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RamView, 9/20/2009: Redskins 9, Rams 7 (Long)

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  • RamView, 9/20/2009: Redskins 9, Rams 7 (Long)

    RamView, September 20, 2009
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Game #2: Redskins 9, Rams 7

    The Rams played well enough to win, but in Washington, that and $640 will get you a toilet seat. The Rams lacked big plays on both sides of the ball, allowing the Redskins to string together a mile worth of long drives while giving them little to worry from an offense that’ll have to improve 100% to even qualify as “sputtering”. Maybe next week.

    * QB: Marc Bulger didn't have a mistake-free game, but those who want to blame him first for the Rams' troubles are going to have me to fight again this week. He had Donnie Avery open at midfield on 3rd down the Rams' opening drive but threw behind him. The next drive, he got away with a fumble at the end of a 2nd down scramble, but showed some moxie doing it. He bailed out his line a lot, by scrambling, by hanging tough in the pocket, by overcoming penalties, by making tough throws in the face of an oncoming hit. Bulger was sacked once, killing a drive early in the 2nd. He capped off a later drive with a perfect fade pass to Laurent Robinson for a TD, putting the Rams ahead 7-6. The Rams didn't start the 2nd half fast, with Bulger nearly getting picked off by a DT dropping into coverage. But, down 9-7, he launched what could have been a galvanizing drive. On 3rd-and-6, with Albert Haynesworth right in his face, he hit Keenan Burton for 13. On 2nd-and-20, again with a Redskin in his face, Bulger hit Robinson for a 25-yard catch-and-run. At the Washington 43 on 2nd-and-long, he saved a sack on one of many blown-up screen plays by scrambling, taking a big, almost legal hit from Haynesworth in the back. His next play, after a timeout? Zing to Robinson for 13 and another first. The Rams pounded their way inside the 10 before Bulger found Avery with a perfectly good throw at the 5, only to see the young WR lose the ball for a soul-crushing turnover. The Rams got the ball back at midfield early in the 4th but 3-and-outed, with a poor-looking throw for Robinson on 3rd-and-2. The Rams didn't get the ball back until there was under 2:00 left, and at their own 4. With no timeouts, down 2, could Bulger lead them into game-winning FG position? Yeah, no happy ending here. He had to throw away a 1st-down pass with Brian Orakpo all over him. 2nd down, just a 5-yard pass to Avery, who couldn't hold on to it anyway. 3rd down, Haynesworth hammers the pass back in Marc's face. 4th-and-10 from the 4 is a play I'd like to have back. Orakpo flushes Bulger forward. Jackson is SCREAMING for the ball in the near flat and surely would have had a first down – no Redskin around for miles – and the Rams would have lived to fight another day. Bulger chucks the ball deep downfield instead for Avery, who's tightly covered, and the pass falls incomplete. Maybe a completion to Jackson would have sparked them to a game-winning score, maybe not. Bulger still led them to what should have been two scores, enough to win today. He showed toughness, he didn't end up committing a turnover – still hasn't this season - and made his line look a lot better than it was by taking only one sack, while preventing at least half-a-dozen others. No, it wasn't a great day, and Bulger's reward for it is an unimpressive stats line, 12-25-125, passer rating 77.2, a bunch of bruises, and probably half of Rams Nation sniping that it's his fault that the Rams are 0-2 and have just 7 points in two weeks. Bulger deserved better last week, and does again today.

    * RB: After a quarter of frustration with about as much room as a Tokyo subway car, Steven Jackson (17-104) broke things open for the Rams' running game in the 2nd, busting past a sloppy tackle attempt in the hole by the Redskin safety and exploding up the sideline for a 58-yard gain. That set up the Rams' lone TD. Jackson was a big factor in the Rams' long drive that ended in the Avery fumble, with four carries of more than 5 yards. Too bad he couldn't have finished off that drive. The last play of the 3rd was a run he bounced outside for 6 to the Redskin 21 and nearly broke all the way. He made his biggest mistake of the day on 2nd-and-4 from the Redskin 9 a little later. Instead of following fullback Mike Karney into the hole, Jackson decided he saw a better opportunity outside, bounced right, and lost 1. Karney, meanwhile, had an unimpeded path to the goal line. Jackson hasn't danced much this year, but that was a masochism tango. The Rams got Jackson a little involved receiving (2-15), and he caught one first down on a slant after lining up wide. But the Redskins must have blown up a half-dozen attempts to get screen passes to him. The Ram running game progressed today but the line has to perform better at the start of games to get it going.

