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RamView, 12/20/2009: Texans 16, Rams 13 (Long)

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  • RamView, 12/20/2009: Texans 16, Rams 13 (Long)

    RamView, December 20, 2009
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions on and from the game.)
    Game #14: Texans 16, Rams 13

    There once was a team from St. Lou / That was hit with a case of swine flu / After a week's worth of vexin' / They got beat by the Texans / But they'll get to draft Ndamukong Suh.

    * QB: If you were to argue that Keith Null (18-27-173, 81.2 rating) lost the game today, I'd have a hard time refuting it, due to two costly turnovers. After the defense turned Houston over in the 1st, Null led the offense's opening possession across midfield before dropping a snap from center, which blew the timing of a scheduled handoff to Steven Jackson. Null still tried the handoff, but Jackson didn't look ready for it anymore, and Mario Williams recovered the gaffe to set up a Houston FG. Many areas of Null's game are developing, but one that regressed was the simple exchange from center, as he put two or three snaps on the ground today. That's an issue Null had better get a grip on quickly. Null's other huge error was an interception early in the 3rd. Coming as it did from the Houston 25, it cost the Rams at least 3 points, and the Texans would score 7 for themselves off the turnover. Trying to avoid a sack from Antonio Smith, Null fired while going down and was picked off by Dominique Barber. With experience, Null will learn that eating that ball would have been better there. I won't rip Null for those plays like I would if Marc Bulger or Kyle Boller committed them, because those two veterans should know better and execute better. And Null's just trying to make a play both times. He's trying to get the ball in Jackson's hands on the fumble, certainly a good thought. He appeared to have Ruvell Martin open on the INT; he just needed to remember at that moment that he isn't Brett Favre. Null continues to hang tough in the pocket. He'll stand back and make throws at times where you'd see Bulger cringing for impact, or Boller scrambling off with unpredictable, mostly not good, results. Null's got the team behind him. You can see he cares out there. The defense sees it, too. They were all tapping Null on the helmet, promising to pick him up after the INT. (They didn't.) The coaches' confidence in Null has already increased. He got to try a couple of long balls; one barely too long, one pretty underthrown. They had him throwing on 4th-and-1 in Ram territory right before the INT. Null hasn't developed killer rapport with one receiver yet, but he's hit nine different guys in both of his starts so far. One INT today is certainly an improvement over last week's five. I didn't see all the double-clutching he did last week, either. A lot of what's good about Null's game comes because he gets the ball out quickly. He's accurate on the short stuff. He can get throws off with a man in his face. The offense had good rhythm a lot of the day. There was just one 3-and-out, the inevitable Ram post-halftime fizzle. Null's head is always in the game. He set up the 3rd-quarter tying FG with an 18-yard completion to Brandon Gibson and a 20-yarder to Randy McMichael, a play he audibled to. Keith Null may not be NFL starter-quality yet, but he's progressing. He's passed Boller on the depth chart, mine anyway, and ought to get the Rams' last two starts. He's done enough right in two starts to transform whatever the Rams have been planning at QB next year, because that plan certainly ought to include him by now.

    * RB: We've known Steven Jackson (20-82, 4-41 receiving) to be a fighter all season long, but he took it literally today, duking it out with safety Bernard Pollard in the 4th after one cheap shot too many. Jackson scored the takedown, too, so under hockey fighting rules, Steven won the fight. Trying to run up the middle was a losing fight for Jackson, though, so his success today came from bouncing the run outside or getting the ball in space. The Rams surprised everybody on 4th-and-1 in the 1st with a swing pass to Jackson, which he took up the sideline for 16. He bounced a run outside right for 35 in the 2nd, largely because Pollard committed too far inside. That run set up a FG, and a couple of runs late in the half got the Rams inside the 10 for Danny Amendola's TD. With Jackson sidelined after the fight to have a cut lip tended to, Kenneth Darby (3-5) converted a couple of third-and-shorts. Jackson sparked the Rams' last drive by weaving with a screen pass for 25 out to midfield. Another well-drawn-up, well-executed play, coming off a fake end-around and with key downfield blocks by Jason Brown and John Greco. Houston's one of the league's best run defenses, and they keyed on Jackson all day like everybody else in the league, but despite that, despite getting his helmet ripped off a bunch of times, despite Pollard's cheap shots, despite a bad back, despite either the swine or kosher variety of the flu, he rolled up 120 yards of offense and had his team in the game the whole way. Send that man to the Pro Bowl.

