussie turned out to be the weakest link in the o-line, though. He false-started twice and was a liability run-blocking. He also unfortunately became the Rams' left tackle for the 2nd half when Orlando Pace suffered a serious concussion. Like the rest of the team, the offense came out of halftime back on their heels. The blitz was the key to the Whiners' success and the Rams' demise. Jackson and Madison Hedgecock blew blitz pickups badly on the first play of the half, a Manny Lawson sack for a big loss. Lawson was a menace, whipping Klop to stuff Jackson for -3 on 2nd-10 two plays before Jeff Wilkins missed a 46-yarder. Down 17-10 in the 4th, the Rams drove right back into the red zone, but Chad Williams sneaked between LT Steussie and Adam Goldberg at LG for a huge third-down, FG-forcing sack. And Steussie gave up the game's coup de grace, whiffing badly on Marques Douglas, who made a beeline to Bulger for a sack and fumble that let the Whiners go back up by 7. 900-year-old Bryant Young then bodyslammed Goldberg like he was Gillberg and got to Bulger to kill the Rams' final possession. Inconsistent is the best word to describe the o-line today. The running game was acceptable, though Jackson did a lot of the work, and Bulger got a ton of time on a lot of pass plays. The Whiners didn't pressure well without blitzing. But, oh, those blitzes, good strategy against a line with 60% turnover from the previous week, and something everyone who wears a Rams uniform that blocks has to get better against quickly.

    * Defensive line/LB: Um, the 49er defense looked like the Ram defense was supposed to, but the Rams did not sack Alex Smith even once today, and given the injuries on the 49er line, that ranks as a big disappointment. The Ram blitz was effective in pressuring Smith, and Leonard Little, playing again this week like a one-man wrecking crew, also was, but Little didn’t have enough help, and no one could finish off the big play needed to knock the Whiners backwards. Leonard was literally everywhere, spending a lot of time early in the game at RDE. He made a great play late in the 1st half, splitting and beating two Whiners to force Smith to throw the ball away. Little also blew up a reverse late in the 3rd to kill a drive that ended in a missed FG. Will Witherspoon also starred, leading the D with 8 tackles and forcing a key fumble by Frank Gore near the goal line in the 2nd to save a likely TD. The D got caught flat-footed right after halftime, though, as Gore followed a long kickoff return with a 32-yard TD run. Chillar and I believe also Witherspoon got caught blitzing from the left side, and Gore ran right, with plenty of room to spare after Pisa Tinoisamoa got pancaked. Pisa left the game right before Bryant’s TD with a dislocated elbow, and his absence may have taken the rest of the air out of the defense, which gave up 90 second-half yards to Gore after permitting only 37 in the first. Gore wouldn’t be denied in the 2nd half, especially when SF got the ball back with with 3:38 left, bowling Rams over to the tune of two first downs that put the game away. After last week, it was disheartening to see the Ram defense buckle in the final minutes, and especially disappointing that they couldn’t ding the Whiners’ practically-rookie QB for even one sack. Little and Witherspoon can’t do it by themselves, guys.

    * Secondary: After last week's outstanding game, the secondary sprung big leaks this week and was a big letdown. Tye Hill slipped and fell on the game's third play to give up a 56-yard catch-and-run to Arnaz Battle, setting up a FG. That wouldn't be the last big 49er pass play. OJ Atogwe was late rotating over to cover on Antonio Bryant's wide, wide open 34-yard catch late in the 1st. It was by far not OJ's best game. He dropped an INT in the 2nd, and got burned by the game's biggest play, a 72-yard TD to Antonio Bryant. Just like that, a Ram 10-3 halftime lead became a 17-10 deficit. On the play, both Tye Hill (on Bryant split right) and Travis Fisher (on Brian Gilmore slot right) released their men. OJ ran up to meet Gilmore, and Bryant ran right by him for the backbreaking TD. OJ's getting the bulk of the blame, but I don't believe he was the only player who erred on the play. Fisher continues to reign as The World's Least Physical CB, getting run over close to the goal line a couple of times. Fakhir Brown broke up an early end zone pass, Corey Chavous recovered Frank Gore's goal line fumble, and Alex Smith only completed 11 passes. But the Whiners averaged over 21 yards a completion thanks to a Ram secondary that gave up much more in big plays than it made.

