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RamView, 9/27/2009: Packers 36, Rams 17 (Long)

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  • RamView, 9/27/2009: Packers 36, Rams 17 (Long)

    RamView, September 27, 2009
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions from the game.)
    Game #3: Packers 36, Rams 17

    Trying to give the Packers more than they expected today, the Rams bogged down in turnovers, penalties, and a defense yet to learn that bend-but-don't-break doesn't mean bend over backwards. And in the end, the Rams may have been the ones getting something they weren't expecting. Like maybe a quarterback controversy?

    * QB: Marc Bulger (3-4-23) had a painful day that came to a painful end. He wiped out modest early success with a fumble inside his own 20 late in the 1st quarter, as Aaron Kampman wheeled around right tackle and stripped him from behind. Bulger was just too unaware of that non-blind-side pressure and not protecting the ball well enough there. Luckily, that only cost the Rams three points. Bulger was also injured on that play, whatís currently being called a bruised shoulder. Kyle Boller (16-31-164) entered in the 2nd, and after opening with his best Rick Ankiel impression, settled down and sparked the Rams into turning a blowout into a competitive game. He kept a drive alive with 3rd-down passes to Laurent Robinson and Kenneth Darby before firing a perfect pass to Daniel Fells in the far right end zone for the Ramsí first TD. That drive also featured Boller insanely trying to lead-block for Jackson, throwing a big hit on a cutback. Boller answered again after Green Bay extended the lead to 23-7, taking the offense 84 yards in under 2:00, capped off by another perfect TD throw to Fells, this time in the far left end zone. Key plays to set that up: a 16-yard pass to Keenan Burton and a 13-yard scramble. Boller ran 4 times for 31 yards, which looks like a necessary release valve for the Ramsí stuttering offense, while also being a gear Bulger doesnít really have. But after pulling within 23-14 at halftime, Boller couldnít sustain momentum. The Rams settled for a FG when Boller scrambled and threw a pass well short of Donnie Avery inside the 10. Unfortunately he didnít see Danny Amendola breaking open late for an easier first down. A deflection nearly intercepted by Johnny Jolly killed another drive, as did a Randy McMichael drop. Things gradually fell apart for Boller as the Packers consistently got good pressure on his rollouts. Down 12 again in the 4th, Boller could only produce a weak 3-and-out and then an interception by Charles Woodson, jumping a telegraphed pass over the middle for Amendola. Accuracyís an issue for Boller that it isnít for Bulger. Boller missed several open receivers on the sidelines, in a variety of ways, too; overthrows, one-hoppers, you name it. Despite the pretty TD passes, I havenít known Boller to be a very accurate sideline thrower. That and the pick helped drop his passer rating to 75.2, or about where Bulgerís been all season, but while scoring double Bulgerís TD output for the season. I know, I know. The most popular player on a losing football team is the backup QB. There are clear weaknesses in Bollerís game. At the same time, he gave the Ram offense a jolt of energy today, and his running and pocket mobility seem to make him a more natural fit than Bulger for what the Rams want to do on offense. Who knows? Maybe Boller is the Ramsí version of Shaun Hill. Hillís a terrible QB, but his team responds to him behind center, and they probably should be 3-0 right now. Either way, Steve Spagnuolo will be left an interesting decision when and if Marc Bulger is cleared to play again.

    * RB: Before we consign Marc Bulger to the dustbin of Rams history, though, letís note that Boller got a lot more help from Steven Jackson in the game plan than Bulger did either of the first two games. Jackson ran for 117 on 27 carries and led the team in receiving with 5 catches for 46. He ran well in every direction, especially up the middle, where he had three carries of 10 yards or more. His biggest run of the day came around left end, which Green Bay basically left vacant on that play, for 20. Jackson got to show off a lot of versatility, too, as a receiver out of the backfield, a downfield receiver, actually picking up the blitz effectively, even running the offense in Wildcat formation a couple of times. He looked to be pretty strictly sticking to running where the plays were designed to go. He followed Mike Karney in the two-back set, and passed up what actually looked like some wide-open opportunities to bounce plays outside and cut inside instead. One of those, unfortunately, was the play where he fumbled deep in Ram territory in the first. He barged around left tackle and was held up by several Packers before one finally stripped the ball. Jackson plays with laudable effort, but sometimes youíve gotta know when to go down. He also helped Boller convert a 4th-down plunge with a ďBush PushĒ. Jackson didnít really beat anybody with quickness today, though. You see those wide-open swaths of space and want him to bounce out there. You see him isolated on a DB downfield and want him to juke the guy and sprint off another 20 yards. Jackson doesnít have that. This is the Ram offense Ė Jackson left, Jackson right, Jackson middle, Jackson early and often. Thatís fine, and Jacksonís great, to a point. But you can see the need to mix in a quicker, more elusive back sometimes.

