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RamView, 9/2/2005: Rams 27, Chiefs 23 (Long)
RamView, September 2, 2005
From The Couch
(Report and opinions on the game.)
Preseason Game #4: Rams 27, Chiefs 23
Led by Ryan Fitzpatrick and a solid night on both sides of the line, the Rams claim the <sarcasm>hallowed Governor's Cup</sarcasm> with a short-week win over the Chiefs. Bring on the regular season!
Position by position:
* QB: Jeff Smoker's career setback looks official, after he wasn't inserted into even this most meaningless of preseason games in favor of about a half apiece for Jamie Martin (5-9-71) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (12-22-195, 2 TD). The Rams predominantly ran behind Martin, though he didn’t have a strong night, either, save a couple of long completions to Kevin Curtis. Martin forced a pass early on with a LB bearing down on him, and it was awful, bombing well past Isaac Bruce and into Patrick Surtain's hands in the end zone. Martin left the game with the Rams up 10-6. Fitzpatrick entered with the Rams down 13-10 and poured gas on the fire, with a major overthrow his first pass and fumbling on a sack his second play. Ryan regrouped from there with a couple of good drives. He nearly drove the Rams to a score before halftime with a 25-yard pass to Dane Looker and a last-second pass to Aveion Cason. Good sign that he didn't let the earlier bad play affect his willingness to hang in the pocket. Fitzpatrick and Shaun McDonald were on fire right after halftime. They connected on a beauty of a sideline pass for 25 before connecting again on a 40-yard TD bomb, bringing the Rams within 20-17. After a Kevin Garrett interception, Fitzpatrick made a big play by scrambling for 17 to put the Rams in FG range. The 4th quarter didn't start out well for Ryan, as he threw a terrible out pass for Jerome Collins that was easily intercepted by Kris Griffin. It didn't look like Ryan had anywhere near the arm strength needed for that throw. Later in the quarter, an incompletion has Fitzpatrick getting chewed ought by Mike Martz on the sideline, but does he turn into a quivering mass of Joe Germaine? Nah, he knuckles down and leads the Rams to the winning TD. He slips a blitzer for a key 9-yard scramble. Then the Chiefs illegally blow up an intended shovel pass for Cason by tackling the RB, but Fitzpatrick improvises, rolls out and hits an open Dominique Thompson for 20. Very savvy play by two rookies. Fitz finishes it with a 20-yard TD to Looker, covered by a mismatched LB. Some things to improve on after tonight, no doubt, but Fitzpatrick still looks like the real thing, and much more so than Germaine or Smoker in the summers before him. He's not a Harvard Classic yet, but he's on the way.
* RB: Aveion Cason (20-67) got most of the work, showing some slashing ability and speed to the outside. He put the Rams up 10-6 with a 9-yard run and a 2-yard TD run he popped outside, cruising in behind a dominating block by Madison Hedgecock. Hedgecock had a good night, extending that TD drive with an earlier 7-yard run on 4th-and-1. The TD capped off a truly classic, dominating drive on the ground. The Rams ate up eight minutes and ran on 11 of the 14 plays. Steven Jackson had just 9 yards on 4 rushes, and the long was a 13-yard draw play with a good trap block by, yep again, Tom Nutten. Beyond that, the Chiefs tended to get good penetration on the left side and met Steven in the backfield a lot. Dusty McGrorty rushed for minus-4, no thanks to Brandon Manumaleuna completely whiffing on a block of Eric Hicks on 2nd-and-goal from the Chief 8. Hicks got Dusty for a five-yard loss and the Rams settled for a FG.
* WR: The spotlight was on the reserves, and they didn't disappoint. Shaun McDonald (3-73) made a play I didn't know he could, a 40-yard TD catch from Fitzpatrick where he made a Torry-Holt-like adjustment to an underthrown ball, and a nice lunging grab for the TD. Kevin Curtis (3-65) found soft spots in the zone defense and provided most of Martin's offense. Dane Looker had a big night, 4-56 and the winning TD. Dominique Thompson had two big catches (2-33) on the winning drive. The first converted a 3rd down, and on the second catch, he improvised with Fitzpatrick like a veteran for 20, on a broken play. As for Jerome Collins, no catches, back-to-back penalties on the Rams' last FG drive. Yeah, he was worth two draft picks.