    * WR: Laurent Robinson (6-54) has clearly emerged as Bulger’s go-to guy. He got over his dropsies from last week and made clutch plays. His terrific hands catch of an 8-yard pass thrown behind him at the 5-yard-line on 3rd-and-3 set up a TD pass, to him, fittingly. He made a pretty play on a fade pass from the 2 and beat DeAngelo Hall for the score. He added a clutch catch on 3rd-and-7 to extend a drive in the 3rd. Keenan Burton (2-38) helped keep that drive alive with a 25-yard reception, half the yards after the catch, on 2nd-and-20. Not so clutch today: Donnie Avery (1-4), who hasn't looked ready lately to be a #3 WR in the league, let alone a #1. Targeted six times, he had one bonafide drop, and the only ball he did catch, he left hanging off his hip for Chris Horton to blast loose for a game-changing turnover. Avery's training camp injury sure killed his momentum; let's hope it builds back up. Randy McMichael (2-14) also lurks as one of the day's culprits. He committed a sloppy fumble in the 1st and dropped a TD pass in the 3rd, but got bailed out of them by a penalty and by Robinson respectively. The veteran's blocking has been suspect, and he hasn't been a reliable receiver; look across the field to Chris Cooley today to see how far behind a lot of the league the Rams still are at this position, which is supposed to be a key one on this team.

    * Offensive line: Good thing Richie Incognito had a key block on Jackson's 58-yard run in the 2nd; otherwise, I'd wonder what supposedly makes him worth the knuckleheaded penalties (though no personal fouls today!). Yukon Cornelius Griffin beat him in the 1st to stuff Jackson for a loss. Griffin also ripped Incognito with a rip move for a sack in the 2nd. Thanks mainly to Bulger, though, that was the only sack. The Skins must have had about a billion pressures and hurries. Griffin wasn't the only thorn in the Rams' side. 36-year-old Philip Daniels blocking-sledded McMichael into the backfield to force a Bulger scramble in the first. Rookie Brian Orakpo was in Bulger's face a lot. He whipped Jason Smith to force Bulger to throw away a screen pass in the 2nd. Smith got some revenge later, making a great turnout block to open Jackson a big lane for his long run. But he missed the second half due to a knee injury. Adam Goldberg was so-so in his place, making a couple of good blocks but getting knocked two yards off the line to get Jackson stuffed another time. Mark Setterstrom briefly spelled Brown after an ankle injury and made a big play to recover Bulger's fumble. Blocks by Bell, Brown and Karney all helped Jackson pound the Rams in close before the Avery fumble. Alex Barron had a poor game. He committed two holding penalties and should have been called for at least one more. He also blew a blitz assignment on Rocky McIntosh in the 2nd. There were way too many protection breakdowns at the end of the game. Orakpo beat Barron twice that final possession, and stunted and beat Brown to flush Bulger on the Rams' last play. Albert Haynesworth beat Bell during that series to smack down a Bulger pass, and started the game by splitting Bell and Barron to stuff Jackson's first carry. That's the offensive line's day in a nutshell: they got off to a slow start, and didn't finish strong. Given the big monetary investments in Smith, Bell and Brown, and the goodwill Spagnuolo’s invested in Incognito, that’s simply not good enough.