    * Special teams: Special teams didn't blatantly lose this game the way they did last year in SF, but after halftime, they made the snowball and kicked it to get it rolling down the hill. Maurice Hicks – him again?!? – by all rights should have been engulfed around the 25-yard line returning the opening kick of the 2nd half, but he hurdled a suspiciously-prone Raonall Smith, eluded overpursuers Dane Looker and Ron Bartell with a cutback and brought it back 59 yards, with only Tye Hill's speed saving a TD. All the kicking last week must have tired Jeff Wilkins out; his kickoffs were very inconsistent and he missed a 46-yard FG attempt. Matt Turk punted quite well again, averaging 43.2 with very good hangtime; usually no return. Turk also seems to be a roughing penalty magnet. Shaun McDonald set up the Rams' TD drive in the 2nd with a 30-yard punt return, getting good blocks from Jerome Carter and Brandon Chillar, among others. JR Reed had a 40-yard kick return late and is doing a credible job there. But giving up that big return right after halftime turned out to be a backbreaker and became the story for the day on special teams.

    * Coaching/discipline: It seemed like a great idea at the time: hire an offensive guy to replace Mike Martz. You can still hire a good defensive coordinator and the offense won’t take a backslide. Well, only half of that equation is working so far, as Scott Linehan has apparently broken the Ram passing game. Marc Bulger is a full 10% under his career completion percentage and 13 points below his career passer rating. The team has scored one TD in two games, and Linehan’s play calls continually get whacked by opposing coaches’ blitz calls. It’s too early to say Linehan’s system is at fault, but the installation of it sure is. Two games into the regular season, and Bulger’s still very lost in the weeds. We saw so in the preseason, but he still got pulled early out of games, and everybody sat out the Miami game. What the hell is preseason for? It’s not like Bulger couldn’t have used the reps or anything! I appreciate that Linehan has made some big improvements. He’s established the running game two straight weeks. The Rams have just one turnover this season. But as it turns out, on September 17, the Ram offense is still not ready for the regular season, and it’s costing them games.
    The real shame is that the Rams had this game won. At halftime, the Rams were up 10-3, Bulger got his TD and visibly had a huge weight lifted off his shoulders, and the defense had hounded Smith into making grass his leading receiver. Everything was going their way, then three big plays in five minutes stood the game on its ear. Jim Haslett’s blitzing got a lot of good pressure on Smith, but with no sacks, the risk wasn’t worth the reward once Gore beat a blitz on his 32-yard TD. And the Rams had costly breakdowns in the secondary. Everyone seemed to be flat after halftime. Special teams had the big return, Gore steamrolled the D, the offense gave up a big sack, then Bryant steamed the D. Whether they got complacent, lost their edge, or got outworked or outschemed by the Whiners, Linehan and staff would do well to prevent it from happening again. Poor third quarters were a hallmark of the 1998 Rams, and nobody wants to relive that. (Yes, I realize the next year was 1999.)

    * Upon further review: There appear to be several new crew leaders in the league this year, including today's referee, Gene Steratore. The new blood ain't necessarily an improvement, though. The Ram drive after the Gore fumble would have died because of an obvious-yet-uncalled DPI, had Turk not gotten roughed. They messed up the play where Battle lost the ball after his knee was down, forcing a replay challenge. The game's key play, the long kick return to open the 2nd half, certainly wasn't hurt by Raonall Smith being blocked in the back and/or held. And it's cute the Whiners had DT Anthony Adams at FB in their goal line package, and that the Fox announcers called him the "Dorm Fridge", now how about somebody noticing he false-started on nearly every snap? Especially a guy in stripes? I hope the Rams won't have to break in too many more new zebras this season.