    * WR: Well, at least itíll be fun to watch fantasy football columns tout Daniel Fells (2-35) for a week. (ďStart him! Heís receiving additional touches!Ē) Fells made nice catches of nice Boller throws, despite being blanketed by Brandon Chillar both times, for both Ram TDs in the 2nd to help keep things close. Randy McMichaelís (2-24) blocking was improved this week, but he cursed himself all the way back to the sideline after a drive-killing drop in the 3rd. The Ramsí WR situation devolved almost into a total joke with Laurent Robinsonís (2-26) ankle injury right before halftime. He was blocking on a run and Jackson rolled up on him. The offense sure couldnít rely on Donnie Avery, an ineffectual 3-12 with a drop, no downfield looks and an early departure in the 4th due to a rib injury. Holy cats. Danny Amendola the kick returnerís on the Eggle practice squad one week; heís the Ramsí #2 wideout the next. Keenan Burton (3-37), though, shows nice potential if he can stay healthy. He plays bigger than his size, and transitions from receiver to runner very well to get decent YAC. Hopefully heíll get some help from whoever the Rams find in a van down by the river in the coming week and gets both some open space and an extended look.

    * Offensive line: Itís hard to give the offensive line a good grade on a day where they let the starting QB get killed. RT continues to be a very weak link in the Ram offense. The Rams made many efforts to run behind Adam Goldberg without much happening, and Goldberg gave up the sack by Aaron Kampman that forced a Bulger fumble and likely put him out of the game. At the same time, they didnít give up any other sacks, and Jackson averaged 4.3 a carry. Jason Brown and Richie Incognito moved Packers aside for an early 11-yard Jackson run up the middle. Jackson also followed fullback Mike Karney for a couple of nice runs. The line got good help from Jackson on blitz pickups and better-than-usual blocking from McMichael. Incognito didnít get off to a fast start. Jackson lost 1 on the gameís first play because he couldnít move Johnny Jolly, and Ryan Pickett made Richie look just bad in stuffing Jackson for -2 a few plays later. Boller got some heat from blitzes off the edges but was able to run away from it, thanks to the middle of the line giving him a pocket to step up into. The line didnít seem to protect very well on rollouts, but there may have been screen action where theyíre supposed to let defenders filter through. I imagine this was the o-lineís best performance so far this season, but results were decidedly mixed.

    * Defensive line / LB: The Rams didnít really get whipped in the trenches on either side of the ball. They played the run well. At least 25 of Ryan Grantís 99 yards came after the game was well in hand. Will Witherspoon was very active and looked good stuffing the run. The Ram linemen held Grant to a bunch of short carries. LaJuan (WHO?) Ramsey stopped Grant for a loss to set the bend-but-donít-break point on Green Bayís opening drive. Gary Gibson had 5 tackles and a couple of stuffs for no gain. The worst play of the day for the run defense was actually a one-yard gain Ė a TD run by somebody named John Kuhn in the 2nd. The entire Ram defense got moved far too easily to the left for a goal-line situation. Bowie Kuhn could have scored that TD. A couple of young Rams looked like pretty limited factors today. James Laurinaitis landed only 3 tackles and I couldnít find him in the flow of play much. At least I could find him. The amount of time Chris Long was off the field in pass rush situations caught me off guard. And Long wasnít a strong run force, either, with some of Grantís better gains run at him. Leonard Little was the star of the day on pass rush, the only one, unfortunately, with two sacks that helped save the Rams eight points by forcing FGs. He smoked Allen Barbre and sacked Aaron Rodgers to force a FG on Green Bayís opening drive, and with good help from downfield coverage, scalped Barbre and got to Rodgers again for a big loss to force a FG after Bulgerís fumble in the 1st. But that leaves three quarters where the Rams werenít getting a lot of pressure on the Packer QB, and for the second straight week, they got burned by QB scrambles (4-37). Two of those got the Packers inside the 10 to finish off touchdown drives. Terrible tactics, and Hollis Thomas getting handled at the goal line, helped Rodgers finish one of those drives with a run himself. Rodgers got the Ram pass rush to literally stop about a half-dozen times with highly-effective play fakes. Heíd fake the handoff and go almost totally limp, and the Ram linemen would just quit coming after him. Pass rush continues to be the most disappointing aspect of the Rams this season. The Bengals had one guy sack Rodgers five times last week. Iím not sure the Rams even got to Rodgers that many times, including the times Little sacked him. He was free to step into long passes all day, and unconstrained from taking off downfield when he couldnít find a receiver. Even with all the roster turnover, even with a head coach who cut his teeth on a defense with a dominating pass rush, the Ramsí pass rush continues to be an epic fail.

