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RamView, 10/18/2009: Jaguars 23, Rams 20 (OT) (Long)

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  • RamView, 10/18/2009: Jaguars 23, Rams 20 (OT) (Long)

    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 with the screen pass. He kept the first Ram TD drive alive on 3rd-and-8, taking a screen 19 yards and running over a DB after getting a big block from Richie Incognito. He powered most of the Rams’ FG drive late in the 2nd, with a couple of 9-yard runs off the left side and a 7-yard run behind Mike Karney up the middle. The Karney-Jackson combo was successful several times. Jackson started the 3rd quarter powering right up the middle for 15. Unfortunately, it would be another lost 3rd quarter for him from there. He only had three carries for minus-1 and two incompletions between that run and the 1:49 mark of the 4th quarter, when he made the Rams’ offensive play of the day. Off play-action at the Rams 22, he got another block from Incognito, and with at least three Jagwires whiffing along the way, rumbled off for 38 yards, dragging four defenders the last five yards. Efforts like that made it a real shame the Rams could only tie the game in regulation. Jackson ran hard against a Jagwire D stacked up to stop him all day. He was dangerous as a receiver. He even picked blitzes up well today. The guy’s just about doing it all. And getting nothing to show for it.

    * Receivers: Is it time to wonder what Donnie Avery (1-17) is ever going to amount to? Shortly after beating two Jagwires in the corner of the end zone and making a nice catch for the Rams’ first TD, he left the game, injured AGAIN (hip-related), and the line of scrimmage became a black hole from which the Ram passing game could or would not escape. The injury made Keenan Burton (5-37) the ersatz #1, but after a fast start, he did nothing, with just one catch for two yards in the 2nd half. Danny Amendola (3-25) had a couple of shots to convert 3rd downs but Bulger’s throws appeared to pull him in short of the mark. He did convert a 3rd-and-5 to extend the game-tying FG drive. Randy McMichael (3-32) turned a couple of short passes into 10-yard-plus first downs; maybe the Rams should have looked his way more. Daniel Fells (2-11) got clocked the first time Bulger threw his way and wasn’t much of a factor. Tim Carter (0-0), who’d been back about three days after originally being cut in training camp, was thrust into action but got hurt himself, leaving Burton and Amendola the Rams’ ONLY healthy WRs at times. Injuries don’t help, but save the Laurent Robinson signing, the Rams haven’t made a good decision at the position since drafting Kevin Curtis in 2003. This year’s decision to woefully understaff the position is certainly included.

    * Offensive line: The offensive line wasn’t outplayed today as much as it was outnumbered. When the defense can load up the box with impunity, the linemen simply can’t pick up everybody, and so Jackson fell often to slashing LBs and DBs. Strictly line-vs.-line, the Rams held up all right. Surprised by Derrick Harvey dropping back in coverage during the opening drive, Bulger held the ball and was sacked after Atiyyah Ellison beat Jacob Bell AND put Alex Barron ON HIS ASS, but that was the only time Bulger was taken down, and he had great protection for stretches. And right after that sack, a great block out front by Richie Incognito sprung a Jackson screen for 19 and a first down anyway. Run blocking was up and down. Barron set the edge nicely for a 9-yard sweep left late in the 2nd but drew a false start in the 1st. Jackson ran behind Mike Karney for 9 and 7 during the Rams’ first-half FG drive and also got a nice block from Bell on that first run. Then again, he got dropped for -3 inside the 2:00 warning after Randy McMichael got no block on Clint Ingram at all. The Rams opened the 2nd half on offense with a 15-yard run for Jackson up the middle, with big blocks by Jason Brown, Incognito and Karney. Two plays later, Bell gets beaten badly on the backside and Jackson can only gain 1 after spinning out of a big loss. I didn’t keep careful track but it looked like Adam Goldberg and Jason Smith switched in and out at RT. Smith looked good run-blocking, but on the Rams’ final 3-and-out, both he and Barron got eaten alive on a Jackson run that lost three. Ingram then bulled Barron right back into Bulger to foul up a screen pass the next play. The Rams did get back to tie the game after the big 38-yard screen to Jackson, sprung by a decent block again by Incognito. Richie had a good game. Smith and Jason Brown I’d say were ok. Bell and Barron I’d call inconsistent. You’d have liked line play to be a little better, but you’d also have liked Jacksonville not to have stacked the line of scrimmage all day, either.