* Offensive line: The line didn't really establish the run with Jackson in, but they controlled the line of scrimmage most of the night, and both QBs got good protection behind both the first-string and the second-string units. They gave up three sacks, and it's a little disturbing that Orlando Pace gave one up for the second straight week. That didn't mean that Rams Nation didn't fill with dread after Pace left the game limping after the Martin non-fumble, but he is reportedly ok. Fitzpatrick's sack/fumble will probably help get Cason cut, because Aveion was completely overwhelmed by the DE on that play. Though I'm not sure why Matt Willig decided to help Darnell Alford double-team the DT, hanging Cason out to dry. Alex Barron almost got backed up over Fitz on that play to boot. There were a lot of positives, though, especially the Rams' first long, grinding TD drive. Tom Nutten flattened a guy to blow open Hedgecock's run on 4th down. Willig and Rex Tucker lined up in jumbo formation the next play; they both killed their men, and Cason got 9. Later, Barron flattened a Chief rusher on the TD bomb to McDonald. Good stuff.
* Defensive line/LB: The defense started off strong for the second straight week. Damione Lewis flashed into the backfield to trip up Priest Holmes on a 2nd-and-4. On third down, a blitzing Chris Claiborne got a piece of Jonathan Quinn's arm, and Adam Archuleta intercepted (!) the wounded duck. The next drive allowed only a FG behind good pushes by Jimmy Kennedy and more stuffs of Holmes, by Arch and Pisa Tinoisamoa. They covered up for bad special teams by holding the next drive to a FG as well, although Dexter Coakley was horrible on a 12-yard Larry Johnson run. He put his head down and never even saw Johnson's cutback move. But Anthony Hargrove stuffed a run, Pisa and Claiborne (who was everywhere) stuffed another, and excellent rush by Hargrove and Tyoka Jackson forced a third-down dumpoff. After the Rams went up 10-6, the defense went through a bad spell. Dee Brown (The Illini guard? The former NBA slam dunk champion?) burned them with a long run, as Brandon Chillar overpursued, Hargrove, who had dropped into coverage, got walled off by the umpire, and Jerome Carter made like Jason Sehorn. The Chiefs scored the next play. That would be a 28-yard pass from Quinn, who was on his couch this time last week, to one Jeris McIntyre, one of those sixth-string, QB-number-wearing WRs, still burning Corey Ivy for the TD. Unsatisfactory. The defense stank even worse after Fitzpatrick's fumble. On a Brown 4-yard TD run, Ron Bartell got BURIED by the fullback, the d-line got manhandled and Oshiomogho (man, can't we all just call him O.J.?) Atogwe got completely dominated by the TE. Classic Chief blocking, K.C. up 20-10. The defense shaped up after that, though. Brandon Green continues to look good, stuffing a run late in the 3rd. They held K.C. to 3 after Fitz's terrible pick in the 4th, thanks to Drew Wahlroos (!) stuffing a couple of runs, Chillar and Robert Thomas stuffing Brown for a big loss on 2nd-and-goal, and Atogwe and Brian Howard making a big stop on 3rd-and-goal. On the last K.C. possession, Thomas and Green stuffed a run, and on 4th down, Atogwe's good blitz pressure forced an incompletion. Even with the big Brown run, the defense only allowed 90 rush yards on 28 attempts. The starters looked good while they were in, and the backups on front seven held their own and more. The Rams look ready up front on defense.