    * Secondary: Last week, the secondary needed more help from the pass rush; this week, even the Fearsome Foursome couldnít have done enough up front to cover for the backfieldís many breakdowns and letdowns. Ron Bartellís day was highly disappointing (though I now understand he was playing with a thigh injury). All he did all day was trail Packer receivers who had beaten him downfield. Greg Jennings burned him for 50 right before the first half 2:00 warning to get Green Bay out of a 3rd-and-7 hole in their own end and set up a TD to put them up 23-7. Imagine what the gameís like if the Rams force a punt there instead of giving up a 50-yard bomb. Next play, Rodgers rolls left and the Rams cover his two closest options, but Jonathan Wade gets turned inside out by Donald Driver in the end zone to give Rodgers an even better option. Wade just canít let that happen. Maybe negligent play like that is why Bradley Fletcher was in for Wade earlier in the game, to get burned by Driver for 46 on what would have been DPI if not for Driverís brilliant one-handed catch. That bomb also set up a Packer TD. And thatís not the last time the Rams got bombed, as Jennings zinged Bartell again for 53 at the start of the 4th. And guess what, that bomb set up another Packer TD, and a 12-point lead that would prove insurmountable. The Packers topped it off with FULLBACK John Kuhnís SECOND TD of the day, the same simple play-action pass to the fullback in the flat thatís been fooling the Rams since approximately forever, with David Vobora as the victim this time. The secondary didnít get any help on the injury front, either, losing James Butler on their first play due to a sprained knee, though it looked like Craig Dahl filled in for him well. Thatíd be the secondaryís one bright spot today. But this game was highly, highly winnable had the secondary not suddenly picked this week to get lit up. Or should I say fondued?

    * Special teams: Danny Amendola sparked some early excitement with a 42-yard kick return, but after that, didn't look any different than any other Rams kick returner the last ten years who got taken down around the 20 without any blocking, except for his dangerous tendency to go airborne at the end of returns. If that doesn't eventually result in an injury, or a turnover, I don't know what will. Amendola did average 11 yards on 2 punt returns, taking them straight upfield, and showed nice burst, though he isnít the only returner lately to show that, and wonít be the last. Team MVP and the league's best punter, Donnie Jones, blasted for a 54-yard average, with two sixty-plus-yarders and three kicks downed or fielded inside the 10, including one downed by Quincy Butler at the 2. Josh Brown hit a 53-yard bomb and his miss wasnít his fault, as Johnny Jolly blew right over Chris Massey and by Hollis Thomas to block an attempt at the end of the Rams' opening drive. Jones shoved Will Blackmon out of bounds attempting to make an even bigger play on the return. May have saved 4 points. Like I said, team MVP.

