Tuesday Edition... Saints @ Rams.........(long)
Rams fans.... this is the first in my weekly posts that I do for the upcomong weekend. This is just to offer the game from another perspective. I always enjoy going to the enemy forums and checking out the different takes on the game. It is not intended as smack, that is what smack boards are for. I watch tapes of just about every game that I can get my hands on, and between myself and 2 other coaching friends we usually tape 8-10 games a week. Take it as it is.
So, here we are as little as 3 weeks ago this looked like a possible clash between NFC elite. The battle for NFC West ( and NFC ) supremacy. It has turned into a wild-card hopeful vs. a Super Bowl expectant. Is this realistic ?
Yes and no. The season is still very early, the inevitable injury bug is starting to hit every team in the league and many team fortunes will be won or lost by undrafted or unheralded young back-ups and grizzled veterans hanging on for one more season as back-ups. That being said, the Rams are playing very well. The improvement in speed on D is evident and they force teams out of their normal gameplans early, in effect, not having defend near as much field or scheme, think of it as defensive offense.
So what can we expect ? Depends on what New Orleans team shows up and how big the loss of both Willie Roaf, to injury, and Aaron Brooks missing confidence are.
Let's take a look at the Rams. The first question is, "Are they vulnerable and where ?" The answer came in the most suprising tape of all. The Detroit Lion game. I watched this Monday night tilt live and remember James Stewart taking the Lions straight down the field only to have Batch throw that pass to I don't even know who , for an INT. When watching on tape, I found something WAY more interesting. Stewart got almost all of his yardage (6.8 ypc ) straight up the middle. A-gap.When the Lions ran the stretch or slide plays off-tackle, the Rams swarmed them with LB's and Little off of the backside. Lots of speed. So, my objective was clear, watch the other 5 games and see where guys got yards. Lo and behold the Jets blowout gave me these numbers ( Curtis Martin 4.5, LaMont Jordan 8.5, and Richie Anderson 6.5 ypc ) 9 (of 24) rushes inside the OG's and a 74 % of their rushing yardage on these carries. LaMont Jordan had good success up the gut. The Dolphins and Chan Gailey never went away from the stretch and Smith was bottled up all day by a fast, aggresive defense that was unconcerned with Fiedler.
So, what does this give the Saints? A liltte hope. The Saints can be effective running the football UP THE GUT. The Rams D is fast and it does hit, and it is improved, so the running game will have to come right up the middle, although I am interested in seeing a team run the counter tre' right at L.Little. Seems like you could take his upfield speed and the pursuit of the LB's and use it against them by trapping him upfield. So, why haven't we seen someone beat the Rams this way ?? One word. A big one ..........
I watched all of these teams have some success running the ball up the middle of the Rams, I have seen teams complete high %'s of passes vs. the Rams, and then they all go away from it. ( All but the 9ers actually ). Teams become psyched out by a quick score or the Rams answering and start the shotgun " gotta do something to keep up " and take themselves right out of the game.
In the 9ers game you saw the one thing that is separating the Rams from the rest of the pack right now. Holding on to a lead. How did they do it ? Well, the 9ers were on fire late, and the Rams got the ball back with 6:35 on the clock. Enter the running game. The front 4 of the 9ers were not able to stand up to the pounding running game late after rushing the passer all game. For all of the media's talk of the "quick strike" capabilites of this offense and the basketball on grass playbook, the most impressive drive I saw from all six games didn't even yeild points. The Rams ran 10 TIMES and threw 2 short ( high % ) passes to move the chains , move the clock and ran all 6 + minutes off of the clock. Even though the 9 ers had timeouts AND momentum. Very Impressive.
Keys to the game are simple.
Contain the RB ( Faulk or Canidate ) , you can give them some yards, just don't miss tackles.
Pressure Warner. He has taken a LOT of hits this year.A Lot, ask a Ram fan, I still can't figure out why he was in the Lions gaem after the 3rd qtr !!!!!!!! In the Lions game he was sacked but once , but sent to the ground OFTEN. We all know about the Giants putting pressure on him as did the 9ers. If you can knock him around, as with any QB, you can help your DB's vs. the deep ball, and maybe create turnovers. Look for some pressure from the DT's as the Lions, Dolphins,and 9ers were able to get upfield pressure from the DT's.
Stay in the gameplan. If the Rams get up by 17, don't go 5 wide shot-gun ..... stay in your plan. The 9ers did it, and had a good amount of success against the D in the second half. They are fast , but they are small, so try to keep them on the field and push right at them.
Make tackles. The Rams have playmakers. They are going to be open and they are going to get yards. Don't give them any extra. Play physical, but make the play above all else.
NO TURNOVERS in the kicking game.The punt return team is like a circus, and at this point, I'd like them to just put Kevin Mathis back there and let him field the punts. Duece is not capable, and turning the ball over deep will get you beat, ask the Eagles.
Keep RW involved in all phases of the offense. Every week, this one is true. 30 + touches means a beaten down defense.
Use Willie Jackson's big frame on the slant. The Rams like to use A.Archuleta as a rover on first downs and in short yardage, he is not strong in coverage, so use motion to get Willie the oppurtunity to take advantage of the space created by Archuleta being near the LOS. He will be up to try and contain RW !!
Get Aaron out of the pocket to get him more comfortable, and to slow the fast but undersized DE's rush upfield. Get him outside of contain EARLY ( as in the first drive!!! )to put pressure on the DE to CONTAIN, not just rush.
Get the ball down filed at least twice a qtr. Use play-action in max protect and get the ball over the top to Horn and/or Connell. Force the Rams into making a play on the ball. Williams will probably lock up on Horn most of the day and this should be a good battle.
Utilize Cleeland. Chad Lewis and Anthony Becht had good success finding open space above Fields, use this to get the LB's and AA off the LOS a bit, to give RW space.
So, what does all this mean, really ??
Simple, we have to play football up to the capability of our personnell, we haven't played that way for 4 quarters in any game yet, so .........
Here's to hoping I'm wrong .......
I'll be back to talk about specific match-ups later in the week ............