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    RamView, October 24, 2004

    From the Couch

    (Report and opinions on the game.)

    Game 7: Dolphins 31, Rams 14

    In a pathetic and inexcusable effort, the Rams completely embarrass themselves and their fans by getting wiped out by the worst team in football. The ugliest loss of the St. Louis era.

    Bright spots: 9-7 may be enough to win the NFC West given Seattle's choke to the Big Dead today.

    Position by position:

    * QB: Marc Bulger (23-39-295, 1 TD, 1 INT) had a day he'd rather forget, and considering all the whacks he took during the game, he probably has forgotten it, involuntarily. He had a third-down pass tipped to end the Rams' first drive. Ram receivers struggled mightily to get open, forcing Bulger into a lot of dumpoffs, and they dropped too many chances when they did get open. Thanks to that and suffocating Dolphin coverage, Marc's biggest play in the first half was a 15-yard TD run on 4th-and-1 that surprised even him, since the whole Dolphin defense bought a fake sweep right to Steven Jackson, leaving Bulger alone enough to walk in if he wanted to. With the Rams down 14-7 at halftime, Bulger came out hot, hitting Marshall Faulk for 21 and Shaun McDonald for 25 to get the Rams within scoring range, but from the Miami 18, he then committed the biggest mistake of the game by a player, throwing one of those what-the-hell-are-you-doing passes into the waiting arms of Ram-killer Sammy Knight. The Rams wouldn't recover from that crucial mistake. The next drive was a weak 123-out, ending on a bad 3rd-down pass well behind Isaac Bruce that would have been a Miami defensive TD had Ike not tried to make a play on it. The Rams then fell behind 21-7, and 3-and-outed again, with a Cam Cleeland drop really hurting things. Now down 24-7 in the 4th, the Ram offense finally came to life. Bulger hit Bruce with a pretty sideline pass for 36, then McDonald on the other sideline for 23 to convert a 4th-and-17 (called incomplete but overruled). That set up a 15-yard catch-and-run TD for McDonald, but the WEAK Ram defense responded by allowing an immediate Dolphin TD, and down 31-14, Bulger became a human piñata, getting hammered by a barely-impeded Jason Taylor and clearly reinjuring his hurt throwing shoulder. The kid's got more guts than Mike Martz has brains, though, so he stayed in there long enough to take a couple more whacks and hit Faulk for 11 on 4th-and-10 before a sack-of-mercy by Zach Thomas sealed the game a couple of plays later. I called this a day Bulger would rather forget, but despite his monster mistake in the 3rd, this game's really on his receivers more than on him. They got very little going downfield and hurt the offensive momentum with drops. The sledding gets even rougher with the Patriots up next. Hopefully Bulger heals up over the bye week.

    * RB: Marshall Faulk looked like a kid again. He gained 18 on a draw play on the game's first play and got a screen pass for 11 on the next. He had 4 rushes for 20 on the Rams' TD drive and also spun away from a defender on an 8-yard pass. Faulk got the Rams moving after halftime by slipping past DE Jay Williams deep in the backfield for 21 on a dangerous screen pass. A few plays later, he humbles Jason Taylor, breaking a tackle for a 10-yard run down to the 8. The Rams couldn't score there, though, and most of Marshall's work went unrewarded. He ran for first downs on 4th-and-5 and 4th-and-10 while the Rams tried to play catchup, finished the day 12-61 rushing and a big 8-74 receiving, but his very good effort wouldn't be enough. Steven Jackson (6-27) had a great second-effort TD run taken away by a hold. He converted a 3rd-and-1 on the Rams' first TD drive, on the not-an-illegal-formation play, and was a super decoy on Bulger's TD run. Nice impact in the few carries he got with the Rams having to play catchup all day.

    * WR: For the second time in two seasons, Torry Holt disappears completely in a humiliating loss to a terrible team. Last year, it was Detroit, this week in Miami, Holt could only manage a lousy one catch for four yards. The measure of a top WR is how he performs against top DBs, and Torry did not measure up today. Isaac Bruce (5-98) and Shaun McDonald (4-77) helped all they could. Each had pretty catches of deep sideline passes on the Rams' 2nd TD drive, which McDonald finished by catching a pass at the 5 and motoring across the field while a hustle block by Bruce helped Shaun turn the corner. Drops hurt the passing game today. Cam Cleeland dropped a couple of catchable balls. Dane Looker had a brutal drop to kill the Rams' 2nd drive & Kevin Curtis also had one. Looker later got injured struggling for a first down, but coming up just short, before Bulger's TD run. Subpar receiving, especially Holt's lousy day, really hurt the Rams, since it led Mike Martz to decide to skimp on pass protection and put more receivers on the field.