    * Cheers: Matt Vasgersian's bio says that when he was 7 years old, he appeared in an episode of Streets of San Francisco. Which comes as no surprise after having to listen to him practically root for the Whiners ("T! D! A! B!") all day long. I understand he's well-liked as the San Diego Padres announcer, and I wish he would stick to that, or poker, or billiards, or blackjack, or Roshambo. Just get off my screen, if you're going to miss every spot by two or three yards. Holt had a 3-yard catch Matt said gained "nothing". He did this all day, apparently seeing the ball so poorly, he eventually just said most plays gained "a few" yards. Nice XFL-quality broadcast, Matt. Not only did JC Pearson (who I liked somewhat last year) add nothing to the broadcast, he subtracted from it by giving incorrect analysis of plays, blaming Incognito for plays that weren't his fault, analyzing Bryant's long TD poorly, accusing Jackson of dancing on plays he truly had nowhere to go… a thoroughly poor broadcast that also did a poor job of keeping Ram fans up to date on their injured players. And no one at Fox could figure out Chad Johnson was doing the duck dance? And who wants to be the Ram game makes it onto Inside The NFL this week?

    * Who’s next?: After a good twenty years of panhandling for one, Bill Bidwill has finally gotten his indoor stadium, forever to be known in this space as the Pink Taco Dome. In St. Louis, the very idea of Bidwill demanding a domed stadium for his worthless, incompetent franchise, that rarely displayed the ability or even will to improve, was a ridiculous joke that eventually became a cruel one. Arizonans, however, eventually chose to gamble on the Big Dead, wisely, not with their own money, but by raising hotel and rental car taxes, and lo and behold, for the first time in memory, the Big Dead are actually selling out games, with their own fans at that. When the Rams take the field in Glendale next Sunday, it won't be what visiting teams have become accustomed to in the desert – it'll be a real, and tough, road game environment.

    Apparently, it took two decades of desert heat to finally loosen Bidwill's purse strings a little. Besides the $100 million-plus the Big Dead are putting into Pink Taco, they re-signed former Ram hero Kurt Warner and added Edgerrin James, possibly the league's best all-purpose RB. James is supposed to give Arizona a GSOE-class attack as a complement to the big, fast, and dangerous receiving corps of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson. Just one problem – for all of preseason and two regular season games now, Edge has had nowhere to run, averaging 3.2 a rush so far this season. The offense looks like an Escalade, but it's powered by a Chevette motor in the form of Arizona's offensive line. After today, though, who knows how well anything shapes up for the Ram defense next week? They've allowed two straight 100-yard rushers, and Arizona's o-line is certainly better than San Francisco's of today. And with all the coverage breakdowns today, and the Rams' recent struggles with physical WRs, the secondary is overmatched, if not overwhelmed. How do you defend a 1500-yard rusher and two 100-catch receivers? The Rams will have to attack the head, and by that I mean our old friend Kurt. Jim Haslett has neutralized Warner in the past. We've seen blitzing get to Kurt over the years, and the man is fumbling more than Tony Banks at an eel-juggling contest – he has already put the ball on the ground SEVEN times, though only 1 has resulted in a turnover. This game for the Rams is going to depend completely on the pass rush, and it is vital for Little, and company, to get to Kurt next week, and inflict damage when they do.

    The Gratingest Show on Earth looks to be extremely vulnerable next week if Orlando can’t go, which seems likely. Steussie’s a veteran; maybe a week of practice back at LT will help him, but if I am Big Dead DC Clancy Pendergast, I’m teeing off as often as I can. Pace is out? There’s a raw rookie at center? Bulger looks lousy against the blitz? Jackson, Klop and others are poor at picking it up? Yahtzee! Between him and Haslett, this ought to be a game of 100 blitzes. The Rams need to be prepared for this with draw plays, screen passes and lots of three-step passes for Bulger. The Rams have to improve their offensive tempo, and Bulger must run the passing game effectively. What happened to the no-huddle, by the way? That sounds like a good idea for the Big Dead on Sunday. The Rams are running well, yet losing or barely surviving; Bulger, Holt and the passing game have to step up at Pink Taco.