    * Defensive line / LB: The Ram defense made strides from last week. They held Clinton Portis to 79 yards and kept the Redskins out of the end zone. So why wasn’t that enough? They couldn’t get the Redskins off the field. Washington knocked out long drives as easily as Tiger Woods. 83 yards, 6:19, 13 plays, FG. 64 yards, 6 minutes, 13 plays, FG. 40 yards, 10 plays, fumble. 74 yards, 7:30, 14 plays, FG. 72 yards, seven and a half more minutes, 15 plays, turnover on downs. The Rams made some plays, but not enough. Will Witherspoon is off to a very rough start. On the Redskins’ first FG drive, the fullback picked him off in the hole twice to set up long Portis runs, and Chris Cooley beat him for 16. Campbell was a scrambling menace. His 14-yarder set up the first FG. In the 2nd, he ran for 21 on 3rd-and-2 to set up their 2nd FG. James Hall got caught too far inside, and Campbell had a huge lane there, and plenty of room. Cooley and the Redskin backs took LBs out of the middle of the field all day with pass routes. Your pass rush especially has to get there when those guys aren’t back to block. All the pressures in the world aren’t good enough if the QB always gets away. That messes up pass coverage, too, if the DBs start abandoning their man because they’re worried about the scramble. All that happened today. Another long FG march for Washington in the 3rd. A run stuff and a good pressure by DT LaJuan (WHO?) Ramsey forced 3rd-and-10, but then a zone blitz didn’t get to Campbell, and he found Cooley behind Witherspoon and noted pass defender Leonard Little for 18. No pass rush the next play, either, and Campbell hits Santana Moss for 24 to put them in FG range. The Rams nearly made the big play they needed in the 4th, with the Redskins backed up near their goal line. Hall put a super rush on Chris Samuels and drove him backward. Chris Long whipped RT Stephon Heyer. They met at the QB for the Rams’ FIRST sack of the season, but Campbell stretched the ball across the goal line to avoid a safety by inches. The Rams got no momentum from that play, though. The offense 3-and-outed, and the defense next gave up another long drive. Portis gained 7 after Cliff Ryan got knocked down, and 6 more on 3rd down as TE Fred Davis picked off James Laurinaitis, who got blocked out of a lot of plays today. Long got caught inside for a 25-yard screen to Ladell Betts, with James Butler and Laurinaitis taken out downfield. It got down to 4th-and-short at the 20, from where Portis gained 8 through a HUGE hole, far larger than any hole that should ever be given up on 4th-and-short. Laurinaitis missed the tackle, and Witherspoon was taken out yet again, along with O.J. Atogwe. That same group all did great work to shut down a Portis sweep on 4th down at the 4, though, and get the Ram offense the ball back for one last futile gesture. That obviously wasn’t their only red zone stand. Little and Hall forced a Campbell throwaway and a FG with good pressure. Little played the run well, tripping Portis at the 8 to help force the 2nd FG attempt. He also deflected a pass. Long and Ryan also made critical run stops, and Long fouled up several Redskin screen pass attempts by getting out on the receiver. But I think the only time anybody touched Campbell was on the sack in the 4th. He got too much time to throw and too much room to run. Fine effort by the defense today, but we found out bend-but-don’t-break defense may not work if you bend too much.

    * Secondary: Campbell threw for 242, a third of it (7-83) to TE Chris Cooley, for whom the Rams unsurprisingly had no answer. Cooley had a major impact on the game, catching a bunch of WIDE OPEN passes early. To account for him at all, the Rams had to vacate the middle of the field, and with the line failing to sack Campbell, that left them wide open to scrambles. When Cooley wasn’t beating Witherspoon, he was just hanging out with NOBODY covering him. Ron Bartell had a decent game, forcing a fumble from Santana Moss in the 2nd, but Moss made him look silly on a 21-yard catch inside the 10 that set up Washington’s 2nd FG. Bartell bit gullibly on a Campbell pump-fake, while Moss squared out in front of him and made him look (more) foolish. A big pass up the seam to Antwaan Randle-El in the 3rd set up the third Redskin FG. He was wide open in the zone, though Justin King needed to slow him up better (= at all) at the line. Red zone play by the secondary was exemplary. They didn’t give Campbell an open receiver. Bartell didn’t buy that halfback option in the 3rd and stayed on his man. O.J. Atogwe and James Butler helped out on some key run stops. The secondary was successful enough against the Redskin WRs, and would have been even better against them, and maybe even on Cooley, with more help from the pass rush.

    * Special teams: Kenneth Darby resumed kick-return duties but was mostly defused by effective Washington directional kicking. Derek Stanley's taking punt returns straight up the field - I like that. Donnie Jones' average was just 43.3 as he had 3 punts from near midfield. Two were downed inside the 20, but nothing inside the 10. The special teams mistake of the day was by Darby as the punting unit up man in the 4th. On 4th-and-2 at the Redskin 41, the Rams tried to fool Washington by motioning Jones out wide, bluffing at a fake, hoping they could get them to jump offside. Darby, whose role was surely to let the play clock expire if Washington didn't jump, got caught up and used the Rams' last timeout to prevent delay-of-game instead. Ulp. Just take the penalty and give Jones a little more room to kick! And the Rams false-started after the timeout anyway! Quick thinking by the coaching staff to put this play in motion, but it ended up looking like a case of the Rams needing to learn to walk before they can run.

    * Coaching: The offensive playcalling has to be looked at when a team scores one touchdown in two weeks, and I’ve got some questions. What is going on with the screen passes? Did the Rams get one off today without the Redskins blowing it up? If execution of the play is poor, or the Redskins are on to it, why was Pat Shurmur calling for it SO much? How many, seven, eight? At a minimum, that play needs a lot more practice. Good that Shurmur tried so much more this week to get Jackson involved in the passing game; I just wish he would have looked for different ways after about the third blown screen. Didn’t care for the end-of-game play-calling. From the 4 with 1:50 left, no timeouts, who’s going to buy a fake handoff? With McMichael blanketed in the flat, Bulger had to throw away the first down pass. On 2nd down, what good was a 5-yard Avery route? Again, you’re on your own 4 with no timeouts. The offense was a successful 6-for-12 on third down, and I liked how Shurmur recognized the Redskins were back on their heels early in the 4th and started banging Jackson at them for nice red zone gains. And Jackson should have scored right before the Avery fumble. But Shurmur’s still hunting to find good ways to get the offense moving. It improved a little this week; let’s hope that improvement’s exponential.