    * Offensive line: Was President Bush at the game? I ask because the right side of the Ram line was such a disaster today they probably qualified for federal aid. Jeff Zgonina got the Dolphins' first sack in the first, as huge pressure from Jason Taylor against Grant Williams collapsed the pocket. Fitting for Halloween, the second half became the Scott Tercero House of Horrors. His holding penalty took a Steven Jackson TD run off the board; next play is Bulger's interception. Things really got scary after Williams left the game with a shoulder injury and Tercero had to take over at RT. With Mike Martz not calling for formations that gave Tercero any help on all-pro DE Jason Taylor, Tercero got beat again and again, and Bulger got hurried or crushed again and again. Bulger would be sacked twice in the 4th, by Taylor and Zach Thomas. Three sacks doesn't sound too bad, but add in the absolute beating Bulger took in the 4th quarter – it would have been stopped if it had been a prizefight – and this was a bad game in the trenches, at least on one side. It could have been better. Bulger got decent protection early, and run blocking was actually pretty good. But I don't expect Scott Tercero to block Jason Taylor one-on-one, and I don't know why the hell Mike Martz did.

    * Defensive line/LB: Just start Leonard Little's trial now. If he's going to get upstaged by John Freaking SAINT CLAIR, he obviously doesn't have his mind right. His linemates provided decent help in the pass rush. Bryce Fisher got an outstanding jump on 3rd down and whipped the LT to sack Jay Fiedler on Miami's first drive. Damione Lewis fired through the gap to sack Fiedler on the first play of the 2nd half, and Bryce posted another sack two plays later with a nice spin move into the lane. Tony Hargrove and Ryan Pickett had sacks, and Adam Archuleta added another by blowing up an IDIOTIC Dolphin halfback option attempt, but little to no impact from Little, the guy the Ram defense relies on for impact plays. Against John Freaking Saint Clair. Leonard's season just officially became disappointing. This defense truly hit bottom today, despite the six sacks. They gave up 4 TDs to a team that had 4 all season; 31 points to a team that had scored 55 all season. They again forced NO TURNOVERS, against the league's worst team in that department. Lousy tackling by Travis Fisher gave Sammy Morris Miami's first TD, and lousy tackling by Hargrove led to a TD for Travis Minor. Tommy Polley committed two stupid personal fouls – a face mask that dug Miami out of a hole near their goal line and a late hit that helped set up the Minor TD. Despite the sacks, the weak Ram defense allowed Fiedler time and room to roam he hasn't seen this season. They gave up 120 yards rushing to the worst running team in football. Worst of all was the fake Miami punt the entire world saw coming, including the Rams, who left the defensive regulars on the field, but the Dolphins still gash them for 6 out of punt formation on 4th-and-inches. Were the Rams' DBs not so pathetic, I'd say the #1 offseason need is a rugged MLB; the Rams were down to Trev Faulk after Brandon Chillar got injured, and he was in for Robert Thomas. Injuries or not, somebody has to do something to shake this defense up. Bench a starter, cut a player, fire a coach, something, anything to get these underachievers motivated.

    * Secondary: Wow, there isn’t a much more worthless group right now than the Ram secondary. It saddens me to say it, because I love the guy, but that includes Aeneas Williams. Williams was fooled badly by a bad team's gadget play for the second time this year (flea flicker vs. Big Dead), biting hard on the handoff to Marty Booker and giving up a 48-yard completion to Chris Chambers to set up Miami's first TD. And for the second time this year, Aeneas muffed an interception that was right in his hands. Travis Fisher played every bit like a player who was rushed back from an injury too soon. He was simply AWFUL and never should have been on the field. He blew the tackle horribly on Sammy Morris' TD run, and blew tackles all day. Randy McMichael just jumped over a lame Fisher effort to get a key late first down. McMichael had the game's key play, a 42-yard TD on THIRD AND 28. The Rams had no business trying to cover him with Bryce (no, not Travis) Fisher on that play, and it sure didn't help that Justin Lucas whiffed horribly on the tackle. Ram safety play has been completely dreadful. Tackling was lousy, and they continue to blow assignments, like either Adam Archuleta or Lucas did on Chris Chambers' back-breaking 71-yard TD. The DBs continue to play a mile off WRs at the line of scrimmage and let receivers catch first downs in front of them. Now they're making the Jay Fiedlers of the world look good, which is like turning Rosie O'Donnell into a sex symbol. A former strength of the defense has turned into a downright nightmare.