    * Coaching: Was that Rick Venturi calling the Ram defense today? The Rams blitzed early but gave up on it, despite the ripeness of Green Bayís makeshift offensive line for an aggressive attack. That was disappointing, because the Rams sure didnít make up for it in pass coverage. Why was Fletcher covering Driver early in the game instead of Wade? Wadeís play the first two weeks didnít suggest to me that he should be losing reps to Fletcher. The Rams were way too fooled by Rodgersí play-faking, something that adequate coaching should have had them prepared for. And somebody feel free to correct me on this one, because I want to be wrong. On second-and-goal at the Ramsí 4-yard-line in the 4th, tell me the Rams were not zone-blitzing. Tell me I did not see defensive tackle Gary Gibson madly back-pedaling into his own end zone while Rodgers basically just ran through the large space he vacated for a TD. Tell me something else was going on there, because I do not want to believe Ken Flajole just made the worst defensive play-call of all time. This is supposed to be an attacking defense, well, except that it doesnít blitz most of a game and has its tackles bailing out at the snap, even backed up on their own goal line. Help me out here.

    Pat Shurmur wisely increased Jacksonís role in the offense, approximately doubling it this week. Thatís what the Rams are supposed to be doing offensively, isnít it? And with two touchdown catches from the position, I certainly wonít complain about the TEs not being involved. (In fact, both TEs ran routes into the end zone on Fellsí TD catches. The TD plays were mirror images of one another.) Itís also kind of a tell that Shurmur prefers a more mobile QB when heís immediately calling roll-outs for Boller when he gets into the game. But Shurmur has a tough chore ahead trying to pump up the Ram passing game. Most of todayís passing offense seemed constrained within ten yards of the line of scrimmage; more effort has to be made to stretch the field. How many long passes have the Rams thrown the last two weeks? One? On the other hand, I fully realize Shurmur may very well lack the talent, and now the health, at WR to adequately stretch the field without just throwing downs away.

    Steve Spagnuolo no doubt sees that, while also seeing the offense coming closer to being what he said it was going to be. I would like to see him re-commit this week to making sure his defense continues to advance toward what he said it was going to be. This week was a large step in the wrong direction.

    * Upon further review: Really? The Rams and Packers each had six penalties today? Sure didn't feel that even at the beginning of the game, when it seemed like Walt Coleman and crew were calling the Rams for everything short of jaywalking and mail fraud. They missed a pretty clear block in the back by Green Bay on one punt. The official was looking right at it, which mystifies. I felt the Goldberg hold that retracted a 19-yard Jackson run was more a case of erstwhile victim Jolly embellishing the play by taking a dive. If Goldberg actually did something that play to knock a 330-pound man off his feet, he should quit football tomorrow and become a superhero. And they picked up a flag for a facemask committed against Jackson after saying he was actually grabbed by the shoulder. Then when the play came up on the Jumbotron, it sure looked like he was facemasked. I'll give Coleman a B and leave it at that.

    * Cheers: The Cheese-out feared for today didn't really go as expected. I wouldn't estimate a lot more than 15,000 Packers fans present. Don't laugh - I thought it would be a lot worse. The cheesers weren't loud when their team was on defense, just for big Packer plays. The Dome was much less hostile to the home team than had been concerned. And the home crowd did the Rams proud today (for 54 minutes, anyway), generating good decibels most of the game, well louder than any cheering Packers fans did. As for as the abrupt mass exodus after Boller's INT, we'll have to work on that. Deacon Jones' jersey retirement went well. The Rams put together a good video package. George Allen's son Bruce enthusiastically recapped Deacon's achievements and called him the greatest defensive player of all time. No argument here. Or from Deacon, whose acceptance began, ďeverything he said... is right!Ē. The halftime show was a women's pro football exhibition. Let's just say I'm still working out my feelings about that.

    * Whoís next?: For at least a decade, the NFC West has been won by teams where offense rules and defense drools. Sure, recent NFC West champs have had defensive playmakers, from London Fletcher to Aeneas Williams to Lofa Tatupu to Adrian Wilson, but the NFC West champions going back to The Greatest Show on Earth have almost always been teams that made their identities on offense. By building their team around a tough defense, though, San Francisco, much as I hate to say it, is poised to take charge of the division in 2009, and for a while.