* Secondary: Cornerback looms as the team's weak link. Travis Fisher left with an injury, and though the move may have been precautionary, this secondary is looking as durable as Chris Chandler. Poor coverage by DeJuan Groce coupled with an awful missed tackle by Michael Hawthorne allowed a long Marc Boerigter reception to set up K.C.'s first FG. Groce did break up a pass nicely to slow K.C.'s next drive down to a FG. Ron Bartell was pathetic. After the Fitzpatrick fumble in the 2nd, Bartell got beaten badly by Boerigter - is he that uncoverable? – and was roadkill on Dee Brown's TD run. Jeris McIntyre – apparently also uncoverable – burned Corey Ivy for a TD before halftime, and burned Kevin Garrett for 43 right after halftime. Though he had an interception, Garrett's been here three years and is still playing rookie-bad; I think we can say good-by to K.G. Bartell continued to look awful, getting beat for a first down right after the bomb, but a big third-down hit by Mike Furrey on McIntyre slowed the drive down, and the Chiefs missed the FG. Go Furrey. He wasn't the only safety with a strong game. Adam Archuleta had an INT, a nice coverage of Tony Gonzalez and some good run stops. Oshiomogho (O.J.? please?) Atogwe made a strong case for the starting spot at free safety with good run stops and pass pressures.
* Special teams: The more things change, the more they stay the same, apparently. The Rams have changed almost everything about special teams, and they're still no good. The punting game was awful. Though Reggie Hodges' first punt went 43 with great hangtime, Hedgecock blew the tackle after the catch, Thomas got blown up by a block, and Hodges had to make the tackle after a 29-yard gain. That's 14 net yards. The next punt was better. 15 net yards. Hodges should have lost his job with the awful 30-yard punt that Corey Ivy, making another stupid teams play for a veteran, complicated by interfering with the returner for a 15-yard penalty. Shaun McDonald did nothing but fair catch. Kick coverage was decent until the Rams took the lead 27-23, when, as usual, they give up a big return. The play was blown open by a TERRIBLE tackle attempt by, yep, Ron Bartell, at the 20. Cason's kickoff returns were good; usually out to the 30, and Jeff Wilkins added two FGs, but despite those good aspects, special teams are still far from consistent.
* Coaching/discipline: Not much chess-playing happens in the 4th preseason game, though I'll note Dick Vermeil made sure to use all his timeouts down the stretch, when he had seemingly conceded the game by putting in his 4th-string QB. Blitzing was almost limited to the starters, though Larry Marmie brought it on the Chiefs' final play with good results. The Rams did get beat badly on a couple of zone blitzes, with Hargrove dropping back, and that play really looks like one where nothing good can happen. Vanilla game plan from Mike Martz as well, though he did reverse Curtis once and challenged Fitzpatrick with a lot of deep throws. And how about that drive in the 2nd – 14 plays, 8 minutes, 11 runs, 74 yards and a TD. Vince Lombardi would be proud. Most important, though, is that Martz really seems to have this team ready for the regular season, moreso than past seasons, even with what would have been called a "country club" training camp in past years. The Rams look very ready for San Francisco and beyond.
* Waiver bait: I'm late on the cuts, so I'll just have to list and comment. McGrorty, Jeremy Carter, Dom. Thompson, Cecil and Alford weren't big surprises. Certainly Smoker and Garrett weren't, either. I had Stone as my "last guy out". Cason appears to have temporarily made it due to the injuries to Arlen Harris and Terry Fair. A prudent move by the Rams, it probably also cost Joey Goodspeed his spot. I did not have Brian Howard winning over Parella and Calahan (both cut) at DT. Good for Drew Wahlroos; he made so many plays last night it would have been a shame to cut him, and he also seems to be a decent special teams player. I thought he had a chance to beat out Robert Thomas, who got traded to Green Bay for a Kurt Schottenheimer Special instead. That apparently left Larry Turner the odd man out, which surprised me a lot, because he is a capable backup, while Jerome Collins, who they inexplicably kept, is a total stiff. Must help you stay on a team when they blow TWO draft picks to get your rights.