    Interesting wrinkles again defensively, but still some plays I can’t help but wonder about. The two-down-DE set with Long standing up over center helped 3-and-out the first Redskin possession. Probably slow, I noticed the classic Spagnuolo four-DE line for the first time late in the first half, with C.J. Ah You and Hall lining up inside. Mixed results with that so far. Zone blitzing nearly got Little an INT that same drive, but it also got beat on 3rd-and-10 on the Skins’ last FG drive on an 18-yard pass to Cooley. Whatever the plan was for Cooley, it didn’t work, and it was disappointing, as this staff has played against him many times. The breakdowns defending him were a huge key to the game, surpassed only by the failure to sack Campbell. They didn’t get to Campbell with the blitz, and never seemed to have a blitz called when the Skins sent Cooley and their backs out into the pattern. And on a day where you’re not getting to the opposing QB, and he’s scrambling effectively, I can’t stress how much I hate the idea of going to a THREE-man rush. In the end, I think Cooley really fouled up what they came in intending to do on defense. Let’s get a better job done on Donald Lee and Jermichael Finley next week.

    * Upon further review: Looked like Jerome Boger and crew called a top-notch game. The worst call of the day was the end zone DPI on Bartell against Randle El in the 2nd on a clearly uncatchable ball that had clearly been released prior to the infraction. And the official picked that flag up. Nice work! The roughing-the-passer call that retracted McMichael's fumble was also a good call, with Bulger clearly being hit well after he released the ball. I would have liked another roughing penalty later, when Haynesworth hit a vulnerable Bulger late and on the ground at the end of his scramble in the 3rd, when he appeared to get his back injured. Referees appear to have it in for Bulger as much as many in Rams Nation. But I won't be a total scrooge in grading Boger's bunch today. B+.

    * Cheers: Too bad Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan can't announce every Rams game. They're the best team Fox has. Ryan is the best color analyst out there. He had an excellent observation on almost every play. Rosen has a great eye for detail, and rarely fails to tell you down, distance and gain on the last play. Too many announcers are too busy trying to crack jokes or trying to make themselves look smart with “trivia” everyone watching the game already knows and ignore those basic fundamentals. They missed a couple of things, like Bulger actually fumbling after a scramble in the 1st, but give me an old-schooler like Rosen and a no-nonsense analyst who just knows his stuff like Ryan every week. Give me the Rams' “classic” blue-and-gold look from today every week, too, even though they lost in it.

    * Who’s next?: Say, Green Bay, thanks a bunch for losing at home to Cincinnati today and totally destroying my pre-written preview for next week's Rams home opener. That shocker is still unlikely to keep the Packers' faithful fan base from washing the Dome in a sea of green, though. 0-2 and one touchdown in two weeks surely won't inspire a lot of late local ticket sales to Rams fans. With the Packers following an outstanding preseason with an opening night win over Chicago, next week's game still looks like a high hurdle for the young, rebuilding Rams to clear, when back in April, I'd have given them a shot opening at home against a 6-10 team from the year before.

    That 6-10 record from 2008 is mighty deceptive – the Packers lost a whopping seven games by four points or less, and return all the skill players from a top 10 offense. 26-year-old Aaron Rodgers' career is off to a splendid start. He threw for over 4,000 yards last year with 28 TD and just 13 INTs. Very explosive WR Greg Jennings and crafty possession WR Donald Driver are both coming off 1,000-yard seasons. It would be as unlike the Packers not to get TEs Donald Lee and Jermichael Finley involved as it would be unlike the Rams to leave them wide open all day. RB Ryan Grant doesn't have top speed, but is among the league leaders in rushing since taking over as a starter. The Rams are going to want to keep Rodgers in the pocket. He is very effective, and the Packers like him throwing deep, on the move. Pass protection is proving a sticking point in Green Bay after two weeks. Bengals DE Antwan Odom exploited a game-ending injury to LT Chad Clifton for FIVE sacks today, and Bears DE Adewale Ogunleye pwned inexperienced RT Allen Barbre week 1. The Packers may come to St. Louis with four new starters on the o-line. They've got serious issues protecting their QB right now, and it is paramount for the Rams to exploit their edge weaknesses while they can. Problem is, the Rams have already had two games against lesser offensive lines they should have been able to exploit, and have come away with exactly one sack. Will this finally be the week?