    It stands to reason that a team coached by Mike Singletary would be strong on defense, and that it would be led by a linebacker. Patrick Willis personifies the defense he leads: fast, strong, physical, always swarming to the ball, covering the field sideline to sideline. The two-time Pro Bowler has already intercepted Kurt Warner and broken one of Matt Hasselbeck's ribs this season, so the Rams QB had better keep one eye on him at all times. With Nate Clements finally playing up to the value of his mega-contract, the Niner secondary is playing lockdown ball. All Seattle could do against them was check down, and it took Arizona a quarter and a half just to get a ball to Fitzgerald or Boldin. The Ram receivers will be little match the way the Niner secondary is playing right now. The Rams will have to have to get the TE involved: 1, because theyíre running out of receivers, and 2, it'll help keep Manny Lawson honest on the edge of their 3-4. He and last year's team sack leader Parys Haralson will be threats from the edges. And good luck attacking the 49er run D Ė they're great at stringing out sweeps, and solid up the middle with NT Aubreyo Franklin. Conventional weapons, at least the ones in the Rams' arsenal, won't be enough to attack San Francisco next week. They're going to have to really mix up the run game, maybe run on them in dime defense situations. They'd be well-advised to run some no-huddle; that was about the only offense Arizona or Seattle could move the ball well in the first two weeks. A breath of creativity for this offense could be a breath of life.

    The Rams may catch a break, or actually a sprain, on defense as Frank Gore will be questionable at best next Sunday due to an injured ankle. The Rams could be seeing a lot of Michael Robinson instead. Gore's 200-yard day against Seattle may raise concern, but that Seahawk D was very depleted up the middle, minus Tatupu and Brandon Mebane. Robinson would have had 200, too, given those absences and the hideous safety play by Jordan Babineaux on both of Goreís long TD runs. Gore got nowhere against Arizona's run blitzes week 1, so they ran a bunch of trap plays against Seattle. If the Rams remain strong up the middle against San Francisco's improving offensive line and get good backing from safety, and can keep the Niner running game from turning the corner on them, they can play mostly eight in the box and make Shaun Hill beat them. Hill telegraphs his passes, looks like a shot-putter when he throws and is as underwhelming as any QB in the league, but at the same time, he moves their offense the best, so the job is his. Hmm. Though many of his throws would be challenged by a stiff wind, the ***** will have Hill take a shot or two deep, but the most productive receiver stands to be his favorite checkdown, Vernon Davis. Uh-oh, a TE the Rams have to cover. Getting pressure in Hill's face will be paramount, but it has been all season, and this defensive line has not rallied to the cause. Anybody interested in helping Leonard Little out?

    Many argue that the Rams-***** rivalry isn't that big a deal any more, or that the Rams would be an easy and sensible team to re-align in the future because they don't have any good rivalries in the NFC West. I think that's the Rams' recent failure in the division talking. Did baseball's Dodgers and Giants lose their rivalry, even after moving clear across the country? Not at all. The Rams and ***** have been going at it for over 50 years. This year's Rams will meet them twice, just like Marshall Faulk's Rams did, just like Chuck Knox's did, just like Eric Dickerson's did, just like Jackie Slater's did. Just like Deacon Jones' Rams did. Is it a great rivalry right now? Maybe not. But it is time-honored. It can't hurt to get the team up for the sake of the rivalry and see what happens, can it?

    --Mike
    Game stats from nfl.com

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  • MFranke
    RamView, 10/4/2009: ***** 35, Rams 0 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, October 4, 2009
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Game #4: ***** 35, Rams 0

    Erasing any doubt they are the NFL's worst team, the epically inept Ram offense and bumbling special teams handed the ***** THREE touchdowns today en route to a truly embarrassing loss, extending the franchise's losing streaks to 14 overall, 12 in the NFC West. Even the SCLSU Mud Dogs never looked this bad.