    * Defensive line / LB: The Ram defense played with a lot of heart but couldn’t have had a lot of lung left after spending most of the 2nd half and all of OT on the field. It’s no wonder they had trouble stopping the Jagwires late. Unfortunately, though, they didn’t really stop them early, either. They sacked David Garrard three times but still gave him far too much time to throw. The 4-man rush rarely got there – Chris Long’s presence in the Ram defense was barely a rumor – and the Rams blitzed a lot and it didn’t get there a lot. The 41-yard bomb to Torry Holt beat a blitz, and Maurice Jones-Drew ran through Bradley Fletcher the next play for the first of three TDs. The Rams were terrible on 3rd down, stopping only 5 of 16 chances. Garrard scrambled through the gaping lane Leonard Little left for 9 on 3rd-and-8 at the end of the 1st. Good news, though; Ron Bartell forced a Jones-Drew fumble the next play. The D really asserted itself the next drive. Cliff Ryan came in unblocked to drop Jones-Drew for minus-3. James Hall followed with a MANLY play, going right through Eugene Monroe and grabbing Garrard for the Rams’ first sack. Little then discarded Eben Britton with ease and sacked Garrard again to end the drive. Ryan got a sack early in the 3rd thanks to LaJuan (WHO?) Ramsey collapsing the pocket single-handedly, and a blitzing Fletcher hit Garrard on 3rd down to end the drive. The Rams still held a 10-6 lead, and were looking solid, but the offense kept coming straight off the field. The Jagwires had the ball at least 20 minutes of the 2nd half and wore the Rams down. Another big factor was an injury that put Hall out of the game. C.J. Ah You was nowhere near as staunch against the run, which the Jags exploited. Ah You did make a big play at the end of the 3rd. With Garrard getting simply all day to throw by this point, Ah You tipped a red-zone pass at the line for an INT by James Laurinaitis. But the offense put the defense right back out there, and now they really started getting gashed. Garrard faked Ryan out of his jock and ran through Little’s vacated area for an 11-yard scramble. Then the killer blow, a Jones-Drew 26-yard draw down to the three. The entire d-line was pushed right and destroyed. Six Rams screwed tackles on the play, including a near-horse collar by Laurinaitis that Jones-Drew ran through. On 3rd-and-goal, Jones-Drew bounced off Larry Grant and through Ah You’s spot – he had been driven nearly all the way to the center – to give Jacksonville a 13-10 lead. The offense 3-and-outed AGAIN, though, and the Rams looked dead, if not for a moment of brilliance by Little. He stepped out on an intended screen pass for Greg Jones, plucked the ball from the receiver’s hands, sprinted 30 yards down to the 5 and DIVED for the pylon for the TD and a 17-13 lead. Sadly, that momentum wasn’t enough to energize another stop. Garrard scrambled for 13 through a lane left this time by Long. Jones-Drew swept right for 18 with DBs missing tackles and Ah You getting dominated by a TE. An unhurried Garrard hit Mike Sims-Walker for 26. Jones-Drew beat a zone blitz, and Little in coverage, on a 13-yard screen down to the 10, and he and his o-line just overpowered the Rams on their way to a go-ahead TD. The game was probably in effect over when the Rams lost the overtime coin toss. Two plays into OT, the Rams lost Bartell AND Will Witherspoon to injuries. Garrard hit Sims-Walker for 22 to get the Jags close, and Jones-Drew continued to overpower the Rams’ right side for another 20 yards to make Josh Scobee’s game-winning FG a chippie. The D was certainly gassed by the end of the game, but could too have helped itself out with more consistent play earlier in the game, especially pressure on Garrard. They played with great heart, but could be said to have expired today due to arrhythmia.

