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Red Zone Is The Dead Zone For Rams
By Howard Balzer Friday, December 05, 2008
Some teams in the NFL call it the "green zone," the situations where the offense moves inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Most call it the red zone.
In the case of the Rams, it might as well be called the dead zone, considering how infrequently the team gets there, and then how unproductive they are in those rare instances when do they make it there.
Last week against Miami, the Rams made two early trips inside the 20, including one where they had first down at the Dolphins' 7-yard line. In both cases, the Rams settled for field goals in a game they lost by four points, 16-12.
For the season, the Rams have made just 19 red-zone trips (the Giants have been there 59 times and the league average is 38.7) and scored five touchdowns. Offensively, the Rams have just 12 touchdowns in 12 games.
Said quarterback Marc Bulger of the red-zone woes, “Right now, that is our Achilles heel and putting up three points is not good enough. If there is one answer, we would do it or try to do it. We know we have to get in better situations. We have to be able to run the ball in the red zone and we can’t take penalties. There are so many factors and we are shooting ourselves in the foot. We are not playing good football. It's as simple as that. There are a million different excuses but none of them are valid.”
Coach Jim Haslett realizes it's about touchdowns, period, from anywhere on the field. He said, "We haven’t scored enough touchdowns, that’s the bottom line. In the last four games, we’ve scored one touchdown. In the last six games, we’ve scored three touchdowns and two of them came at the end when we were down by 14 or more. Somehow, we have to manufacture points and get to the end zone. We’ve only scored 12 touchdowns all year on offense. Maybe we don’t have the big-play type players that we’ve had in the past, but there are other teams in the league that are similar to us that are finding ways to get in the end zone and we just have to try to find some ways to get there and we’re not.
"We’re not doing it right now. We had good drives (Sunday), a 10-play drive, a nine-play drive, a 12-play drive, and then we sputter out and we kick field goals. Somehow, we have to try to continue those drives and get some touchdowns and right now we’re not doing it.”
Bulger has been a part of offensive struggles since the start of the 2007 season. Asked about those problems, he said, “I think our line is playing better this year. But you can tell when (running back) Steven (Jackson) is playing and when he is not. He is that guy that can get things going and the more we have him on a week-to-week basis, we can feed off of him. Unfortunately, he has been banged up the past two years and that kind of messes up our momentum.”
Bulger took most of the heat after the loss to Miami, a certain amount of it deserved, but some of the problems rested with the receivers not getting open enough consistently.
Asked about that, Haslett said, “I think it's a couple things. One, to loosen up the secondary you have to have a great running game, so that’s No. 1. I thought the line did a great job protecting them last week. We did a lot of three-man routes, so they were doubling people. I’ve never seen a team get doubled as much as we do on the outside guys. So I think once we get full-go and Steven’s running, he’s getting his 30 touches a game, or 25, 30 touches a game, it’ll loosen the secondary up and we’ll get the one-on-one (matchups) that we need to get.”
Overall, the entire offense, including Bulger, has to play better. Concluded Haslett, "For us to win, with the offense we have right now, we’re going to have to run the ball, Marc is going to have to manage the game well. We have to do those two things. We’re similar to the team we just played and that’s what they do. They run the ball well, (quarterback Chad) Pennington manages the game well and right now, those are the two things we have to do to win.”
Running back Steven Jackson was back on the practice field Wednesday and Thursday, and it is expected that he will play more than the 41 snaps he had this past Sunday against Miami. He could also get more than the 22 touches he had in that game.
“Yeah, I think they’ll be more," coach Jim Haslett said. "We’ll sit down, based on how he feels this week, we’ll try to give him … he looked good to me today, so we’ll add some of the reps based off how he feels. But he’ll get back in the swing of things full-go here. I thought he looked pretty good today.”
Asked about the importance of having a healthy Jackson, Haslett said, “He’s a great football player. Any time you lose a player, he’s probably the best player on our football team, if you lose a guy like that and it means a lot to you. It means a lot to your offense obviously, and it means a lot to your defense because it keeps them off the field. You saw the results last week; I thought the defense played better, obviously, when you play less time. And it helps special teams because of the field position.
"We said it from day one that for us to win games Steven has to do a great job of running the football along with ‘Pitt’ (Antonio Pittman) and (Kenneth) Darby as a complement and Marc (Bulger) has to manage the game well.”
Meanwhile, Haslett elicited laughs when he was first asked about how Jackson felt at practice Wednesday. “I think you have to have to ask him, so we don’t have a conflict here," Haslett said. "But he looked fine to me today. I thought he was fine.”
That was a reference to Haslett's post-game comments Sunday, in which he said Jackson was gassed at the end of the game. When informed of those comments, Jackson said, "I wish he'd stop saying that."
