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    RamView, 9/30/2007: Cowboys 35, Rams 7 (Long)

    RamView, September 30, 2007
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Game #4: Cowboys 35, Rams 7

    The Rams lived up to expectations today. Unfortunately, they were expected to get blown off the field by the Dallas Cowboys, and they made it happen, with the offense driving like an old man in the fast lane (31 possessions without a TD) and Lenny Walls covering Patrick Crayton like an old man with a walker. Hey, it could be worse… we could be Mets fans! At least Rams fans know their team's done for the season early.

    Position by position:
    * QB: Rendered ineffective, with luck, more because of his broken ribs and bruised body than by PTSD, Marc Bulger was finally pulled off the field after three more dreadful quarters at the helm of the Ram "offense", completing just 11 of 24 for a pitiful 114 yards. The Rams' opening drive got to midfield before Bulger was sacked by Demarcus Ware. Marc had good time to throw but no one open. The Rams' last possession of the quarter, a poor one, was pretty much all on Bulger. Marc worked the middle of the field well today, but not on this play, a bomb to Torry Holt that was underthrown, likely because Marc had to dodge another sack. He had plenty of time 2 plays later on 3rd-and-8, though, and BLEW a first-down pass, way overthrowing Holt at the sideline. That was the 4th of 5 straight incompletions, as Marc started the game 3-10-23. Isaac Bruce doubled that with a big catch-and-run off a quick slant in the 2nd. But that just got Bulger into the red zone, and what does he do down there? Lock in on Drew Bennett, who's well-covered and can only catch Bulger's forced pass out the back of the end zone. I believe this is the play where Torry Holt was briefly wide open at the goal line. A day that wasn't that great already really started going downhill after Greg Ellis sacked Bulger to start the 2nd half. He was clearly in (more) pain after that and threw another four straight incompletions. And what happens the next time he does complete a pass? He gets slammed by Demarcus Ware. At this point, the referee is helping Bulger to his feet, and the TV announcers and all of Rams Nation are wondering why the hell Marc is still in the game, 28-7 at the time. Marc responded briefly, finding Bennett for 16, and scrambling right and hitting Travis Minor for 13 to get a 1st-and-goal. But Bulger was then sacked again, and on 2nd-and-goal, threw a WTF? pass, totally forced for Bennett at the back of the end zone AGAIN, but with Ken Hamlin on the other end for the easy INT. No one's going to call the Rams' play calling in the red zone great, but Bulger has got to stop locking in on Bennett and trying to force it to him. The bad INT ended Bulger's dismal day. Gus Frerotte (3-6-29) moved the Ram offense with a little rhythm at first but he too eventually ran into trouble with pressure from Ware and the rest of the Dallas D. Gus is going to have to be the man, though, until Bulger's healed up some. Marc's been a shell of his former self since the 49er game, as the last two weeks have abundantly proven.

    * RB: In for the injured Steven Jackson, Brian Leonard, as Joe Vitt might say, is what he is, mostly a straight-line wrecking ball-style RB. Brian didn't do too badly for a guy who slammed straight into the line most of the day. That's how you have to use him, though; it's a disservice to use him on slow-developing runs, which the Rams did several times, with negative effects. Brian blasted for 8 up the middle on his second carry, off a fake end-around to Dante Hall, which was an effective play. He got 8 more the next carry after a nifty little sidestep at the line, so he's not completely without moves. No Leonard Leaps today, though. The Rams got inside the 15 early in the 2nd, and Leonard got them to the 10 off the fake end-around, but a missed block by Richard Owens the next play doomed the drive. Leonard's long run of the game went for 11 in the 3rd; he was whacked after 8 yards but spun away for extra yardage. Travis Minor didn't do much on the ground (4-6), but may have been the only Ram to make a play in the red zone today, a shifty 13-yard catch-and-run. The Rams should probably mix him into the offense a little more; they need a Ferrari to go with Leonard the bulldozer. OK, so Minor's a Mazda Miata, but you get my drift.

    * WR: I can almost start leaving this section out of RamView any more, thanks to the Rams' miserable offense. The Rams go as Torry Holt goes, and 5 catches for 52 yards is nowhere. He and Isaac Bruce did work the middle of the field successfully. Isaac converted a 3rd-and-23 with a catch-and-run of a slant pass for 24 in the 2nd. And Isaac didn't just fall down after that catch; he banged through several guys to push for the 1st down. But that was Isaac's only catch; he missed half the game with a strained hamstring. Even worse, that put extra weight on Drew Bennett, who's so unready to carry it, he fell on the game's first play, then mistakenly wandered to the sideline and had to be told by Dante Hall he was supposed to be in the game. That gaffe forced the Rams to blow a timeout. Bennett's (2-20) still a complete non-factor, except that Bulger locks on him any time the Rams get near the end zone and makes forced passes to him easy to defend. Randy McMichael (3-24) actually got some catches before the 4th quarter, but he's also still a non-factor. These are supposed to be your best players; they need the ball more than 11 times combined.