    * Secondary: In a disappointing season, I don’t know that there’s been a more disappointing Rams player than Ron Bartell. Bartell was Torry Holt’s (5-101) bee-yotch today, as the future Hall-of-Famer chalked up his first 100-yard game since 2007. Holt turned Bartell inside out on a 41-yard catch in the first like it was training camp 2005 all over again and Bartell was a rank rookie. Holt also drew two (legit) DPIs off of Bartell, including one on a two-yard slant on 2nd-and-10 that had me screaming to put someone else on Torry. For the love of Taje Allen, just let him catch that! Well, it was hardly a banner day for any of the Ram secondary. Mike Sims-Walker (9-120) burned Craig Dahl and O.J. Atogwe for 35 before Bartell redeemed himself (a little) by forcing a Jones-Drew fumble to start the 2nd. Soft zone coverage was ineffective all day. Sims-Walker got the Jagwires in (very long) FG position right before halftime with a 22-yard catch – how can you let that happen? As much as poor offense kept putting the defense back on the field, the secondary didn’t help them get off quickly. A six-minute Jagwire drive in the 3rd should have been stopped earlier, but Dahl dropped an interception, Bartell and Jonathan Wade committed DPIs real and imagined, and Wade was 10 yards off Mike Thomas on a 3rd-and-4 completion. Quincy Butler (!) finally ended the drive by breaking up a pass to Sims-Walker. But Sims-Walker broke wide open underneath the too-soft zone for 26 on the last Jagwire TD drive, and he did it again on a 3rd-and-6 in OT, all but sealing the Rams’ doom. 335 yards passing by David Gerrard? TWO 100-yard Jacksonville receivers? Terrible game by the Ram secondary today. Terrible.

    * Special teams: Surprisingly strong day for Josh Brown, who hit a 52-yarder I was certain he’d miss just before halftime, and the 27-yard game-tying FG with :07 left in the game. Most of his kickoffs boomed deep into the end zone, too, which makes Donnie Jones’ poor day even more puzzling. Jones shanked punts all day for a pedestrian 41.8 average and can kiss the Pro Bowl good-bye, missing several opportunities to pin the Jagwires back with even-decent punts. The broadcast blamed a swirling wind. Enough to take almost ten yards off a guy’s punts? Amendola had a 57-yard return, getting good blocks in the “wedge” area (and some Jagwires out of their lanes) and picking up a block downfield by Billy Bajema. But Jones was a big impediment today in the Rams’ battle for field position.

    * Coaching: It's certainly fair to wonder whether the Rams could have safely taken another shot at the end zone with seven seconds left in regulation, especially with a timeout in hand. For those who believe so, what play do you call? The previous play took 8 seconds. If Bulger gets flushed again, game's over. If you're throwing a fade pass into the end zone, who's the receiver? McMichael maybe? Maybe run what the Titans tried at the end of Super Bowl 34 and hit Burton on a slant? I’m fine with the FG because I just don’t know that they would have had a successful play to run for the TD. And you’ve got to rely on the hometown timekeeper not to have an itchy trigger finger. In full hindsight, that last TO probably should have come after McMichael's catch with 0:23 left. A couple of other game-management issues can probably be chalked up to Steve Spagnuolo being a rookie coach. Why freeze Josh Scobey before the 58-yard attempt at the end of the first half? Wouldn't you rather have him rush that try? It looked like Jagwire HC Jack del Rio really got away with pushing the officials around, browbeating them into more than his fair share of calls. I'd like to have seen Spagnuolo bow up more against that kind of stuff. Without the other guy fighting back, veteran coaches like del Rio are going to run roughshod over the referees all day.