    Green Bay fired their defensive coordinator after the Pack landed only 27 sacks in 2008 and allowed a soft-as-Brie 131.6 rushing yards a game, 26th in the league. Enter Dom Capers, who brought in his scheme, a 3-4 D that blitzes almost every play from almost every angle. Make no mistake about their aggressiveness. Charles Woodson may blitz as often as he drops back into coverage. They got Jay Cutler to chuck up 4 INTs week 1. Didn't seem to work today, though, as Cedric Benson shredded the Cheeseheads for 141. An offense that plays it smart and goes after them on the ground has a shot at making inroads. The Bears were late to do that week 1. The Bengals apparently did it today. Run on Green Bay and you'll really de-fang that blitz. That's not to say the Packers won't match up well with the Rams, hard to believe as it is that they didn't seem to match up well with the Bengals. Alex Barron and Jacob Bell will have their hands full with DT-turned-monster-DE Cullen Jenkins. Nose tackle Johnny Jolly makes a lot of plays, even has an INT already this year. The Packers' best LB week 1 was – what do you know – Brandon Chillar, who makes a lot of plays along with fellow OLB Nick Barnett and is even a pass rush weapon up north. Al Harris is their best CB, backed up by big hitter and playmaker Atari Bigby, and partnered with Woodson. The Rams would be wise to test the duo deep, as they're neither as young nor as fast as they used to be. And the Packer secondary's long had difficulty dealing with receivers with decent size. There's your cue, Laurent Robinson. Can the Rams tame the Packers with the run, and protect Bulger well enough to take advantage when they do?

    I keep seeing this point made online, and I'll borrow it here. The Giants lost their first two games with Steve Spagnuolo at defensive coordinator, and badly. They came back, won their third game and went on to a (very) successful season. No, the Rams aren't headed for the Super Bowl, but the point is, nothing is over until we say it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Furthermore, the Giants' second-biggest win that year came against – Green Bay, in the NFC Championship, a game in which the Packers proved helpless to stop a big receiver. The Rams still believe in what they're doing: let's see if they can't repeat some good history for a change.

    --Mike
    Game stats from nfl.com

  • #2
    Re: RamView, 9/20/2009: Redskins 9, Rams 7 (Long)

    This is a very accurate review. A great point made is that we should not set the bar so high for ourselves this year. We are in rebuilding mode and we should shoot for 5-11 or 6-10. LETS GO ST. LOUIS!

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: RamView, 9/20/2009: Redskins 9, Rams 7 (Long)

      Tremendous job as usual, Mike. I have one question and one comment for you.

      1.) Have you been able to evaluate Chris Long much these first two weeks? What is your opinion of his play to date? (O.K. that was two questions.;)

      2.) Uh... the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Those Messerschmidts must have had some incredible fuel capacity to fly all the way from Berlin!!

      WHAT SAY YE?

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: RamView, 9/20/2009: Redskins 9, Rams 7 (Long)

        I like Long against the run, and like his recognition ability, such as on the screen pass. I don't think he's much to blame on any long runs the Rams have allowed. He appears to be on a pace for twice as many tackles as last year. If something's skewing that, it's not coming to mind.

        I'm not sure why he hasn't been more of a factor in the pass rush yet, though I thought he was going to get 1/2 of the sack Sunday. He really smoked the RT on that play. They got much better pass rush off the edges than they did in Seattle. Now, to start turning some of those pressures into sacks.

        They line Long up all over the place, and the way he was used sometimes in preseason, I wonder how often pass rush is actually the primary duty for him on a given play, but I'll try to get a better look at him Sunday.

        --Mike

        P.S. That Pearl Harbor line from Animal House always gets somebody.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: RamView, 9/20/2009: Redskins 9, Rams 7 (Long)

          Your write-ups are always amazing.

          Comment

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          • MFranke
            RamView, 9/13/2009: Seahawks 28, Rams 0 (Long)
            by MFranke
            RamView, September 13, 2009
            From The Couch
            (Report and opinions on the game.)
            Game #1: Seahawks 28, Rams 0

            Despite sea change at Rams Park since the end of last season, where the Rams and Seattle Seahawks are concerned, things just stay the same. The Rams failed to cash in big opportunities early in the game, and for the rest of the game, they just failed. ELEVEN straight regular-season losses, ELEVEN straight losses in the division, NINE straight losses to Seattle... Somebody change the station, I am sick of this song.