    * Receivers: Ram receivers continue to have minimal impact. Danny Amendola (2-7) did have a TD. From trips right formation at the Houston 2 in the 2nd, he slanted right, then spun on a dime and slanted left into the end zone, leaving Dunta Robinson far behind for Null's TD pass. Nice play and play-call. Donnie Avery (4-32) led the WRs in receptions but had a drop and is really fighting the ball right now. Failure to catch a ball cleanly at the 4 late in the 1st half likely cost him a TD, but Avery did keep the drive alive for Amendola's TD. Brandon Gibson's (2-26) 18-yard play converted a 3rd down in the 3rd, followed immediately by Randy McMichael's only catch, a 20-yarder with a dangerous, hurdling finish that set up a long, game-tying FG. Ruvell Martin (1-23) turned a short pass into a big gainer to give the Rams some early momentum and threw a nice block on a smoke pass to Amendola. Martin appears to have some game but also appears still to be the 4th WR in an offense that doesn't go 4-wide very often. Null tried to go deep to Avery and Gibson. A bomb to Avery up the far sideline was close but long by a step or two. Avery came close to making a diving end zone catch in the 2nd but Null's throw was too far out of bounds and the Rams settled for a FG. A lot of coming close, not enough plays being made.

    * Offensive line: Decent effort for an offensive line playing with two new starting guards, a tackle playing out of position and a center coming off a case of swine flu. Null was sacked three times, but none by Mario Williams, against whom Adam Goldberg had a respectable day. Houston did shuffle their line a lot, so it was Antonio Smith who beat Goldberg and pressured Null into the critical INT in the 3rd. Houston killed two Ram 4th-quarter drives with big sacks. Connor Barwin stormed up the middle unblocked on a stunt to drill Null with about 9:00 left. That was a slow-developing rush and all the Rams' middle blockers were tied up; I think the sack's on Null for not getting rid of the ball or fleeing the pocket sooner. Null had no chance to elude Smith on the sack that ended the Rams' final possession, though. Smith split Jason Brown and Mark Setterstrom with a bull-rush and about broke Null in half. The other sack was a big blitz in the first where both blitzers came at Jackson and he couldn't possibly block both. Williams was a factor, recovering the blown handoff in the first, largely as a result of Alex Barron failing to block him AT ALL. Just because the play's going to the right doesn't mean you don't block, Barron. Hopefully we're only going to have to put up with another two weeks of Barron pulling this crap in a Rams uniform. Goldberg seemed the best blocker today. Besides keeping Williams fairly quiet, his pull block helped Jackson get a nice gain early in the 3rd. All of Jackson's big gains rushing and receiving came to Goldberg's side, though a good share of that was Jackson bouncing stuffed middle runs outside and doing all the work himself. The Rams couldn't do much up the middle today. Greco at RG impresses me as the hardest of the interior linemen to budge, and there's plenty of value just in that. Did the Rams miss Richie Incognito today? Let's see. The Ram offensive line committed no penalties, while up in Buffalo, Incognito committed 3 for 30 yards. Even if they took a small step backward today, and pass pro was good enough to suggest they really didn't, this line's going to come together more quickly than it has with the big knucklehead as a constant distraction anyway. Richie: good luck, but good riddance.