    It looked like Pat Shurmur's play-calling got off to a good start. The opening drive was the Rams' best drive of the season. The offense looked nicely balanced and the no-huddle kept the Jagwires on their heels. Once Avery was gone for the game, though, the passing game went back into the shell it's been in all season. And the offense’s second-half woes continued. After an initial first down, they didn’t get another until the final 2:00 of regulation. They essentially three-and-outed the entire half. Shurmur tried to get the ball in Jackson’s hands each possession, but there was nothing to discourage the Jagwires from putting everyone in the box to stop him. The Rams’ longest completion the first 28:00 of the second half was seven yards. Bulger had one attempt longer than ten yards. Instead of stretching the field, Shurmur wrapped it up tight and put a double rubber band around it. I know he was down to Amendola and Burton at WR for a while, but what, neither of them can run a 15-yard route? The tight ends can only catch 4-yard passes in the flat? The Rams have no way to get an RB downfield for a pass? Did Shurmur know he was up against the worst pass defense in the league? As much as I want to cut Shurmur some slack for the injuries at WR, an offense relying heavily on Donnie Avery remaining healthy probably isn’t operating on the right premise.

    * Upon further review: I've never been a Jeff Triplette fan and today did nothing to change my mind. Some of the DPI calls were horrendous, coming WELL after the play was over, and with heavy lobbying from the Jagwire sideline. Wade's play in the 3rd was no DPI – he was within five yards and released contact before the pass was thrown. Laurinaitis didn't interfere with Jones-Drew in the 4th, either. There is no faceguarding penalty in the NFL; James was guilty of nothing except good coverage. I wouldn't be complaining if he were still a Ram like he should be, but the sideline “catch” by Holt late in the 3rd was completely a reputation-based call. Torry can make that catch. Has many times before. DIDN'T THIS TIME. He had a toe out of bounds and the ball was still moving in his outstretched hands. What was Triplette watching on the replay monitor after the Rams challenged? Playboy After Dark? The fumble called on Garrard in the 3rd was also an awful call. How did the official think the ball ended up where it did if Garrard's arm wasn't in motion? Luckily, none of these questionable calls contributed to scoring drives, so I'll score Triplette and crew a D-minus and hope they don't do any other Rams games this year.

    * Cheers: I guess we're going to get a lot of Ron Pitts and John Lynch on game calls this year, huh? Like them or not, anything's better than Matt Vasgersian. Pitts was all over Donnie Jones' off-day punting like he had money on him or something. Can't remember the last time a play-by-play guy was so obsessed with a punter. Play-calling was pretty sloppy at times, especially regarding carries by Jones-Drew, who Pitts sometimes called “Jones” or “Drew” instead of using his correct name. The Jagwires have Greg Jones at RB, too; Pitts should know better than to get lazy with Jones-Drew's name in the booth. Lynch's points about Avery's absence hurting the offense were good, and he agreed some of the DPI calls were cheesy, but yes, John, I know Torry Holt wanted to get back at his old team. Lynch beat that dead horse so much that by the end of the game he was beating a bottle of glue.

    * Who’s next?: Who made up this schedule, anyway? “Let’s see, your team struggled to the second-worst record in the league last year, so, next season, we’ll schedule three of your first four games on the road, and we’ll have two of your first three home games be against possibly the two best teams in the league. We’ll make sure both those teams are undefeated when you play them, and that you’ll play one that’s on a 14-game winning streak and got a bye the week before so they’re nice and rested up for ya. Lotsa luck, Spags!”

