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    RamView, 9/3/2009: Rams 17, Chiefs 9 (Long)

    RamView, September 3, 2009
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions from the game.)
    Preseason Game #4: Rams 17, Chiefs 9

    The St. Louis Rams – 2009 Missouri state champs! But more important than that, believe it or not, were the final intrasquad contests, at nearly every position. RamView will now take on the daunting task of breaking down those battles while not detracting from the historical nature of the Rams bringing the storied Governor’s Cup back east…

    * QB: Whoever won the fight at third QB tonight didn’t do it by knockout. Brock Berlin (9-17-97) probably had the better night, despite a bad interception deep in the Rams’ own end in the 2nd. Berlin underthrew what was supposed to be a quick out for Daniel Fells. Hard to believe he didn’t see DaJuan Morgan out there, so I’m assuming the throw was worse than the decision was. Berlin played the second quarter and led the Rams on an earlier TD drive, making several nice throws along the way. After being robbed of a 33-yard TD pass thanks to Derek Stanley’s brutal drop, he hit Nate Jones on the sideline at the 6 with a 27- yard pass, and shortly after, drilled a pass to Fells in traffic at the goal line for the go-ahead TD. Berlin’s engineered some TD drives this summer; his ability to finish drives has to work in his favor. Keith Null (9-17-78) auditioned the whole second half, hitting only one long throw of note, as 23-yarder to Sean Walker. Null didn’t show a lot of touch on what you’d have to call classic WCO throws. Several of the five-yard slant-variety throws he made were high, hard ones his receiver couldn’t handle. Easy there, hoss. Null also fumbled on a completely-blown running play and walked right into a sack in the 4th. Tonight’s starter was actually Kyle Boller (3-4-24), who barely broke even if you take away the 18 yards he lost on just two sacks. I have no idea what the decision’s going to be at QB. Taking the snap from center, having to deal with blitzes, Null hasn’t looked ready to run the offense the last couple of weeks. Yeah, about as ready as Berlin was to play in Cincinnati a couple of years ago. And Steve Spagnuolo’s last team in New York wasn’t that concerned about entering recent seasons without much experience at third string, like Andre Woodson or Hefty Lefty Lorenzen, both 7th-round picks iirc. The guess here is that Berlin’s really going to wish he had that interception back. Waiver bait: Berlin.

    * RB: The muddle behind Steven Jackson on the depth chart got even more muddled when Samkon Gado (6-17) left the game due to a rib injury. And even more muddled because the other backs didn’t make much of their golden ticket. Antonio Pittman (3-3) made a couple of nice blitz pickups but didn’t find much running room. Kenneth Darby (3-14) weaved through the middle nicely a couple of times. Chris Ogbannaya (12-41) got extensive work in the 2nd half. He popped a couple of 10-yard runs early but spent the rest of the game mostly running into pileups at the line. His field vision still seems a work in progress; he seemed to have many lanes or opportunities to bounce a play outside that he just didn’t see. Or when he did see them, he was a step late getting to them and couldn’t take advantage. My guess? Obie needs to use the force. He’s thinking too much. If he plays a little more instinctively, he’ll break off more long runs. Ahead of him? I have no idea again, especially with Gado’s injury clouding the waters. Darby ran better tonight, and has added advantages over Pittman as a receiver and a kick returner. But as at QB, I won’t be surprised if I’m completely wrong here. Waiver bait: Pittman, FB Jerome Johnson.

    * WR: Besides Donnie Avery (0-0) taking the field for 10-12 snaps, the most notable development in the receiving corps was Ronald Curry locking down a roster spot with 3 catches for 40 yards. He showed some moves after the catch and that he can find the soft spots underneath the zone. Derek Stanley (3-23) completely blew what should have been a TD catch in the 2nd by letting the ball get into his body, but helped make his case later with a determined run through a tackle on an end around or a first down. And he’s the likely punt returner. The wideout merry-go-round probably stops there, though. Tim Carter (2-10), who was here on a flyer anyway, hasn’t made a whole lot happen and failed to make a couple of catches tonight, though he was hit heavily on both. Sean Walker (2-37) and Nate Jones (1-27) each made nice longer plays but have never cracked the higher echelons of the depth chart. Daniel Fells had a tough TD catch of a Berlin fast ball, while Randy McMichael missed more blocks tonight, had a lot of trouble with Mike Vrabel, and really needs to stop disappointing me. Waiver bait: Carter and TE Eric Butler; practice squad: Walker and probably Jones.