    * Defensive line / LB: The Rams were impressive against the run (55 yards by Houston RBs) but once again didn't leave much of an impression in pass rush, with a bunch of close-but-no-cigar efforts. After Houston converted an early 4th-and-1 in Rams territory, Paris Lenon knocked the ball away from Arian Foster to force a turnover. Darell Scott FLEW in from a good 20 yards away to claim the loose ball for St. Louis. That pair weighed in again after Andre Johnson's 49-yard catch, one of several big plays made possible today by the entire Ram defense getting completely fooled by play-action. Scott stuffed a run, though, and Lenon broke up a pass, to limit Houston's damage to a 2nd FG. The Rams shut Houston down the drive before thanks to a run stuff by James Butler and a couple by Leger (DOOZER) Douzable. Craig Dahl stopped a pass short of the marker late in the first half to force a Kris Brown 52-yard FG attempt that DOINKed off the upright. Dahl started the 3rd quarter by recovering a Matt Schaub fumble on a failed QB sneak. Run defense was solid. Scott, DOOZER and Cliff Ryan were terrific up the middle with a bunch of stuffs. Chris Long even held the edge well this week. The worst of it came when they couldn't stop Ryan Moats from getting a first down on three carries and sealing the game right before the 2:00 warning. He broke the Rams' backs with a tackle-breaking 7-yard run on first down. But maybe it doesn't get that far, if the Rams had sacked Matt Schaub at all. A big problem is the whole defense's rookie-like tendency to bite on play-action. The two longest plays to Johnson and Schaub's TD pass were all bootlegs right off play-fakes left, and Schaub had all day to throw all three of them because the Rams were so faked out. Another big problem was Leonard Little's absence. Long played mostly LDE in his place, and at least three times was a step from taking Schaub out for a huge loss. Instead, each time, Schaub hit a receiver for a first down. James Hall had an awesome sequence in the first half. He defended a deep pass over the middle, was in on a run stuff on 2nd down and drew a holding penalty on 3rd down. Unfortunately, all his plays for the day seemed to be confined to that sequence. The Rams pressured Schaub pretty well but are killing themselves by rarely finishing a good rush off with a sack. They've had none the last two weeks, and just 20 this season, good for a woeful 30th in the NFL. Sometime during a game you have to put the opponent in a long-yardage situation. The best way is to sack the QB. The Rams have to do better than this. There are new coaches and highly-drafted players here meant to address this problem. Yet it's a worse problem now than ever.

    * Secondary: Any team that faces Andre Johnson knows he's going to make some plays. The idea is to limit the damage he does. But the Ram secondary failed at that decisively, yielding 9 catches and 196 yards to the league's best wideout. Johnson burned Ron Bartell one-on-one deep for 38 in the 1st to set up Houston's 1st FG. With the whole Ram defense biting HARD on play-action, he got behind James Butler and Craig Dahl AND Justin King for 49 to set up Houston's 2nd FG in the 2nd. The Rams kept Johnson modesty quiet enough to tie the game at 13 before he went beserk on them in the 4th. From the Houston 14, he ran what appeared to be the deepest comeback route in NFL history for a 30-yard gain. King laid ten yards off him in the slot off the snap and back-pedaled the whole time. Dahl got caught inside in deep zone coverage the next play, and Johnson slashed the Rams with a cross-field run, and catch, and run, that netted 44. Houston's most lethal weapon put them in range for the game-winning FG nearly single-handedly. Kevin Walter turned Bartell inside-out with a route very similar to the one Amendola scored on to score Houston's only TD. That pass was set up by TE Joel Dreessen's 22-yard catch-and-run that would have been a 4-yard catch had Danny Gorrer, in his first, and likely last, action in the Ram secondary, not failed completely on his tackle by failing to wrap up the receiver in any way whatsoever. A most idiotic-looking effort. Dahl had a nice play in the end zone, rocking Johnson to break up a TD pass that Bartell admittedly had covered well (he even TURNED FOR THE BALL!). King looked very good covering short routes, even stopping Johnson short to force that first FG. But Matt Schaub still threw for 367 yards, with Andre Johnson single-handedly outclassing the Ram secondary.

    * Special teams: How weird is it to have good special teams week in and week out? The Rams? Amendola averaged 31 yards on kick returns, highlighted by a 55-yard explosion in the 2nd, that along with a facemask on the return, set up his TD catch a little later. Amendola returns kicks with decisiveness and determination we haven't seen here in a while. Billy Bajema's block sprung him for the big gain. Josh (Showtime) Brown was nails, hitting a 33-yarder to tie the game at 3 and a 52-yard bomb to tie it again at 13, game situations where he'd been missing kicks before and deflating the team. He followed the 2nd FG with a 75-yard kickoff to force a touchback. Donnie Jones (43.5 avg) was off a little but still pinned Houston inside the 10 once and inside the 20 three times. None of his punts were returned, and Brown's strong kickoffs, paired with good coverage, kept Houston's dangerous special teams from being a factor. For all that's gone wrong this year, the Rams have gotten special teams mostly right.