    * Special teams: Not that it isn't par for the course, but special teams were lousy again. After the Rams tied the game at 7, Miami fools them with a cheesy reverse on the kickoff return for 58 yards. Punt coverage was poor, no thanks to Sean Landeta going from Special Teams Player of the Week to Special Teams Player Who Is Weak, with a crappy 38 yards a kick. Count that reverse return, and Miami started three drives in Ram territory after kicks, which is inexcusable. The Rams apparently don't block their own punt returns at all; McDonald was usually getting hit right after the catch with no teammates around. For some reason, they thought Dwight Anderson should be the guy returning kickoffs, and he was a total joke, not apparently even knowing what to do and barely crossing the 15 on most of his returns. I assumed Mike Furrey had been inactive, but he came on after Anderson got injured, so another boneheaded move by the coaching staff.

    * Coaching/discipline: The Martz bandwagon has always been a bumpy ride, but I'm jumping off after today for my own safety, and sanity. It won't happen, but people should be fired after today. You name it, this team failed miserably in every aspect and wasn't remotely ready for this game. If the Rams come up one game short at the end of the season, I'll just say it is going to be awfully hard to defend anybody on this coaching staff, including the top guy, against calls for their jobs. Martz doomed his team with a brutal meltdown in the last minute of the first half. On 3rd-and-18 from the Ram 32, the Dolphins were called for holding, but. Instead of forcing a 50-yard FG attempt that Miami likely would have passed on, Martz IDIOTICALLY takes the penalty. Fine, 3rd-and-28, but the IDIOTIC call is for a zone blitz, when that's not a down where you run any kind of blitz. And according to AP, MARTZ made that call, not Larry Marmie, so it was Martz's brilliant idea to have Bryce Fisher cover TE Randy McMichael, who scored a 42-yard TD and gave Miami a 14-7 lead they'd never look back from. That's the worst defensive play call since Dexter McCleon got burned deep in Detroit in 1999. What in the blue hell is Martz doing making defensive calls? Has he lost his mind? Maybe he jumped in because Marmie's defense made Jay Fiedler, easily the worst QB in the game, look like Peyton Manning. Fiedler had a passer rating OVER 150, or THREE TIMES his season passer rating. They let Miami score their FIRST two rushing TDs of the season. They gave up 31 points to a team that had been averaging NINE. The Rams were suckered by every high-school trick play the Dolphins rolled out: WR option passes, kickoff reverses, fake punts. And their own high-school trick play didn't work. In fact, the failed option pass for Bruce sucked the Rams' momentum away from their first drive, which stalled from there. Even with a neat call on Bulger's TD run, and successfully arguing the incorrect illegal formation call, Martz was still a total disaster. Seriously. Has he lost his mind? How can you leave Tercero all alone like that against Jason Taylor? How many times does Taylor have to blow right past him before you figure out to put another blocker over there? How can you let Bulger get pummeled like that at the end of the game? A sane coach would have put Chris Chandler in the game for the last 4:00, after Bulger probably had his already-injured shoulder turned to mush by the brutal hits getting through to him thanks to the Rams' shaky blocking schemes. He's the toughest QB in the NFL if he's back two weeks from now. He's going to have to be to survive the season under his scatterbrained head coach.

    * Upon further review: Johnny Grier's crew didn’t do the greatest job in the world. It took a massive demonstration from Martz to get an illegal formation call overruled. The first Ram TD drive was kept alive by a ticky-tack defensive holding call on Tim Bowens. After the big hit by Taylor visibly wounded Bulger in the 4th, he appealed to Grier for a call he didn’t get, but should have, because that was well after he'd gotten rid of the ball. Refs also blew the call on the late McDonald sideline catch which had to be corrected after instant replay review. Like the Rams, the refs half-assed it too much today.