    * Offensive line: Rams Nation was probably more worried about pass protection than run blocking heading into training camp, but the Rams only netted 2.2 yards a rush attempt tonight and really have to do a better job of taking over the line of scrimmage. Doesn’t really matter to me that Richie Incognito was out, either. You can fall down for 2 yards a rush. The Rams have to do better. Starting line was Smith and Barron at the tackles, Goldberg and Bell at guard, Brown at center. Smith, later joined by McMichael, had a ton of trouble with Tamba Hali and Mike Vrabel over on the right side. Hali went through Smith like he wasn’t even there for a sack that killed the Rams’ second drive. The first play of the game was a sack of Boller that lost 12, with Chiefs pouring up the middle on what I can only guess was meant to be a screen pass, judging from the way Boller held on to the ball. Gado even made a hard hit to pick up one of the blitzers, but to no avail. I have difficulty blaming the line for the third sack; Null unalertly stepped up right into that. Smith settled down and played better than early on when Hali beat him consistently, but his better play (some at LT) was not against starters. If they start him against Seattle, Boller will be stepping in for Bulger before the first quarter’s over. Waiver bait: T Eric Young, C Tim Mattran, T Renardo Foster. Practice squad: T Phil Trautwein, G Roy Schuening, G Roger Allen. Schuening’s the 4th pure guard, and with Goldberg and Setterstrom able to move inside in a pinch, he’s really down in the numbers game. Trautwein’s been getting in ahead of Foster; if the Rams do go with a ninth lineman, I think it would be him.

    * Defensive line / LB: The defense won ugly again tonight. The first unit pass rush did nothing whatsoever and the defense failed badly several times in golden field position, giving up huge plays. They made up for most of it though, by winning the turnover battle again and keeping Kansas City out of the end zone. Victor Adeyanju already had a job but put it in stone with one of the night’s top defensive performances. His hard hit sacking Brody Croyle in the 2nd was one of the highlights of the night. He pressured the pocket well and played like his hair was on fire. The sack was a huge play, too, coming on 3rd down in the red zone and forcing a FG. The other sack was by C. J. Ah You (or as D’Marco Farr says, Au Jus), who won himself a job tonight. The sack punctuated a 3-and-out in the 2nd, and he forced a FG when he missed a sack but still got up to chase Croyle out of bounds on 3rd down. He consistently pressured the pocket, like he’s done all summer. Eric Moore had the unfortunate timing of having a quieter game and getting hurt late (broken hand). The defense needed to make the big plays to force FGs that they did because they gave up several HIDEOUS long plays. Punts pinned the Chiefs deep inside their 10 THREE times and the defense blew them ALL, and badly. A 40-yard pass to Sean Ryan from the Chief 13 was followed by a 41-yard Larry Johnson run. The Johnson run was against a zone blitz – you see Chris Long back-pedal at the start of the play and get picked off by a lineman well out of his DE position to create a big hole, with David Roach following with his best Mike Furrey impression. Dantrell Savage got the Chiefs off their 2-yard line with a SEVENTY yard run in the 2nd. Teams are supposed to STUFF runs in that part of the field, let alone get gashed for SEVENTY. Savage ran right by Adam Carriker, who grabbed him while being blocked and didn’t appear to realize he had the ball. Quincy Butler’s horrible missed tackle then really sent Savage to the races. The Chiefs’ 2:00 offense got from their 6 to across midfield in just three plays, but time ran out on them and preserved the Rams’ lead. I iso’ed a lot on Carriker tonight and was almost completely unimpressed. He played the second quarter and got double-team attention early, but also couldn’t get any penetration one-on-one against either Mike Goff or Brian Waters. I think what barely saves his job is that he was able to split some double-teaming late in the quarter and put some pressure on the passer, and Antwan Burton had a quiet game against lesser competition. The third-string linebackers probably outplayed the second string. Dominic Douglas broke up a pass to save a TD late in the game, while Chamberlain got burned on that long TE pass. Waiver bait: Moore (sorry), DE Ian Campbell, LBs Quinton Culberson, K.C. Asiodu. Practice squad: Douglas. IR: Carriker, since late word says he has a “serious” shoulder injury. That would save Burton a pink slip.