    * Coaching: The defense held Houston to 16 points but still lost the battle today in that they couldn't come close to containing Johnson and couldn't sack Schaub and may never sack another NFL QB ever AGAIN. They had the most, and a lot, of success against Johnson with a safety rolled over to his side, but Houston won out with the number of times they were able to get Johnson matched up one-on-one. They forced some of that by using him out of the slot, but got plenty of one-on-one opportunities split wide, too, something I'm not sure why or how the Rams could let happen often. Steve Spagnuolo and Ken Flajole and company had better take big steps this offseason towards fielding a defense that can sack the QB next year. Blitzes were ineffective, and the only trick up their sleeves these days seems to be the 4-DE pass rush, which wasn't even that today with Little out. The failure of the Ram pass rush is one of this season's biggest disappointments.

    I like a lot of what Pat Shurmur called on the offensive side today, though. The 4th-and-1 swing pass to Jackson was the gutsiest call of the season. Jackson's big screen pass late in the game was a well-designed play. So was Amendola's TD. The Rams originally tried to hurry the play, only to have Ed Hochuli hold up the game for Houston, “to match up”. Shurmur used a tricky pattern to get Amendola lost in trips formation and free for the TD. He took some shots downfield and called a game that showed some trust in his receivers instead of confining them to a 10-yard box. So now I'm going to be a hypocrite and ask if the end zone pass on 3rd-and-4 from the Houston 14 in the 2nd was really the right call. My initial reaction was to like the killer instinct the call showed. Now I wonder if it cost them 4 points not to just go for the first down there. Last, why does this offense do nothing but implode right after every halftime? The Rams have not scored a third-quarter TD all season (even against Detroit). Who's advising this staff on adjusting quickly and effectively to changing conditions, General Motors?

    The main game management question today's going to be whether the Rams should have punted on 4th-and-10 at their 48 with 2:39 left. Back in week 2 of 2007, Scott Linehan went for it in very similar conditions against the ***** and failed. Punting didn't work out for Spagnuolo here, but I'm still fine with the decision. The Rams had been stopping Houston on the ground; had they done it one more time, they were looking at getting the ball back around their 35 with 2:00 left. Ryan Moats' first carry after the punt killed that hope, though. I apologize to Coach Spagnuolo for lumping him in with Linehan there. The Rams may come out worse in record this year than any of Linehan's seasons, but they're light-years ahead in team character and attitude. The rookie head coach has excelled at getting all his guys rowing in the same direction. Next year, set that boat on a course for a bunch of wins.

    * Upon further review: Ed Hochuli's crew allowed too much chippy play. Jackson's helmet came off at least 4 times today; how does that happen without a penalty? Jacques Reeves' facemask on Amendola's long return seemed pretty cut-and-dried but the officials had to hold a conclave before confirming the flag. Pollard threw the first punch of the fight with Jackson and knocked his helmet off. Not only should he have gotten the only flag on the play, he should have been ejected. I was afraid Jackson could also get ejected; at least Hochuli didn't do that, making the useless offsetting personal foul call instead. After the fight, the ball was spotted a yard short, two yards from the marker, though Hochuli announced it was 3rd-and-1. The radio crew pointed out several more missed spots by the crew today as well. They didn't appear to affect the game, but it wasn't a stellar outing for the zebras, either. C-minus.