* Upon further review: Terry McAulay ran the show tonight, and since he ran the last Super Bowl, tonight's crew was the top crew in the league last year. And I actually can't find much to complain about. They completely blew Martin's non-fumble early in the game, which Martz and replay caught. Most of the penalty calls looked good, though they were pretty iffy on pass interference. The call on Bartell late in the third came about 5 minutes after the whistle and was total crap. The Rams have gotten several of the "top" crews in preseason; I hope that doesn’t mean they'll get lousy officials for most of the regular season.
* Cheers: I wonder if all the players get to spend a day with the Governor's Cup the way the hockey champs get to with the Stanley Cup. I know I would totally take the Cup to strip joints and serve beer out of it. On TV, Jay Randolph and Jackie Slater stumbled over every other word, but they're both pretty good observers of what's going on on the field. It's not a high hurdle, but this was one of the better preseasons for TV coverage, and I hope the Rams will at least stick with local announcers in future years. Jay kept mentioning that this is the Rams' best preseason since 1996 – yeah, that was a great year. And sorry to obsess about Snoop Dogg, but is it really FCC-compliant for him to call the former Chrysler chairman a "mofo-cocca?"
* Who’s next?: Well, what do you know, it's already 49er Week, as the Rams open the season against their bitterest rival, the worst team in the NFL last year and likely to remain close to that this year. Alex Smith didn't come in and set the world on fire, so Tim Rattay returns at QB. Rattay had 299 yards in last year's first meeting, but only 121 in the second meeting, as the Rams figured out how to put the clamps on TE Eric Johnson, who figures to be the Whiners' go-to guy. The call's out to Adam Archuleta to have a big day, and also for the secondary not to fall asleep on Brandon Lloyd, who has a knack for the big play. The Whiners have some variety in the running game: Kevan Barlow as a power back and rookie Frank Gore as more of a speed back. We'll have to see what new LT Jonas Jennings can contribute to their offensive line. Since he's basically a guy Buffalo didn't want, you have to question if the ***** can establish that 1-2 rush punch against the improving Ram run defense, and also if Leonard Little isn't going to be a big factor. The bad Ram defense of last year had two of its best games against the ***** and held them to 20 total points in two games; you would sure hope more of that is in order next Sunday.
San Francisco's identity is more on the defensive side of the ball, but, hell, CHRIS CHANDLER beat them in one of last year's meetings, thanks to a truly bad secondary that probably got worse in the offseason. Isaac Bruce has many huge games against the Niners in his career; Torry Holt went 10-160 in St. Louis last year. Somebody's going to have a big game, probably not only one guy. The Rams also ran very well against the Niners in both 2004 meetings, something which didn't happen a lot last year. Faulk and Jackson both had 100-yard games, with Jackson obviously getting the call this time around. The battle in this game will be on the right side of the Rams' offensive line, and it is likely where the game will be decided. The ***** have gone to the 3-4, so Rex Tucker will be seeing a lot of Julian Peterson, who has given the Rams massive problems in the past. Tucker and Adam Timmerman are going to have to be able to handle Peterson and Bryant Young, or Bulger is going to get rushed and pummeled, and all the potential the Rams show for a big day here will go out the window. Mike Martz is going to have to prepare for Peterson. The big plays in this game may well be blitz pickups by Jackson or Faulk, or throws to the TE to keep Peterson on his heels. As much as he's embraced the power run this preseason, Martz is likely to come out pass-happy Sunday to try to neutralize the *****' best player. If he's as prepared for this game as he's prepared his team this preseason, the results ought to be good. And they'd better be, because an opening loss to San Francisco would be a harbinger of a disastrous season. (No pressure, Coach.)
Game stats from nfl.com
Re: RamView, 9/2/2005: Rams 27, Chiefs 23 (Long)
Good read! Excellent info. Thanks, MFranke. :football:
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Re: RamView, 9/2/2005: Rams 27, Chiefs 23 (Long)
Mike that was a very good read, thanks man. Keep it up
Re: RamView, 9/2/2005: Rams 27, Chiefs 23 (Long)
thanks for the report!