    * Secondary: David Roach’s name shows up in all the Rams’ worst plays tonight. TE Sean Ryan beat Chris Chamberlain badly downfield, with Roach late to close from safety, for a 40-yard gain in the first. Roach missed a diving tackle on Johnson’s long run and got squashed like a bug by a downfield block on the Savage run. But his worst play was a 40-plus yard bomb to Ashley Lelie in the second half. His reaction on the play was terrible; Lelie had already turned and practically signaled a fair catch on the underthrown long ball before Roach even figured out what was going on. Roach is practice squad material because he’s played hard and made a few good plays. scores him with forcing the Quentin Lawrence fumble in the 3rd. But WAY too many mistakes. Quincy Butler had to atone for his terrible missed tackle on the long Savage run, and he did with interest, making the play he’s been making all preseason on passes out in the flat, jumping the route, picking off the pass and returning to the house. VINTAGE QUINCY BUTLER! That pick put the Rams ahead 14-9. Justin King helped make it 17-9 later with an acrobatic, one-handed catch on a just-STUPID falling shot put of a throw by Tyler Thigpen. The radio broadcast mentioned, and I agree with, the idea that the move to dump Tye Hill earlier this week sparked the rest of the secondary’s play. Also credit Bradley Fletcher and Todd Johnson for tracking down Savage and LJ on their long runs. Waiver bait: Mark Rubin; practice squad: Roach.

    * Special teams: Though the defense never took advantage, Donnie Jones was a lethal weapon, with punts downed at the 1, 2, and 6, while still averaging 47.6 a shot. His clutch 61-yard rocket down to the Chief 6 late in the 4th quarter proved key to keeping them off the board. Josh Brown hit a short FG but was visibly pissed earlier in the game when Spagnuolo sent in the punting team in lieu of letting him try a 54-yarder. Coverage was much more effective than last week. Chief returners basically got nowhere. Cord Parks did all the returns but was nothing special, though I do like that he heads immediately upfield on punt returns. Practice squad: Parks.

    * Coaching: Tonight showed more reasons to have optimism in the Steve Spagnuolo regime. For instance, he lets his coordinators call the plays and stays out of their way. Contrast that with fellow rookie head coach Todd Haley of the Chiefs, who just fired his OC and is now his team’s head coach, offensive coordinator AND QBs coach. That’s way too many hats, and all the goofy quasi-psycho intense glares on the sideline won’t fix that. There was a spot tonight when Haley the head coach should have been challenging a play – the Lawrence fumble stood a good chance of being overturned if reviewed – but instead, Haley the OC was over on the bench meeting with the offense. Spagnuolo knows his role, and looks to be free of the I-have-to-do-everything hubris that catches many new head coaches. It caught Scott Linehan and it’s certain to catch Haley.

    Another thing to like about the Rams coaching staff is that things that go wrong one week tend to get fixed the next. Ten penalties last week; just four tonight. Awful punt coverage last week; every punt return shut down tonight. The backs couldn’t pick up the blitz in New York to save their lives; they’ve picked blitzes up pretty well ever since. There’s no “shoot, we’ll fix that” going on here – they just get it fixed.

    The zone blitz actually worked early tonight, on the first third down of the game where Jonathan Wade shot in to blow up a Jamaal Charles run. But it also got burned big on the long Larry Johnson run, and I ask again: what is the infatuation with dropping Chris Long into pass coverage? Pat Shurmur rolled out a little bit of Wildcat formation tonight, though the play turned out just to be a bland run up the middle for Gado. Gained 5, though.