    * QB: That crashing sound you heard was the Kyle Boller bandwagon going into a ditch, after a Rams season-low 13-24-108 today for a 48.6 passer rating. It wasn't for lack of a good start. He beat a blitz and hit Donnie Avery for 21, and later hit Daniel Fells for 18, to set up a FG attempt in the 1st. His best play of the day may have been a 3rd-and-5 throw to Randy McMichael late in the 1st half. Ray McDonald had jumped offside and was bearing down on him, but a very composed Boller hit the TE for 8 and the first down across midfield. Boller deserves credit for hanging in tough and taking quite a few shots. One thing that hurt his game today was that the ***** shut down his scrambling lanes. And Boller suffered from plenty of what's been sinking the Ram offense all season. He got little help from his offensive line or the running game. Decent offensive gains were erased by penalties. There's nothing Boller could do about special teams gaffes or crappy play-calling or lousy blitz pickups. And it's doubtful he could have done anyfthing about Patrick Willis' two perfectly-timed blitzes for sacks. Other downs saw him with sufficient time to throw, but lack of an open receiver led to a throwaway. Pressing to make a play despite these problems in the 3rd, Boller committed a grave error. Rolling right, he committed the cardinal sin of throwing back across his body and back to the middle of the field. Thinking he had Keenan Burton open, Boller hit Willis instead, for a 49er pick-six that broke open the dam, 21-0. Possibly Burton should have done a better job coming to the ball, but that's a throw a QB of Boller's experience should be smarter than to try. Though Boller may have been the problem on that play, it's hard to argue he was the main problem with the Ram offense today. He made most of the plays that were there for him to make. There just weren't that many to make. It doesn't matter much if it's him, or Marc Bulger, or Keith Null, or Brock Berlin, or Norm van Brocklin, who takes snaps for this offense right now. It doesn't look equipped or even designed to do anything other than blow up on the launching pad.

    * RB: Ineffective day for Steven Jackson, 23-79 rushing, just 3-6 receiving, with a third of his rushing yards coming after the ***** were already up 35-0. Jackson got some decent run blocking in the first half. Opening play of the game, Randy McMichael and Mike Karney give him a massive gap on the right side, but he canít hit it and only gains a yard. A variety of Jacksonís...
    -10-05-2009, 02:28 PM
  • MFranke
    RamView, 10/12/2009: Vikings 38, Rams 10 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, October 11, 2009
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions from the game.)
    Game #5: Vikings 38, Rams 10

    The baseball Cardinals bowed out of postseason after an abysmal lack of production in scoring opportunities, and today, the Rams topped that. Three turnovers inside the 10 were their undoing in a loss to the Vikings that should have been a lot closer. St. Louis has a bad sports hangover right now, and more hair of the dog isn't helping any.

    * QB: If Kyle Boller (20-31-209) could wave a magic wand and change a handful of plays, he would have won the starting job for the rest of the season today. One play he'd like to forget was his pratfall that turned the Rams' opening possession into a Vikings TD. He motioned to dump a screen pass over a madly-charging Kevin Williams' head and lost the ball on the way up in classic Football Follies fashion. And, of course, with the Rams' luck this year, the ball went to Jared Allen on a clean bounce, and he scooped and ran for a 52-yard TD. Boller perservered, though. He led the Rams on a 93-yard, 7Ĺ-minute drive that started late in the 1st quarter. A 62-yard drive got the Rams inside the 10 late in the half. Boller led a 15-play, 72-yard, 6-minute drive late in the 3rd. From all that, you'd think the Rams would have come away with a lot of points. Plus, Boller had the screen pass working, was finding his tight ends, and was even getting the ball downfield successfully and stretching the defense. He did miss one big chance to make a play. 3rd-and-2 at the Viking 16 during the first drive, he rolls right and tucks and scrambles for a yard, missing Avery breaking open in the corner of the end zone on that side. Much of the time, though, the Rams looked opportunity right in the eye, and opportunity poked them the eye Three Stooges-style. The 1st-quarter drive ended when Boller and Steven Jackson blew a handoff at the one-yard line and Allen (again) recovered the fumble. Boller hit Daniel Fells at the 3 just before halftime only to see the young TE lose the ball. After nearly getting his head ripped off by Kevin Williams during the 3rd-quarter drive, Boller toughly hung in to finish it out. But Bennie Sapp made two plays to deny the Rams TDs. He broke up what would have been a 44-yard TD bomb to Keenan Burton down the sideline, and a few plays later, broke up what would have been a 9-yard TD pass to Donnie Avery. Boller's throws were perfect; sometimes, the defense just makes a play. But after that, Tyrell Johnson picked Boller off in a crowd in the end zone. Likely still feeling the effects of Williams' personal foul, Boller was done for the day. That brought Marc Bulger back to the field, and he put up impressive numbers in the 4th - 7-for-7 for 88 yards and a TD Ė though against a Minnesota D playing much softer than they were in Boller's three quarters, as their multi-touchdown lead dictated. Avery came back for an intentionally-underthrown 27-yard pass...
    -10-12-2009, 11:36 AM
  • MFranke
    RamView, 11/29/2009: Seahawks 27, Rams 17 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, November 29, 2009
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions on and from the game.)
    Game #11: Seahawks 27, Rams 17