    * Cheers: Fox's crew was horrible and unbearable. Somebody named Dan Miller teamed with Brian Baldinger for a barely high-school-quality broadcast. Does Baldinger know more about football than somebody off the street? Because he sounded like a total idiot today. It took him about four replays to figure out Bulger's pass on the 1st possession was deflected, when it was quite apparent on the live play. He immediately accused Bryce Fisher of jumping offsides on the Rams' first sack when he was easily onside. On the illegal formation that wasn't, Baldy tried to show where Grant Williams was by circling Brandon Manumaleuna, whose name he never should have tried to pronounce. He would have come closer by just puckering his lips and wiggling his finger between them. A dreadful broadcast, befitting the Rams' dreadful play… Listening to radio, and seeing how everything happened, I'm convinced that the Ram radio crew was responsible for getting the call on Shaun McDonald's late sideline catch reviewed. They urged the Rams' upstairs personnel to tell Martz the play was at least close enough to review, and Martz appealed the play just in time to keep Miami from running the next play. Too bad none of the coaches had their heads in the game as well as Savard and Snow did… On the Rams' final offensive play, Zach Thomas earned my respect and my Pro Bowl vote by declining to throw Bulger down or inflict any further punishment after wrapping him up for Miami's third sack. He almost let go of Bulger too quickly; if the play was dead, it was barely dead, but Zach showed a lot of class by respecting the beating Bulger took late in the game.

    * GOATS OF THE GAME: 1. Martz; 2. Marmie; 3. Mike Stock; 4. Holt; 5. Polley.

    * Who’s next?: After today, I don't want recap this crap or even be a Ram fan any more. This loss was that bad, and the Rams were, and are, that bad. This is worse than the home loss to Dallas in '02. And if Mike Martz can't have his team ready for freaking Jay Fiedler and Dave Wannstedt, what the hell happens when Tom Brady and Bill Belichick come to St. Louis in two weeks with the world champion, 21-straight-win Patriots? A freaking blowout, that's what. There is no reason to believe New England won't score every time they have the ball. Brady is a smart QB, and Corey Dillon gives them an effective running game. There's no superstar WR, but they can all get open, they all catch the ball and run well after the catch. Which means the worthless Ram secondary already has no chance. Brady loves to throw to his TEs, too, so start as many Patriot TEs on your fantasy team November 7 as you can. Expect at least 2 TDs by Patriot TEs. Hell, start all the WRs you can, too. New England loves that quick hitch pass, which'll get at least 8 yards every time, because the worthless Rams DBs will be laying that far off the line of scrimmage every time. The Patriots don't have the most consistent pass protection in the world, not that it matters any. Charlie Weis is easily the best offensive mind in the NFL; he passed Martz on that list at least a year ago. Against the clueless and pathetically-coached Ram defense, this'll be like Bobby Fischer playing chess against a monkey with a head injury. If the Patriots don't score 40, it'll be a moral victory, not to mention a surprise.

    Officiating "points of emphasis" are supposed to prevent the Patriot defense from getting away with the kind of mugging they got away with in Super Bowl XXXVI. Yeah, that's really slowed them down, seeing as they're still undefeated and the league's third-best scoring defense. The Patriots play excellent team defense; they're always in the right place at the right time; they hit well, are superbly well-coached and very fundamentally sound - the total antithesis of the Ram defense. New England's secondary isn't as tough as Miami's; Bulger may be able to throw away from Ty Law and pick on Tyrone Poole, but no doubt Poole's seen a lot of that this year. And it's still a tough secondary, with FS Eugene Wilson, and the biggest cheap-shot artist in the game, SS Rodney Harrison. If I thought Martz was worth a damn right now, I'd figure he'd have some plays cooked up to go at Rodney, who's a liability in coverage. I'd also figure Steven Jackson would get some cracks at New England's D. Prevailing theory on beating the Patriots is that you have to fire at them with a power running game. Of course, Martz is the one living person who thinks he didn't pass enough in the Super Bowl XXXVI loss. It’s not impossible to move the ball on the Patriot defense, but you're not going to beat them if you don't play well fundamentally. And that ain't the Rams. At least there'll be one well-coached team on the field in two weeks.

    -- Mike

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    Re: RamView ... From the Couch


    I predict this dude will not win ferter's Clan Spirit Award this week.
    Clannie Nominee for ClanRam's Thickest Poster

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