            * QB: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch handed out exactly one F on their report card for this game, and it went to Marc Bulger (17-36-191). Really? As ugly as the offense looked, didn't Bulger do his job? He had two poor plays that were nearly interceptions, but those were his only bad throws. He threw two pretty bombs to Laurent Robinson, who whiffed on one he should have caught in the 3rd before grabbing one for 46 late in the game. A complaint is that Bulger “didn't make a lot happen even when he had time to throw”. And a common play today was: Bulger gets plenty of time to throw, rolls out, throws the ball away. So receivers were popping open in the Seahawk secondary all day and Bulger was missing them? Funny, nobody points that out. Until somebody does, all one's doing in criticizing Bulger is criticizing him for playing possession football, which is what he's supposed to be doing. Am I wrong? Here's the Post-Dispatch, though: “When a team gets shut out, most of the blame falls on the QB.” Maybe the Rams' poor 3rd-down conversion rate, 2 for 12, is supposed to be Bulger's fault, though most of those 3rd downs were exacerbated by line penalties, and again, lack of open receivers. Poor shotgun snaps, dropped passes, flinchy linemen, $14 million kickers choking on medium-length field goals, special teams gaffes, absence of run blocking, blitzers coming up the middle untouched or running over $45 million running backs, global warming, dogs and cats living together, turnovers, all Bulger's fault today, I guess. Oh, that's right, Bulger didn't commit any turnovers. No doubt, more (= any) mobility could help Bulger and the Rams out. On some of the plays where Bulger took one of his three sacks or made one of his umpteen throwaways, maybe Kyle Boller pulls the ball down and gets upfield with some kind of gain. Some argument - the Rams got shut out because the QB didn't scramble enough. I know there's a cottage industry in making excuses for Marc Bulger's play the last couple of seasons, but dammit, scapegoating the guy for today's loss is just as questionable. Vintage Marc Bulger couldn’t have gotten anything done today, either. A lot on offense needs to get fixed before current Bulger can be blamed for its problems.

            * RB: Such as the running game, which is supposed to carry the Ram offense but is where Steven Jackson had a quiet 67 yards on 16 carries instead, a third...
            -09-14-2009, 12:55 PM
          • MFranke
            RamView, 10/18/2009: Jaguars 23, Rams 20 (OT) (Long)
            by MFranke
            RamView, October 18, 2009
            From The Couch
            (Report and opinions on the game.)
            Game #6: Jagwires 23, Rams 20 (OT)

            Make it 16 straight losses, a YEAR without a win, for the Rams after a surreal amount of bad luck in Jacksonville. Untimely injuries, dropped interceptions, crap pass interference calls by crap referees, even the coin toss conspired against the gallant but near-luckless Rams today. Hey, “football gods,” you owe us one after today. Big time.

            * QB: Marc Bulger (22-34-213, 79.7 rating) started this game with a hot hand left over from last week's performance off the bench. His first pass was a superb sideline cover-2 beater to Keenan Burton for 21. And after Steven Jackson drove the Rams into the red zone, Bulger hit Donnie Avery in the corner of the end zone with a pretty 17-yard pass for the Rams' FIRST first-quarter TD of the season, a 7-0 lead, and what appeared to be the start of a promising afternoon on offense. Not so fast. Next possession, Bulger went deep for Avery, who had a step, in the end zone, but the pass was slightly underthrown and intercepted by Rashean Mathis. Avery left the game injured a little later and it was all downhill from there. The offense's options the rest of the way: be carried on Jackson's broad shoulders or have Bulger throw a 5-yard pass (if that). Bulger spent most of the afternoon dumping off on 3rd-and-long. This may well have been due to lack of open, or healthy, receivers. Burton and Danny Amendola were the only WRs who could even take the field for stretches. A couple of times near midfield, though, in the 1st and again in the 3rd, Bulger could have kept a drive alive with better third-down throws to Amendola. Both times Amendola had to come back for a short, low ball, thrown by Bulger on the run, and he couldn't get the first. In Jagwire territory near the end of the first half, Bulger slightly overthrew Daniel Fells (and hung him out to dry), who was open on a promising deep middle route. In the second half, the Rams had one (rushing) first down until the final 2:00, when they finally sustained another drive. Bulger hit Amendola for 13 on 3rd-and-5 at the Jagwire 35. Then, after having a certain TD pass to Daniel Fells knocked down by LB Daryl Smith, he hit Randy McMichael for 14 to get the Rams inside the 10. But with one shot with 15 seconds left, Bulger couldn't make anything happen, the Rams settled for a FG and never saw the ball again. This game's filled with a lot of what-ifs. What if Bulger hits one of those 3rd-down passes to Amendola? What if he puts another foot or so on the intercepted TD bomb for Avery? Seems like small potatoes, but more and more, the Ram offense doesn't appear to have even that small a margin for error.