    The Rams have lost six of their last seven consecutive NFC West division games. Scott Linehan was brought here to put this kind of thing to a halt. Didn’t happen this week, and he’ll be hard-pressed to make it happen next week, given Arizona’s powerful offense, the Rams’ injuries and the Big Dead’s newly-found home field advantage. A 1-2 start by the Rams wouldn’t put them in a daunting hole overall, but 0-2 in the division, with two remaining games with Seattle, would, which ought to give them the urgency they need to get things working for Arizona. Then again, I thought there’d be more urgency to have the offense ready for the regular season in the first place. Let’s hope it’s not long before the Rams have their Eureka! moment.

    -- Mike
    Game stats from nfl.com


  2. #2
    RAMarkable is offline Registered User
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    Re: RamView, 9/17/2006: Whiners 20, Rams 13 (Long)

    Thanx Mike, great job as always. Unfortunately I was unable to see any of the game as my lousy Directv satellite system went blank about 5 minutes before gametime. Of course I called the cretins at Directv and had a charming conversation with some mole or something. Granted, she didn't know anything nor care "bout them thar Sattylites" but she did offer me a copy of her wonderful recipe for "Mama Smitty's Tollhouse Cookies." I declined the offer and subsequently broke my cell phone when I threw it against the wall. And now not only do I have to suffer yet another loss to the Whiners I have to try and explain the problem with my cell phone (and prevailing overall lousy attitude) to my increasingly unsympathetic wife. Fortunately after 22 yrs. of marriage I have been able to somewhat train her NEVER to say "Gee dear, it's only a game." AUGHHH!!
    Anyway, thanks for listening and I do have some questions if you don't mind.

    1.) Er, what is DPI?

    2.) Did Jennings play LT for S.F.? And, if so, where was Hardgrove et.al. today?

    3.) Who played guard when Steusiie went to LT?

    4.) Since Larry Allen was out, didn't Glover and Kenndey do anything?

    5.) Who played at FB, Smith or Hedgecock?


    I appreciate your responses.

    WHAT SAY YE?

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    MFranke's Avatar
    MFranke is offline Registered User
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    Re: RamView, 9/17/2006: Whiners 20, Rams 13 (Long)

    LOL, I have DirecTV too, I didn't have that problem, but I did have the old problem where your picture cuts out because it's raining pretty hard. Had to flip back and forth to the rabbit ears for a while.

    Here's my attempted answers for you:
    1. Defensive pass interference. I heard some announcers refer to it as DPI on NFL Network & thought it sounded pretty cool. And at least 14 characters shorter.

    2. I do not believe Jennings was in the game. Little was used a lot at RDE, which put Hargrove at LDE, though I heard Adeyanju's name called a few times, too.

    3. LG was Adam Goldberg. An all-ex-Viking left side.

    4. Little seemed like the only d-lineman rushing the QB. I only remember Glover committing an offsides that made a FG 5 yards closer. SF missed it anyway. Middle seemed very solid a couple of times that SF got near the goal line.

    5. Both Hedgecock and Smith played, Hedgecock'll have to join the long line of guys who need to work on blitz pickup.

    --Mike

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    RAMMAN68's Avatar
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    Re: RamView, 9/17/2006: Whiners 20, Rams 13 (Long)

    * Cheers: Matt Vasgersian's bio says that when he was 7 years old, he appeared in an episode of Streets of San Francisco. Which comes as no surprise after having to listen to him practically root for the Whiners ("T! D! A! B!") all day long. I understand he's well-liked as the San Diego Padres announcer, and I wish he would stick to that, or poker, or billiards, or blackjack, or Roshambo. Just get off my screen, if you're going to miss every spot by two or three yards.
    Good call MFranke; even during Padre games he has a tendency to go off on a tangent. I was not surprised though that FOX is that desperate to fill the booth with quality announcers. I can only guess who will be calling next weeks game, maybe Dr. Laura?
    JUST WIN ONE FOR THE FANS


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    Adm. William "Bull" Halsey

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    Re: RamView, 9/17/2006: Whiners 20, Rams 13 (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by H'MBeingFrank
    The Gratingest Show On Earth.
    If you haven't trade-marked that phrase, I'd get on it right away. One could say it started sooner than this year, but whenever it started it seems well on its way so far this year ...