    At least next week will give St. Louis fans the rare treat of seeing Peyton Manning in person. True, you can see him half-a-dozen times during a commercial break in any televised sports event (has Peyton ever turned down a product endorsement? Seriously, LifeLock?), but he’s well on his way to becoming the greatest QB in NFL history, if he isn’t already. His arm, accuracy and football intelligence put him in a Hall-of-Fame class by himself, and he’s succeeded despite an everchanging cast of supporting characters. Nobody makes his whole team better as much as Manning does. This year, he’s thrown for over 300 yards every game and has a passer rating of 114.1. How do you stop the guy? Hey, don’t ask me. Or Arizona (lost 31-10). Or Seattle (lost 34-17). Or Miami, who lost to Indy despite holding the ball for FORTY-FIVE minutes. If you can’t even beat Peyton by denying him the ball, what can you possibly do? I wouldn’t blitz. Peyton’s killed the blitz his whole career, and rookie RB Donald Brown has been terrific at blitz protection. Losing a man in coverage won’t be a good gamble; it won’t give Manning less time. I'd consider rushing two, double-covering Reggie Wayne and septuple-covering Dallas Clark, who I can’t see the Rams holding under 100 yards, or 2 TDs. Maybe sneak a 12th guy onto the field every now and then, see if the referees notice (Hey, they almost didn’t against Seattle!). Maybe blitz all 11, or 12, guys whenever Indy gets inside the 10. I'm almost serious about some of these ideas. It's going to take something radical for this Rams team to hold the Colts under 30 points. At the very least, bend-but-don’t break, hope you can hold them to a FG every now and then.

    Dwight Freeney has a remarkable streak for this remarkably-streaking Colts team: a sack in every game this season. He has to be one of the fastest defensive ends in NFL history, the reason he’s been able to turn his back to his blocker with his patented spin move thousands of times in his career without getting punished for it. If there’s a better 1-2 pass rush punch in the NFL than Freeney and Robert Mathis – 16.5 and 16 sacks respectively since the beginning of last season – I can’t name them. And the Colt defense that didn’t use to blitz much when Tony Dungy was head coach, likes to bring it now. The Rams are going to have their hands fuller than Nadya Suleman's babysitter. Colt defenses have been known to struggle against the run, so the Rams have a chance to run ball-control offense with Steven Jackson, if they can get promising young play-making OLB Tyjuan Hagler blocked. And the Ram passing game has to be able to sustain something against a young but underrated Colts secondary. If they didn't have enough for Jacksonville's league-worst pass defense, it's hard to see them having enough for Indianapolis.

    In the 322 years since Sir Isaac Newton discovered its laws, there may never have been a more lopsided case of momentum than the one we'll have next week. The Colts have won 14 straight. The Rams have lost 16 straight. Sure, an ant can move a rubber-tree plant, as Spagnuolo'll no doubt be whistling at Rams Park all week.

    But can a gnat stop an on-coming train?

    --Mike
    Game stats from nfl.com

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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, 10/25/2009: Colts 42, Rams 6 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, October 25, 2009
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Game #7: Colts 42, Rams 6

    Well, the Rams know what it was like to be the Japanese air force during the Godzilla movies. They knew they would have to play a perfect game today to stand a chance against the Colts, but as the final score makes plain, they were pretty much their normal 2009 selves, even as the Colts weren't really trying that hard. 17 in a row!

    * QB: Every football show you watch lately hails 2009 as the Year of the Quarterback. For Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, 2009's been a year to forget. Today's stat line was the most dreadful one yet of a season gone bad: 14-26, 140 yards, no TDs, 2 INTs (one returned for TD), passer rating 37.3, worse than if he had just thrown every pass attempt into the ground. And this includes a 50-yard bomb to Donnie Avery the Rams' first series! Indisputably, Bulger has to get better help from his receivers than he did today. There were at least four dropped passes. The opening drive fizzled into a FG after Tim Carter dropped a 2nd-down pass and had no clue where he was going on a 3rd-down end zone incompletion. Mike Karney and Kenneth Darby dropped passes the next drive. Avery topped the day off by dropping a 4th-down pass. Bulger got pretty good protection a lot of the day, but three drives were killed by sacks. You can pin a lot of Bulger's bad numbers on his receivers and maybe a little on the offensive line. The brutal passer rating, though, belongs a lot to him. In the 3rd, rookie Jacob Lacey jumped Keenan Burton's out route to pick off Bulger deep in Rams territory and ran it in for a TD to put the Colts out of reach, 28-6. CBS’ analyst said Burton didn't come back for the ball hard enough, but still – isn't that play usually the veteran DB picking off the rookie QB instead of vice versa? Why's Bulger throwing that pass into a group of Colt defenders when he's got Steven Jackson open in the middle of the field for a checkdown? Surely Bulger knows where Jackson's going to be on every play, so why's he trying to force a much more difficult pass to Burton, on first down? I understand Bulger's end zone INT in the 4th even less. No doubt, as pointed out on TV, Burton ran a terrible pattern. But why did Bulger throw to him? After he pump-faked and froze the safety, he had Randy McMichael open in the middle of the field on a post route down at the goal line. Inside shoulder throw to the TE is a TD there. Why's Bulger throwing into “crowds” on the sidelines when he has open options in the middle of the field? It's been very popular to blame the inexperienced Rams receiving corps for the team's woeful offensive performance, and that argument holds a lot of water. But I'm not sure Marc Bulger didn't cost his team 14 points today. A lot may be out of Bulger's control; he may be just the “manager” of the offense, but the Rams don't have the margin of error to absorb big mistakes...
    -10-26-2009, 12:38 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
  • MFranke
    RamView, 9/20/2009: Redskins 9, Rams 7 (Long)
    by MFranke
    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...
    -09-21-2009, 11:26 AM
  • MFranke
    RamView, 9/16/2007: ***** 17, Rams 16 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, September 16, 2007
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions from the game.)
    Game #2: ***** 17, Rams 16