            * RB: Called on to carry the Ram offense by himself with 10 or 11 Jagwires clawing at him, another heroic effort by Steven Jackson was wasted. He ran for only 50 yards but totaled 128 thanks to success...
            -10-19-2009, 10:37 AM
          • MFranke
            RamView, 11/16/2008: ***** 35, Rams 16 (Long)
            by MFranke
            RamView, November 16, 2008
            From The Couch
            (Report and opinions on the game.)
            Game #10: ***** 35, Rams 16

            The St. Louis Rams don’t just need to be rebuilt. Blowing them up and restarting from scratch isn’t a clean-enough break. This team needs to be shot in the head, buried in the back yard and never spoken of again.

            Position by position:
            * QB: Take away a couple of plays and Marc Bulger’s day (34-53-295, 69.3 passer rating) might not have been the disaster it was. He was actually better than last week in a couple of ways. He threw more accurately today and moved better (that is, at all) in the pocket. He probably took a couple of sacks on plays where he had time to get rid of the ball, but overall, he showed better pocket awareness than usual for this season. He made quite a few good, quick passes, like a 16-yarder to Derek Stanley up the sideline and a 14-yarder to Donnie Avery to set up the Rams’ first FG. For seemingly the first time all season Bulger worked the middle of the field successfully. And he strung together several lengthy scoring drives, usually with a bunch of dumpoffs. Unluckily for Bulger, though, his grade for the day has to include the second quarter. If the Rams’ chances at winning reached the precipice then, Bulger gave them a firm push into the abyss. They were already down 14-3 when Bulger bungled a snap deep in Rams’ territory and turned the ball over to set up a 49er TD. Two plays into the very next possession, Bulger got all day to throw but underthrew a deep ball for a double-covered Avery and was intercepted by Walt Harris to set up another 49er TD. And he sank the Rams even deeper the next possession, winging a 3rd-and-12 pass at a completely-blanketed Torry Holt and getting picked off by Nate Clements to set up yet ANOTHER 49er TD. Three possessions, three turnovers, three San Francisco TDs. Bulger set up more points for the opponent in the 2nd quarter than he got for his own team the whole game. That’s a bad game by any measure. Here’s another measure: Bulger’s passer rating for the first half was 43.0. 49er QB Shaun Hill’s was 158.3 (perfect). Marc Bulger continues to be a much larger part of the Rams’ problem than the solution. For the money he’s getting, he damn well ought to be able to be competitive with guys who couldn’t beat out J.T. Freaking O’Sullivan in training camp. Instead, he continues to play like a guy who doesn’t deserve to start in the NFL. And shouldn’t.

            * RB: For what it’s worth, Antonio Pittman (14-95) may be developing into one of the better players on the team. He was about the only big-play weapon today, with a couple of 20-yards-plus runs in the first quarter. Pittman is faster than Steven Jackson and is a better cutback runner. And like Jackson, he runs hard and doesn’t stop after first contact. If the planets ever align and the two are healthy at the same time, Jackson and Pittman will make a good 1-2 punch....
            -11-17-2008, 12:33 PM
          • MFranke
            RamView, 11/22/2009: Cardinals 21, Rams 13 (Long)
            by MFranke
            RamView, November 22, 2009
            From Row HH
            (Report and opinions on and from the game.)
            Game #10: Arizona 21, Rams 13

            A disappointing letdown in St. Louis, as the Rams start out flat as a doormat and fall too far behind Arizona early to catch back up. And a doormat's all they'll be – 13 straight losses in the NFC West – with games like today's.

            * RB: Steven Jackson (24-116) made franchise history by recording his fifth straight 1,000-yard season , in just 10 games this year to boot, but had very tough sledding along the way today. Arizona had the middle of the field clogged up like mall parking lots will be this Friday. Jackson got early running room from Alex Barron and Brandon Gibson (!) on an 11-yard gallop around right end in the 1st, but a lot of his day was short slams up the middle, some of which didn't go well. Near the Arizona 20 in the 2nd, Jackson couldn't eke out a yard in two tries. LB Gerald Hayes appeared to win a big collision on 3rd down and Jackson couldn't get much of a launch on a 4th-down dive attempt with Jacob Bell in his way. Karlos Dansby swallowed him up to get Arizona the ball back. Jackson's 48-yard explosion late in the 3rd appeared to get the Rams back in the game. He worked around a double-team block at right end, really turned on the jets, and was almost gone for the TD. Too bad Arizona tracked him down inside the 5, because later on 3rd-and-goal, they did it again, with Antrell Rolle denying Jackson the left corner on a screen pass that had TD written all over it. Jackson kept a TD drive alive later with a twisting, backwards 4th-and-1 dive, and scored with a plunge off left tackle, but was a limited factor down the stretch. The numbers may not quite say it but Arizona did a good job limiting Jackson. They took the middle of the field away and won some key confrontations.