    * Offensive line: Things just keep getting worse for an already overmatched, banged-up offensive line. Adam Goldberg became the FOURTH Ram o-lineman lost for this season, with a knee injury in the 2nd half. Brandon Gorin becomes the Rams' fourth RT this season. In the 2nd half, you could see Alex Barron asking to come out a couple of times, but he couldn't! The only Ram o-lineman left was Andy McCollum! Throw in the Rams' usual struggles with the 3-4 defense, and it looks like the Spartans had it easy at Thermopylae in comparison. Demarcus Ware got to Bulger the hard way in the 1st, splitting Goldberg and Milford Brown for a sack. Barron couldn't handle him late in the game, to the point where he became a flinchy false-starter again. Goldberg didn't have a good day; Greg Ellis whacked him off balance and smoked him for a sack of Bulger after halftime. Not just the offensive linemen struggled, though, as the TEs and FB also had bad games. Joe Klopfenstein didn't give up a sack, but Ware pressured and hit Bulger working against Klop plenty of times. Klop hasn't blocked anybody this year; he's not going to block Demarcus Ware. Dallas repeatedly outschemed the Rams into getting that matchup; it's incumbent on the Rams to put a guy there who can block. Where's Aaron Walker been? Randy McMichael can usually block, but he gave up a sack, getting bulled by Ellis to help blow a rare red zone opportunity in the 3rd. On 2nd-and-5 from the Dallas 10 in the 2nd, Richard Owens' job was to lead Leonard into the hole and find somebody to hit, but he didn't find Akin Ayodele, who stuffed Leonard for a loss. That play would have been a TD had Owens made the right move. This offensive line isn't musical chairs any more as much as it is deck chairs on the Titanic, though.

    * Defensive line/LB: The Ram defense was superb, and kept the Rams in the game. For 28 minutes. Perfect run defense by Brandon Chillar and Will Witherspoon shut down Julius Jones twice to 3-and-out Dallas' first drive. Corey Chavous ran a delay blitz to perfection to sack Tony Romo and squelch the Cowboys' next drive. A 3rd-and-3 blitz forced a quick pass that T.O. bobbled away, and OJ Atogwe finished off a great first quarter for the Ram defense with an interception. They sagged badly, though, after Jeff Wilkins' missed FG, done in by a season-long theme, lack of pass rush. Romo had all day to hit Jason Witten for 18, Julius Jones for 12, and Patrick Crayton for 19 down to the 3-yard line. Jones scored easily from there. Dallas is just too big. Any Rams who could have tackled Jones are all engulfed by monster Dallas linemen. They rebounded right before the 2:00 warning, with Cliff Ryan stuffing Marion Barber on 2nd down, and on 3rd down, Witherspoon standing Barber up in the hole for no gain. After Dante Hall tied the game with a dynamite punt return, you'd figure the momentum would carry over to the defense for the rest of the half.
    You'd be wrong, as the Rams instead let Dallas get away with one of the craziest plays in memory. On 3rd-and-3 from the Dallas 48, the shotgun snap flies WAY over Romo's head, and not only that, he doesn't field it cleanly the first time, and when he finally has it in hand, he's at his own 17, THIRTY-ONE YARDS BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE. So, what happens? Leonard Little, who didn't even register in the box score today, and James Hall showed why they have one sack between them this season. Both miss Romo, with Hall actually taking Little out of the play. Romo runs up the sideline, fakes Raonall Smith out of his jock, and with the rest of the Rams chasing after receivers downfield, makes a six-yard gain out of a play that should have lost at least 20. The semi-cheap shot Rams RG Milford Brown put on Romo when he ran into the Rams bench with the first down was probably the best lick they got on him all day.
    That disastrous play doomed the Rams the rest of the game. Romo sprinted right up the middle for a 15-yard TD to give Dallas a 14-7 lead at the half. Patrick Crayton scored a 59-yard TD against an all-out blitz after halftime. Little couldn't beat the RT who was in for one play because starter Mark Colombo had lost his shoe. Romo burned the Rams again to put Dallas ahead 28-7, leading to the defense's total collapse. Barber ran through Jonathan Wade and OJ Atogwe for 23, then swept right for 15 untouched. Pisa Tinoisamoa's an outside LB; you'd think he'd be, oh, outside on plays like that. But no. Romo, once again untouched, then rolled right and hit wide open Jason Witten for a 16-yard TD. The Cowboys went on and ground out the fourth quarter behind Jones for the inevitable win, as inevitable as the tides, the sunrise, the Rams' back seven being out of position and tackling poorly, or the front four failing to pressure the passer.