    Does the coaching staff have this team ready for the regular season? Something else I don’t know. The lack of pass rush and the gashing big plays would say no. Keeping the opponent out of the end zone and winning the turnover battle again, though, speak better to their readiness. Also figure in the lack of intensity of the fourth preseason game and the many Rams players who sat out, and we’re not really going to learn much about the team’s readiness until the regular season starts in Seattle in 10 days.

    * Waiver bait: Quick review of my cut projections (20 instead of 21, expecting an IR on Carriker) – 1) Berlin, 2) Pittman, 3) Jerome Johnson, 4) Tim Carter, 5) Eric Butler, 6) Eric Young, 7) Mattran, 8) Foster, 9) Eric Moore, 10) Asiodu, 11) Culberson, 12) Rubin. Practice squad: 1) Sean Walker, 2) Nate Jones, 3) Schuening, 4) Roger Allen, 5) Trautwein, 6) Douglas, 7) Roach, 8) Parks. Immediate disclaimer: I’m expecting to have a bad year projecting cuts; this has been one of the least predictable years in memory, with many close contests.

    * Upon further review: Folks who saw the game on TV can correct me, but I thought the Carl Cheffers crew would have had significant calls overturned on replay. The replay official seemed to be asleep at the switch. It’s hard to believe Fells’ TD, which came right after the first half 2:00 warning, wasn’t challenged by the booth. Wasn’t that apparent to me or the Rams radio crew that he got in. Looked like Lawrence could easily have been down before his fumble, but Haley wasn’t really paying attention to challenge it. And it looked very much like Carter actually possessed and then fumbled a pass to him that was ruled incomplete. If the crew actually got three pivotal bang-bang plays right, then more power to them. They certainly looked open to question to me. Grade: D+.

    * Cheers: The gameday experience at the Dome continues to improve. The primary game clock has been moved back up to the middle of the top “ribbon”, where it is much bigger and easier to find and read than it was in a couple of weeks ago in the lower position. A lot of fans mentioned they had trouble with the location of the game clock last game; sounds like our objections were heard. And a correction from last home game – the out-of-town scoreboard shows five games at a time. The halftime show was pee-wee football again this week; the national anthem was sung by a Ron Jeremy look-alike who gamely fought through microphone problems. And befitting the big event atmosphere of the Governor’s Cup game, the actual governor of Missouri was at the game to award the Rams the hallowed trophy. Unintentional comedy moment of the night came on radio pregame when Jim Hanifan enthused that the Rams had gotten a second round pick for Tye Hill. He was pretty disappointed after being informed that it was actually a seventh round pick. All that segment was missing was Emily Littella saying “Never mind!”

    * Who’s next?: The Seattle Seahawks have beaten the St. Louis Rams EIGHT straight times. I’ve said more than once that this has to be the least-deserved winning streak in sports. Two of the wins were by game-ending FGs. One came courtesy of Gus Frerotte’s crap luck. A 4-12 team doesn’t deserve to beat anybody twice in one season, yet Seattle did just that to the Rams last year. Now the Rams get the unwelcome chore of opening the 2009 season at Dopily-Spelled Telecom Company Field, where Seattle went 33-7 from 2003-2007, to try to break this streak, and the wills of 67,000 screaming fans.

    Will the 2009 Seahawks be more like the 2007 team (10-6), or 2008 (4-12)? Seattle fans have reason to hope the former. The 29th-rated passing offense of last year should get a nice bump back up the ratings. Matt Hasselbeck’s back after missing over half of last season, and a team that took the field some weeks missing its first SEVEN options at wideout looks healthy now, with Nate Burleson back, joined by one of the offseason’s bigger acquisitions in T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Judging from Seattle’s personnel at RB, though, they must have picked 10th in the fantasy league this year. Edgerrin James may start, and if it’s not Edge, it’s Julius Jones (who’s certainly had his moments against the Rams), with quietly-dangerous Justin Forsett as the third-down back. (Watch the screen!) Rams fans, though, have reason for hope of their own, because the Seabird offensive line is in more flux than the Obama healthcare plan. They’ll be missing as many as three starters on the line. Center Chris Spencer is out, though replacement Steve Vallos is fairly capable. They’ll have a rookie, Max Unger, at RG. And regular LT/legend Walter Jones missed the preseason because of knee surgery. He’ll either be rusty (think Orlando Pace against the Broncos last Sunday), or more likely, on the bench in favor of Shaun Locklear. And Seattle would be better off with Heather Locklear at LT, because defenders would at least slow down to check her out on their way to the QB and might not drill Hasselbeck as hard. This is an offensive line meant to be exploited by an attacking defense. If the Rams are who we think they are, this should be like leaving a raw steak out for a Rottweiler. It should get devoured.