            * QB: It was a very tough day to be a QB in the Dome. Kurt Warner got knocked out of the game by Oshiomogho Atogwe before halftime, and Marc Bulger got knocked out by Darnell Dockett at the end of another frustrating performance (19-37-215, 57.8 rating). Like the rest of this season, there's plenty of blame to go around, but plenty of limitations on Bulger's part to ponder. Even at age 38, Warner's at least twice as mobile as Bulger, who transitions to a runner about as effectively as any Hanna-Barbera character. Bulger killed a drive in the first trying to scramble and then clanging the ball off Daniel Fells' hip. Dockett ended the next drive by smacking a Bulger sidearm pass backwards. Why is a QB's height a big deal to NFL GMs again? Bulger ended the first half on a sour note, throwing an INT right to Adrian Wilson. Fells was open, but with Dockett bearing down, Bulger rushed a just-awful throw that would have fallen two yards short if Wilson hadn't been there. So no, Bulger did not get the Rams off to a strong start, with 77 yards at halftime, only 12 in the first quarter. The...
            -11-23-2009, 01:09 PM
          • MauiRam
            Ramview .. mfranke
            by MauiRam
            By mfranke Mon Sep 27, 2010 4:29 pm

            From Row HH
            (Report and opinions from the game.)
            Game #3: Rams 30, Redskins 16

            The Rams left Oakland in need of redemption, and found it today at home in a sparkling win over Washington. And to beat the Redskins, the Rams had to overcome just about every kind of adversity you could think up. Looks like our little team is growing up.

            Position by position:
            * QB: Sam Bradford (23-37-235, 78.1 passer rating) is on his way to becoming a force in the NFL. The young man is proving impossible to rattle. He tore up the Redskin blitz all day, kept a steady hand on the offensive wheel and didn’t freeze up when a searing spotlight hit him in the form of an injury that sidelined Steven Jackson for half the game. Bradford saved his best work for the second half, with that spotlight full on. The Redskins had just taken their first lead of the game and the pfffft of the air being let out of the Dome could be heard all over the Midwest. So Sam stepped up. He found Brandon Gibson over the middle for 16. On 2nd-and-15, he beat a blitz with a quick hitter to Danny Amendola for an 18-yard catch-and-run. That only led to a 3rd-and-10, but Bradford hit Daniel Fells up the seam perfectly for 12. That only led to a 3rd-and-7, but Bradford sent another perfect pass in the near flat for a not-very open Mardy Gilyard and the kids were all right for another first down, setting up Kenneth Darby’s TD run that put the Rams, strangely unfamiliar as this sounds, ahead to stay. Three clutch plays by Bradford that helped the Rams re-take the lead and established him as a player who can lead, and carry, the team. He made another clutch play to seal the game in the final 3:00, rolling right on 3rd-and-20 and gunning a throw to favorite target Mark Clayton for an improbable 1st down that set up a coups de grace FG. Third down conversion rate’s a fair measure of clutch play, isn’t it? Behind a rookie in his 3rd NFL game, the Rams converted 7-of-16. Behind a future Hall-of-Fame QB, the Redskins? Converted 1-of-10. For Bradford’s best play, though, go back to the first half, 2nd-and-goal from the Washington 3. Bradford rolls right but doesn’t have his primary, Clayton, coming along with him; he’d been knocked down. With nobody open, Bradford makes a move for the goal line, which pulls the cornerback off of Fells in the back of the end zone. Seeing that, Bradford finishes off a splendid fakeout by pulling up and tossing a TD to the now-lonely TE. Bradford completely made this play. Not only did he overcome the loss of his primary receiver right from the snap, he actually got his secondary receiver open. That’s a QB making his receivers better. A rookie did that? I thought only Peyton Manning could do that. Or make the 8-yard sideline throw that looked like a potential pick, but because Bradford put infinite mustard on it, was only catchable by Amendola for a 1st down in the 2nd. Bradford’s...
            -09-27-2010, 02:38 PM
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