    * Secondary: The parade welcoming Unca Fakhir Brown back from suspension (who wants to help Claude Wroten decorate the "Legalize It" float?) starts at Rams Park at 8:00 a.m., hopefully the same time Lenny Walls' first shift at the Home Depot starts. Holding T.O. to 3 catches for 33 makes you think the Rams should have won, but Walls nearly single-handedly put one Patrick Crayton in the Cowboys' Ring of Honor, with 7 catches, 184 yards and 2 TDs. If the Rams weren't out of the game after Romo's ridiculous pre-halftime heroics, they certainly fell out of it right after, when Crayton took a quick pass at the 50, spun out of Walls' WEAKASS tackle attempt and sped off with a 59-yard TD. Tackling Crayton like he didn't want to hurt him, Walls instead slid off him like he was a greased pole. Walls, er, Crayton, extended the lead to 28-7 the very next drive, a simple go route Crayton took for a 37-yard TD, with Walls lumbering a full two steps behind. Walls didn't make up for it against the run, either. He and OJ Atogwe get run through much too often. Atogwe, though, had the defense's biggest play of the day, picking off Romo right at the end of the 1st. Corey Chavous had a big sack of Romo and made a fine play to bat down an end zone pass prior to Romo's rushing TD. But those plays were far from enough to make up for Walls' major gaffes. Lenny, go see if Michael Hawthorne needs any help over in Building Supplies.

    * Special teams: Dante Hall showed why the Rams traded for him today. He makes defenders miss. The sick fake he put on Sam Hurd late in the 1st half sent the Cowboy gunner crumpling to the ground, which let Atogwe and Dane Looker throw a crunching block, which gave Dante a corner to turn upfield, squirt between four defenders, make another wicked fake to put punter Mat McBriar on his ass, and scoot away for an 85-yard TD. Hall had an exceptional day, returning several kickoffs across the 35 in addition to a fine game on punt returns. Donnie Jones blasted three kicks over 60 yards (ok, one rolled for 20), put five inside the 20, two inside the 5, and averaged over 55 an attempt with a net of almost 45. And a couple of those punts found the end zone. Whaling away for the end zone every time is fine and all, but with a modicum of control, Jones can be a truly lethal weapon on 4th down. Jeff Wilkins, meanwhile, has become a misfiring weapon, muffing a 28-yard attempt that he should be able to hit drunk, blindfolded and with one of Michael Vick's dogs humping his plant leg. Wilkins isn't exactly helping the offense's confidence these days. Let's just hope he doesn't become a head case and decide to start kicking everything barefoot again.

    * Coaching/discipline: As the season crumbles into ruins, Scott Linehan's looking guiltier and guiltier of failures of leadership. He came out of halftime today in classic CYA mode, telling Fox's Pam Oliver: I've been in this thing for a long time, I've been in coaching for a long time, and if your players don't execute, then you don't win. To me, that smacked of Linehan worrying first and foremost about not taking the blame for the team's downfall. Buck passer! Trust us, Coach, we know the team has had a slew of injuries. That should be adjusted for when evaluating this season. At the same time, we've seen crap game plans, poor preparation for the regular season, questionable decisions that have lost games, a team that routinely comes out emotionally flat and one you're on the verge of losing. And today we saw a coach who won't overrule his QB, leaving him in to get pummeled for three painful, ineffective quarters. Coach, I've been in this thing a long time, I've been a football fan for a long time, and if your coach mishandles games and mishandles players, then you don't stay around long. Say you're trying to work around injuries. Say Romo and Ware are making big plays. But don't try to start a pity party for yourself down a TD at halftime of game 4.