    Bland, play-it-safe, joyless, unentertaining football ruled on the Rams sideline again today as they dropped their TENTH straight to the mediocre-long-ago Seahawks. The Rams are the German food of the NFL. Ach.

    * QB: Kyle Boller's numbers, (28-46-282), especially the JeMarcusian 67.5 passer rating, may look better than they were in context, the context being he was running for his life all day. He kept the Rams in it for a while. The big difference between Boller and Marc Bulger is Boller's mobility, of course. With Seattle blitzing almost every play, Bulger would have left this game in worse shape than Tiger Woods' SUV. Boller was able to escape some of the rush, and his mobility helped get the Ram offense into a good rhythm at times. He started the game hitting Randy McMichael for 12 on a rollout and the Rams rolled right into scoring position early. (And didn't score.) His TD pass to Donnie Avery was off a bootleg. Boller made some good reads, especially in finding Ruvell Martin (!) wide open a couple of times for big gains. He didn't make enough, though, and might fairly have avoided three of the four sacks he took. Jordan Babineaux and Patrick Kerney got to him to kill a drive in the 1st because he held the ball too long. Babineaux was a delayed blitzer; you can't let that guy get to you. He scrambled for no gain late in the 2nd after missing Danny Amendola open on a shallow cross, though that drive still ended in a FG. The Rams' initial drive of the 2nd half ended in a huge loss on a rollout where Boller couldn't find a man, though he could have had McMichael breaking open late with a pretty tough throw. Boller's accuracy wasn't consistent; he missed some open opportunities with high balls or one-hoppers. But the worst part of Boller's game continues to be the crushing turnovers. Seattle took a 14-7 lead late in the 1st half on Justin Wilson's 65-yard return of a pass tipped by Kelly Jennings. Boller really couldn't win on this play. He forced an outside pass for Donnie Avery into double-coverage, but what was he going to do? It was fourth down. Jennings made a fine play (as long as it wasn't a penalty) on the ball and Wilson cashed in a lucky bounce. Boller's 2nd INT seemed a lot more preventable, though just as painful, coming in the end zone with the Rams still down 14-10. He rushed and back-footed a throw for Amendola that's a TD if he leads the receiver, but the pass was woefully underthrown and almost fair-caught by (again) Babineaux. Seattle turned that into a FG and eventually surged into a 17-point lead, called off the dogs and let Boller rack up some cosmetic yards, including a 16-yard near-TD scramble late in the game. Boller's a gamer, for sure, and seems to give the offense a shot of energy when he's in there. And he had to overcome some regression from the...
    -11-30-2009, 01:34 PM
  • MFranke
    RamView, 12/6/2009: Bears 17, Rams 9 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, December 6, 2009
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Game #12: Bears 17, Rams 9

    One day the Rams' growing pains will give way to growth, but not today. In their loss at Chicago, the offense even appeared to shrink, if that's possible. It's a team in need of a dose of Miracle-Gro. And players. Maybe even coaches.