    Quote Originally Posted by H'mBeingFrankSomeMore
    Despite that, Steven Jackson (22-103) has emerged as the runner the Rams were hoping for when they drafted him, running with power and nice elusiveness today.
    Before saying anything else let me make it clear that I am quite comfortable with Jackson. It wasn't a bad pick then. It still isn't. And I'm convinced only bad luck would make it a bad one down the road. That said, I'm afraid he isn't as elusive as he thinks he is. His mind is willing. But his legs don't sidestep as abruptly as I think he imagines they should. I'm with him on intent. But execution has him being tripped up more often than not when moving laterally then actually making people miss or sheer speed leaving them grasping for air.

    Right now I'm inclined to wish that when he is faced with a defender in his line of sight that he would try to knee his way through the tackle then try to give the ole Leroy Kelly limp leg dance. I don't recall seeing many people miss an open field tackle on him when he trys the leg plant and move laterally move. But then again, I may not be seeing the moves I should ...

  6. #6
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    Smile Re: RamView, 9/17/2006: Whiners 20, Rams 13 (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by MFranke View Post
    Late in the first half, Jackson took an 11-yard run down to the SF 2, but got stuffed trying to dance around the next play. That was forgiven by a short TD pass, though.

    The Ram offense continued to run through Jackson in the second half, though he committed his biggest error on the half’s first play, blowing a blitz pickup that helped get Bulger sacked for a big loss. He nearly made up for that by making a nice cutback to take a dumpoff pass for 18 yards, but it was 3rd-and-20. Jackson continued to run well with the Rams trailing, but a 14-yard run from midfield with another nice cutback was wasted when he lost 3 a few plays later, as Manny Lawson whipped Joe Klopfenstein, then Jeff Wilkins missed a long FG. He had 7- and 11-yard runs in the 4th, the 11-yarder a nice power run right through several defenders, but not much more, as the trailing Rams went more to the pass. I have little problem with Jackson’s play today. He produced. He got a lot of tough yards on his own, and his losses were more due to offensive line problems than to him dancing (though there was some of that). He did his job, and is at a point where he should be pushed to take the next step and become a Larry Johnson-style dominator. Steven Jackson’s got that potential.
    This is a nice analysis of Jackson’s day. I thought he still had a few things crop up that have been problems in the past. But overall I thought that he had one of his better games as far as his consistency. I could live with his performance that he gave. Although I still think that he has the potential to be even better if he can break some of his bad habits and continue wanting learn all aspects of the position. It was a good game and I hope to see him build off of that.

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    Re: RamView, 9/17/2006: Whiners 20, Rams 13 (Long)

    I am glad that someone else noticed the TD AD call after Bryant scored the TD. I mentioned to my friend at the time that Vasgersian must moonlite as a ***** announcer.

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    Thumbs up Re: RamView, 9/17/2006: Whiners 20, Rams 13 (Long)

    Great read, as always Mike. You get a big thumbs up from me.

    Where you at number 81?

    The announcers were pretty bad. LL was inter-changeable with Pace. That is pretty bad. Both big names, but on opposite sides of the ball.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    RamOfDenmark is offline Registered User
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    Re: RamView, 9/17/2006: Whiners 20, Rams 13 (Long)

    I can only agree on the preseason. There is no way we should have rested the offense as much as we did, Linehan must have known this, from the preseason games themselves and from practice. I'd rather have run the chance of injuries than losing a couple of games for lack of preparation. Big mistake.

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