    That goes both ways, though. The Seattle pass rush has had spectacular success against the Ram o-line in the past. Darryl Tapp’s matching up on either Adam Goldberg, who’s too slow to keep up with him, or Jason Smith, who I don’t think is ready for him. Patrick Kerney’s spent a lot of his career in the Rams backfield. LeRoy Hill is a proven (and well-paid) threat to Rams QBs and RBs alike. Their defense should be solid up the middle, with pocket-crusher Brandon Mebane, free agent/widebody acquisition Colin Cole and Lofa Tatupu backing the big men up. And we’ll get early indications on how good or bad a choice the Rams made to pass on Aaron Curry in the draft. Seattle’s a fast, attacking front that has given the Rams worse fits than Brandon Marshall in training camp over the years. One hopes the Rams can counterattack with Steven Jackson running behind Smith/Goldberg, to at least keep Tapp off balance. The Seahawk secondary is quite weak if the Rams give their QB enough time to attack it. Their overall D was 30th in the league because their pass defense came in dead last. They intercepted very few passes, while rating as one of the league’s worst teams in allowing 20- and 40-yard completions. And the hot question in Seattle isn’t whether Marcus Trufant will miss the opener, it’s whether he will be put on injured reserve due to a bad back. I’d like to see Donnie Avery get a bunch of shots next Sunday, and I don’t mean swine flu. Or Jagermeister.

    The home of Microsoft is a fitting place for the rollout of the latest version of the St. Louis Rams. The Rams coaching staff has put in the overtime and implemented their design. Have they worked out enough of the bugs? Will Rams 2009 run smoothly on the Seattle platform, or will the Seahawks greet them with the blue screen of death? I’m the incurable optimist right now; I think the Rams have a good shot at breaking Seattle’s streak next Sunday. But we’ll all have to log on then and find out.

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    HUbison's Avatar
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    Re: RamView, 9/3/2009: Rams 17, Chiefs 9 (Long)

    Thanks, as always, Mike.

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    Re: RamView, 9/3/2009: Rams 17, Chiefs 9 (Long)

    Wow that's a lot of information.

    1. I think Foster is a better prospect than Trautwein. Trautwein might get it though just because he is younger. Mattran and Young are both horrible.

    2. I agree with you on McMichael, his blocking didn't help Boller out at all. That was scary bad.

    3. Seattle is going to be a major uphill battle. No cohesion on an offensive line that is struggling already, Bulger will be rusty, Avery is still learning and Jackson will be running behind that line looking for holes. Without a lot of depth, I'm afraid this defense is going to just wear down as the games roll on because our offense is going to struggle.

    With this offensive line, expect a lot of "Jackson needs to stop dancing around behind the line and just hit the hole" complaints, ignoring the fact no holes exist.

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    Re: RamView, 9/3/2009: Rams 17, Chiefs 9 (Long)

    Let's hope the extended rest for Cogs, Little, Karney, Avery,and Bulger has helped their recuperation enough for them to contribute as we know they need to for the Rams to be successful against the Hags.

    I actually think the preseason performance by the rotational DL this year and simply unleashing a healthy and full TC-prepped SJ for a whole game gives them a good chance if it's competitive at the start of the 4th qtr. That's a seachange from last year,imo. Even when we held a lead going down the stretch, I never felt we were likely to pull away, always looking over the shoulder.

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    gap's Avatar
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    Re: RamView, 9/3/2009: Rams 17, Chiefs 9 (Long)


    Non-game question.

    Is that an ampitheater across the highway from the dome? Whatever it is, it looks like it took away the best tailgating area that the dome had. I wish I could commit to the Bash to get a look myself.


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