    The game plan was better than last week but still suffered from flaws it's had all season. The biggest improvement was the passing game's return to the middle of the field and the omission of the 1-yard quick hitch. The Rams' big pass plays came over the middle. A tiny bit of misdirection, fake end-arounds to Hall, helped Leonard's effectiveness, but Greg Olson probably needs to sprinkle Minor in more than he did, to mix in some shiftiness. Yet there's obviously a lot going wrong when the team hasn't scored in 31 straight possessions. The red zone passing game continues to be awful. All Bulger does is look for Bennett in the end zone and try to force it to him. Get back to looking for Holt down there with Bennett as a decoy. Or look for the TE. Throw it to a back. The most effective red zone pass today went to Travis Minor. Roll Bulger out. Draw plays are ok, too, anything that's different than Bennett in the back of the end zone as the #1 option. Every Ram opponent has been all over that. What would have helped the Ram game plan the most would have been a quarterback healthy enough to execute it, though, and that's on Scott Linehan.

    Can't say it was a great day for Jim Haslett, either. He had to pick his poison and it didn't work out. Heavy attention to T.O. worked in making him a non-factor, and you'd have thought Lenny Walls could handle Patrick Crayton on his own, but let's not talk about that any more. I'd rather have had Ron Bartell on a WR, but he apparently had Jason Witten much of the day, and that didn't work, either; 7 catches and a TD. Mobile QBs are running wild on Haslett's D this year, too, which is disappointing because they weren’t last year. He didn't appear to spy Romo much, if at all. That was by choice in favor of extra attention to Owens and Witten. Given Romo's big runs, that didn't work out, either. Above all, Haslett needed his line to generate pressure without help for his strategy to succeed, and he's not getting that. He's won't get much out of that defense until he gets something out of the front four, a lingering problem he really needs to address.

    * Upon further review: A 35-7 game's not going to be decided by officiating, but the Walt Anderson crew made a couple of putrid calls in the first half. They called Goldberg for a false start when Marcus Spears had clearly, clearer than crystal, clearer than Jerry Jones has had a facelift, already crossed the line. Instead of 2nd-and-5, it's 2nd-and-15, and a Ram drive dies. But the worst was the non-call on Ken Hamlin's malicious cheap shot on Holt early in the 2nd. Hamlin 1-led with his head; 2-hit Holt in the head; 3-hit Holt out of bounds; and 4-hit Holt when he was in a vulnerable (diving) position. FOUR reasons to throw a flag there and nary a one, on a play where a Hall-of-Fame WR was lucky not to suffer a serious injury. That play so pissed me off it got the refs an instant F. Referees who don’t protect players aren't doing their job.

    * Cheers: Everybody appreciate the one shot we got to hear Fox's "A" team do today's game, because you know the best we're getting the rest of the season is the "X" or "Z" team. Hey, at least we'll get to find out what J.C. Pearson or Jesse "The Bachelor" Palmer has been up to. To their credit, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman covered both teams pretty equally instead of making it a 3-hour Cowboy lovefest. They were also willing to criticize Linehan and point out bad calls. Bruce was on the bench about an hour before anyone mentioned he was injured, though. I'd prefer more X's-and-O's out of Aikman and fewer clichés and platitudes, but this was a very professional broadcast, better than the game, or frankly, the Rams, deserved.

    * Who’s next?: Author's note: I will be out of town until October 9 and will miss my second regular-season home game in 12+ years when the Big Dead make their annual visit on the 7th. I'll do RamView for the game, but probably not until the following weekend. So let's look quickly at the Rams' next two games.

    Next week's tilt with Arizona may well be a good one to miss, since my most-hated things list pretty much goes: 1-terrorists, 2-child molesters, 3-losing to the Big Dead. I also hate when home fans cheer for visiting players, and we'll have that in spades, because Kurt Warner's gotten a lot of playing time the last couple of weeks, and figures to be prominent next Sunday. And Kurt's going to have a lot of time against a pass rush that can't pressure anybody. Add in that, almost in secret, the Dead's offensive line, under new coaching, has given up just 4 sacks in 4 games, and has helped move Arizona up to the middle of the league in rushing offense. So the Cards come to St. Louis with every expectation to control the line of scrimmage. Several things help the pass defense: Unca Fakhir returns from suspension; Lenny Walls returns to the bench; and Anquan Boldin is dinged up. But Larry Fitzgerald has caught fire, lighting up the Steelers today in a big Redbird win. The Rams will have to pressure the QB to win next week, although I can't say why to expect that. Linehan was actually smart about scheming against SS/Ram menace Adrian Wilson last year. The Big Dead can get you other ways, though. DT Darnell Dockett had three?!? sacks today, and LB Karlos Dansby has become a key playmaker. And Torry Holt never has his best games against brother Terrence, who lines up against him twice a year now as the Big Dead's free safety. All the Cardinals' games have been close; they've won two squeakers at home and lost two road games on the final kick. So what happens next week, the Rams stay close, trail 16-14 with :05 left, and Wilkins whiffs on a 25-yarder?