Thursday, when Haslett was asked after practice how Jackson was feeling, Haslett smiled and said, "I am going to defer everything to Steven." The coach then added, “We’re fine. There’s no issues at all, nothing at all. He’s a good guy, works hard, and we’re just glad to have him back and ready to go. It gives us a good chance to win when he’s around. That kind of helps.”
Thursday is Jackson's appointed day to speak to the media, and one of the first questions was, “So, Steven, do you hate Haslett?”
Jackson got serious, forcing the reporter to say he was only kidding. Jackson then said, “Me and coach Haslett are good. We’ve been able to kind of look back … and laugh about it. Everything is fine.”
Haslett admitted he could have said what he did differently, and Jackson understood. He said, “He explained to me, he was talking about the quad muscle fatiguing and not so much about my lung capacity.”
Jackson was on the field for about two-thirds of the offensive plays last week, and he is hopeful of more Sunday.
He said, “I was able to practice full-go the last two days, and the leg feels really good. I’d like to definitely be on the field on third-down situations and make their defense play honest and not so much them playing against the pass so heavily or against the run. We want to keep them as balanced on defense as much as possible.”
CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT
Linebacker Chris Draft returned to the practice field for the first time since cracking a bone in his foot against Arizona on Nov. 2. Draft missed the next four games. Of the five games he started on the strong side, the Rams won two. With Will Witherspoon bothered by injuries to both shoulders, Draft will start at middle linebacker this week.
Asked about Draft's quick recovery, Haslett said, "I’ll go back to (tackle) Orlando Pace. The guy’s supposed to be a two-to-four week injury; he comes back in six days. Chris Draft has a broken foot, he’s supposed to be six weeks, he comes back in two weeks. So, if nothing else, it shows you some of the character you have on the team with some of the players. Now, it’s not equating into wins enough, but it does show you at the end of the year when you’re evaluating your football team what kind of guys you want to have on your team. Those are the kind of guys you like to have.”
When it was noted that the defense played better in the games Draft started, Haslett said, “He brings a lot of leadership to the group, No. 1. I think he brings a calmness to the group because he’s smart and he can play any position and he can get people lined up, so when teams that are hard to defend from the standpoint of getting the linemen their shifts and motions and all that, Chris is kind of the calming effect, he gets people lined up in the right spots and he does a great job. That’s why we inserted him earlier in the season to settle the defense down. We have a lot of young guys out there; he does a great job of handling all those people.”
*Haslett is losing patience with cornerback Tye Hill, who has been out with a knee injury since the Oct. 12 game against Washington.
Asked if Hill might go on injured reserve, Haslett said, “Well, we have to make a decision. Him sitting around doing nothing, this is week six (actually eight) and sooner or later you have to get back on the field. He’s been hurt for, this is what, he missed eight games last year and he’s going to miss another 12 games this year, that’s a lot of games.”
*Free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe was credited with 13 tackles Sunday against Miami, and also had two forced fumbles, giving him seven for the season.
Said Haslett, "O.J.'s a heck of a football player, and I think people are starting to recognize that. The guy's a ball magnet, he does a great job punching the balls out, he's got great hands, and he's a good tackler."
*Wide receiver Keenan Burton continues to play on a bad knee. Burton will have his knee drained Friday, but is expected to play Sunday against Arizona. ... Wide receiver Donnie Avery worked only sparingly in team segments Wednesday because of a hip injury. Avery practiced Thursday and will play Sunday against Arizona. ... Linebacker and special teams standout Gary Stills, who played despite a back issue against Miami, was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday, but is expected to play this week against Arizona.
Re: Red Zone Is The Dead Zone For Rams
I've been trying to teach my 11 month old son how to celebrate a touchdown and put his hands up... but the rams haven't scored one in a while....so sad He is not going to get much practice if we keep struggling like this in the red Zone.
Re: Red Zone Is The Dead Zone For Rams
they might as well bring in Josh Brown on 1st and goal, that way we have more time to "catch-up" at the end of the game without it having to rely on a last minute interception...i hate the fact that i practically EXPECT this to happen every game...
the good news is i guess, the blowouts we had vs sf, jets and chi were completely UN-expected lol...
-12-07-2008 #5ramfan247 Guest
Re: Red Zone Is The Dead Zone For Rams
What can we do differently to get into the end zone? I think that we should be putting in plays for Bulger to toss it up to Klop or Fells in the end zone. Klop is tall as heck and Fells is tall and physical. I'm a huge fan of the TE position and I really think we should be using these guys more in the red zone. Every team that uses their TEs in the redzone has great TD numbers. We need to evolve.
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