    The Rams find ways to lose – crucial turnovers and a costly defensive breakdown – instead of ways to win, and suffer a hard-to-take loss to an extremely beatable 49er team. In an 0-2 hole, 0-1 in the division, after two HOME GAMES, they now stare down the barrel of four road games in five weeks, none of which they will be favored to win. A season many thought would be promising has turned very ugly in a big hurry.

    Position by position:
    * QB: It remains to be seen if Marc Bulger's numbers (24-41-368) were worth the savage beating he took. The ***** blitzed often and brought it hard, racking Marc up six times for sacks and making him pay when they didn't sack him. The fact that Bulger survived and had as effective a game as he had, despite bruised ribs that made it difficult for him to breathe, is why sportswriters use the word "warrior" and apply it to players like Marc. Marc was sacked while scrambling on the opening play, and was clobbered by Nate Clements a few plays later on a blitz Marc simply wasn't looking for. But after a 49er turnover, he fired a low laser strike between two defenders to Torry Holt. Marc unloaded many completions right before getting slammed. He found Randy McMichael for 26 with a deadly-accurate pitch right before getting plastered by Patrick Willis. That set up a FG, after Willis knocked down an end zone pass for Drew Bennett. Bulger started the next drive by wiggling out of pressure to hit Holt for 18. Two plays later, he somehow ducked a Derek Smith tackle and made a falling two-handed push pass to Steven Jackson that looked like it was out of a rugby playbook. Jackson gained 20. Continuing to throw downfield well, Bulger hit Isaac Bruce for 27, but that again set up just a FG after Manny Lawson broke up another 3rd-down try to Bennett. The Rams led 13-7 at halftime but 900-year-old Bryant Young sacked Bulger near midfield to start the 2nd half, and not protecting the ball well, Marc fumbled. The Rams dodged that bullet, and Bulger winged one to Bruce over the middle for 37 to get the next drive going. That appeared to be ending in a Holt TD, but he lost the ball, and the ***** capitalized on the turnover for a 14-13 lead. After Walt Harris ended one drive with a pass defense and a jailbreak sack ended another, Bulger hit Holt for 10 to set up a Jeff Wilkins bomb for a 16-14 lead. After an awful special teams turnover put the Rams down 17-16, 49er blitzing did the Rams in, forcing a turnover on downs. Bulger got one more chance in the final 2:00, and hit Bennett with a sideline pass across midfield, but one last sack, by Bryant Freaking Young AGAIN, pushed them back, and a sideline pass to Bruce couldn't get Wilkins close enough for late heroics. With all the yards and all the bruises, it's hard to blame Marc Bulger for today's loss. The 49er...
    -09-17-2007, 11:34 AM
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