    After that, the Rams hit the road again and travel to – HA! Baltimore, where it's possible they may score negative points. How can the Rams' o-line dominoes will keep Terrell Suggs out of their backfield or measure up against massive DTs Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata? Ed Reed and Chris McAllister are among the best at what they do, and Bart Scott is the best defensive player the general public's never heard of. Hard to question that the Ravens know how to play defense, yet they're living off their past reputation a little bit. They're #3 against the run, but with Trevor Pryce gone for the season and Ray Lewis playing with one arm, they have just 7 sacks and are in the league's bottom third in pass defense. Cleveland blew them out today, and at home, they've struggled to put away the Big Dead and the woeful Jets, frittering away early leads. If – just if – the Rams can shut Willis McGahee down early, Ravens HC Brian Billick will get skittish and pass-happy. Steve McNair's been extremely mistake-prone, and though TE Todd Heap poses an unmistakable threat, blitz opportunities will be there for Jim Haslett to get some turnovers out of the one-time league MVP. It would be very big if the Rams could shut the Baltimore run game down early – and that o-line isn't what it used to be – and make McNair beat them. That's their best shot at winning a game, which like today's, looked like an L when the schedule came out in April. My guess, though: Ravens 11, Rams -4.

    Damn. Anybody remember the "Doomsday Clock"? Rams Nation has its own version ticking these days. 0-and-3… 0-and-4… 0-and-5… 0-and-6… Who keeps winding the damn thing?

    See everybody in a couple of weeks.

    -- Mike
    Game stats from nfl.com


  2. #2
    mikhal5569's Avatar
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    Re: RamView, 9/30/2007: Cowboys 35, Rams 7 (Long)

    Another quality write up, keep em coming.

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    Re: RamView, 9/30/2007: Cowboys 35, Rams 7 (Long)

    Thanks for making me laugh Mike....I needed that.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    Re: RamView, 9/30/2007: Cowboys 35, Rams 7 (Long)

    I used to read this guy's reviews on the rams newsgroups, they were always the best reviews of any teams groups, I remember posting a couple times to him on the alt rams groups about how I thought he should become a Seattle fan and write our game reviews!

    Great to see your still writing these, I have enjoyed your game reviews for years now.

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    RAMarkable is offline Registered User
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    Re: RamView, 9/30/2007: Cowboys 35, Rams 7 (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by Xian001 View Post
    I used to read this guy's reviews on the rams newsgroups, they were always the best reviews of any teams groups, I remember posting a couple times to him on the alt rams groups about how I thought he should become a Seattle fan and write our game reviews!

    Great to see your still writing these, I have enjoyed your game reviews for years now.
    Welcome, Xian: You have most accurately stated what many of us at The Clan have been saying about Herr Franke's multi-dimensional (if not hilarious) post game reviews. I now find myself watching the Ram games and thinking "I wonder what Mike is going to say about this or that?" And I can certainly understand you're wanting him to use his immense talents on your board. And while I'm sure Mike can speak for himself, I must tell you there is NO FREAKING WAY IN H*LL THAT MIKE FRANKE BECOMES A SEATTLE SEAHAGS FAN !! Just thought I'd let you know.

    WHAT SAY YE!

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    Re: RamView, 9/30/2007: Cowboys 35, Rams 7 (Long)

    aww =(

    We are hurting in Seattle for good writers, we had a awesome blog for the Seahawks written by Mike Sando, I think it was perhaps the best sports blog for any team. Sadly we lost him earlier this year to ESPN, so our talent of Seattle writers is rather lacking atm.

    Maybe we could barter for his writing talents? We have this QB "Charlie Batch" we would be willing to give up for his reviews! A win win situation for you all, tell him to take one for the team!

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    Re: RamView, 9/30/2007: Cowboys 35, Rams 7 (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by Xian001 View Post
    Maybe we could barter for his writing talents? We have this QB "Charlie Batch" we would be willing to give up for his reviews! A win win situation for you all, tell him to take one for the team!
    Hmmm... A somewhat tempting proposition...could ya'll throw in Walter Jones and maybe Julius Peterson too? Think about it and get back to me at your convenience.

    WHAT SAY YE?

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    Re: RamView, 9/30/2007: Cowboys 35, Rams 7 (Long)

    such a tempting offer! How about instead of walter & peterson, we give you the rights for Ryan Leaf? I believe we still hold his rights as he retired while with us, so you would get batch and the rights to Ryan Leaf!

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