    * QB: I hope Kyle Boller (17-32-113, 48.0 rating) didn't waste a lot of time warming up before today's game. The game plan barely asked him to make any throws exceeding ten yards. But Boller couldn't avoid a disaster of a game even with the strategic safety belt locked tightly around the Ram offense. He looked a lot like Marc Bulger did early in the season, a man in desperate need of an open receiver but getting little help downfield. Boller and the Ram offense were not exactly clutch on 3rd downs, which they converted successfully only twice in 14 tries. I have Boller for 3-of-7 on 3rd down for 11 yards, with 3 sacks. Putrid. And like Bulger early this season, Boller didn't get a lot of help from his offensive line. The Bears took away Boller's mobility, giving him nowhere to scramble and sniffing out the Rams' bootleg plays like they were with him in the huddle. So just about any time Boller dropped back, he could expect pressure from the Bears but not much of anyone to throw to or anywhere to scramble. Nope, not a formula for raging success for Kyle (or any other QB). He did help put together a successful FG drive before halftime with a couple of completions to Brandon Gibson for 30 yards, but Boller was never going to have enough to beat the Bears today. He wasn't going to beat them with accuracy. He missed some open opportunities, most notably a rare long pass for Donnie Avery late in the first that he put too much air under, allowing the safety to come in late and nudge it away with his fingertips. Boller wasn't going to outsmart Chicago, either. The game plan didn't give him the material. No pump fakes; Hunter Hillenmeyer just read his eyes to pick him off late in the game. And very little play-action, which Boller didn't really sell well the few times it was tried, except on one successful Avery end-around. You know something? Keith Null showed he has a pretty sweet play-fake back in August. Just saying.

    * RB: Whatever way you personally define what a hero is, Steven Jackson's (28-112) performing acts of athletic heroism, isn't he? Defenses put 8 and 9 in the box to stop him, his coaches make him easier to stop by making it obvious that he's getting the ball, and still he carried the Ram offense on his aching back. Jackson was still difficult to stop in the first half, in which he ran for 75 yards, slamming the Bear line over and over for 5 yards, 6 yards, 8 yards. His change of direction looked good this week, whether slaloming through the middle or bouncing a run outside. Sometimes he didn't need to change directions. He helped set up...
    -12-07-2009, 12:25 PM
  • MFranke
    RamView, 1/3/2010: ***** 28, Rams 6 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, January 3, 2010
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions on and from the game.)
    Game #16: ***** 28, Rams 6

    The Rams began the decade as kings of the NFL but ended it the lowest of the low, capping off the worst three-year run in NFL history with another lackluster loss to another division rival. Rags to riches to rags. Dirty, smelly rags.

    * QB: It was a day for Keith Null (7-17-57 yards, 50.4 rating) to forget, and thanks to a partial concussion suffered after getting battered for two-quarters-plus, he may not remember this game by the time he gets up Monday morning. And he won't want to, though the really scary thing is, I think Null did about everything he could do today. He didn't commit a turnover despite relentless 49er pressure. He scrambled (or tried) a few times after a few games of being glued to the pocket. He took charge at the line of scrimmage with audibles and did his best to keep the ***** off balance with hard counts. Null's game is still progressing. Unfortunately, though, if I may try to read Null's mind, the day went a lot like this: ďOK, drop back... first option, not open... second option, he's not open, either... third option... GAAAH!Ē The ***** stopped Steven Jackson and Null didn't get any help from his receivers or much from his offensive line. He earns the blame for only one of the FIVE times he was sacked (and don't forget his scrambling saved a couple more). He only took about a 3-step drop during a screen play in the 3rd, and when the line turned Justin Smith loose, he was already practically in Null's lap. Deep drop on the screen, rook. Unfortunately, Smith's hit knocked Null out of the game and brought back the uninspiring Kyle Boller (4-11-23, 44.9 rating) one last time. Boller missed a couple of rare open receivers, though in his defense he was also under siege just about every play. Poor blitz recognition was Boller's downfall. Jackson ran smack into a blitz for a five-yard loss in the 3rd and immediately turned around after the play and chewed Boller out. A veteran QB's got to recognize that coming and check to something else. Boller missed it again late in the 4th when Dashon Goldson blitzed in for the SEVENTH of San Francisco's EIGHT sacks. Boller came in cold, and also avoided committing a turnover, but comparing how the veteran handled the 49er pass rush today to how the rookie did, I can't make much of a case for keeping Null behind Boller any more, or, to shorten the sentence, keeping Boller any more. The Rams didn't gain anything with him on the field this season in any capacity.

    * RB: Despite a very quiet afternoon, Steven Jackson (20-63) ended the season the leading rusher in the NFC and with a richly-deserved Pro Bowl berth. Jackson was able to get outside around right end a couple of times for nice gains and got a couple of decent gains off Randy McMichael blocks, but the ***** dominated the line of scrimmage and Steven usually...
    -01-04-2010, 01:35 PM
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