    * Cheers: Just over 46,000 tickets were sold for today's game. I'll assume half the people who bought tickets actually attended. The crowd was small and not very noisy, though I'd like to think crowd reaction to the replay on the big screen helped convince Hochuli on the face mask penalty during Amendola's long kick return. Part of the halftime show was a video tribute to Merlin Olsen, in an especially nice touch, narrated by Dick Enberg. I thought the ceremony meant Olsen would get a banner in the rafters like Deacon and Marshall, but I guess he has to settle for his retired number and the Ring of Honor for now. Which he already had. Speaking of numbers, the new QB Reilly is wearing #13. Why haven't the Rams put that number on hold? Lastly, Tampa Bay 24, Seattle 7, huh? Half of me is mad Seattle lays an egg to the Bucs but can still beat the Rams for the ninth and tenth straight times this year. The other half would like to extend a friendly St. Louis welcome to Ndamukong Suh. The Rams are on the clock!

    * Who’s next?: Unless they get lucky and knock Kurt Warner out of the game again, the Rams are probably looking at a holiday whuppin' in the Pink Taco Dome to loathsome Bill Bidwill's Cardinals again, with the division champion Big Dead looking for their SEVENTH straight win in the series. Reasons for hope might be that the middle of the Ram defensive line is playing a lot better than they were the first time the teams met, giving them a chance to make Arizona's 27th-rated running game look as bad as it really is, instead of giving up 183 freaking yards. Another reason is that Arizona's been a sloppy mess lately, getting embarrassed last Monday by San Francisco and barely slipping by Detroit today, combining for ten turnovers in the two games. But with the pass rush, or lack thereof, we've seen the last few weeks, Warner's likely to get the eons of time he usually gets in the pocket against the Rams, more time than he'll ever need to slice and dice a secondary well-overmatched not by just one, but two, world-class wide receivers. Without finding a path to Warner, the Rams will be hard-pressed to find a path to a win in the desert. Look for Warner to become the second QB in NFL history to throw 100 TDs for two different teams and for the Cardinals to achieve their first ten-win season since 1976.

    Keith Null's welcome to draw inspiration from Warner's rise-from-obscurity story but will certainly have his work cut out. Arizona's blitzing will look a lot more like Tennessee to him than Houston. The Rams have had trouble establishing the middle run lately and did the first time against Arizona. They'd be well-advised to get Steven Jackson open in space outside, though it'll also help this time that he'll have healthy fullbacks in front of him. Maybe Pat Shurmur could dust off some of the play-action he NEVER used against the Cardinals last month?

    With the Rams in secure possession of the first overall draft pick, a lot of Rams Nation probably doesn't want them to win next week. But like Houston today, Arizona's a very beatable team. They're hot and cold, they play sloppy, they don't run the ball well. The Rams have spent a lot of this season one step away from a big play. If they cover that receiver a second longer, they get the big sack. If the rush would force a throw a second early every now and then, the secondary could make a play. The offense comes a step away from hitting a long pass, a block away from breaking off a big run. It's been a lot of close-but-no-cigar for the Rams this season. You keep wondering if this will finally be the week they effort their way to a win over a team with a better record. They're sure due.

    Eh, cigars are bad Christmas gifts anyway.


    --Mike
    Game stats from nfl.com

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  • MFranke
    RamView, 12/13/2009: Titans 47, Rams 7 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, December 13, 2009
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Game #13: Titans 47, Rams 7

    Titanic vs. iceberg, Titans vs. Rams, similar result. Keith Null threw five interceptions today and still may have been the Rams' best offensive player. Need to know more?

    * QB: Surprise! Keith Null (27-43-157) got the start at QB today thanks to a deep thigh bruise sidelining Kyle Boller. And for the day, his passer rating was almost null - 37.8, thanks to a quintet of interceptions, most of the overwhelmed-rookie variety. A couple because he stared his receiver down. One because he didn't seem to have confidence in his initial read, double-clutched and threw a floater. The fourth one, returned by Vincent Fuller for a TD, looked like a stare-down and a bad read, expecting Fuller to follow Danny Amendola across the field instead of sitting down in coverage. The fifth one needed to be a rope to Brandon Gibson in the end zone – there was an opening in the zone coverage – but was a balloon attached to a rope instead, becoming one of Cortland Finnegan's two INTs. The only INT not on Null was the first one, which a competent officiating crew would have negated with a pass interference penalty. That alone wouldn't have saved Null's day. He floated too many long balls and double-clutched too many passes for that. He looks more an aimer than a thrower. He completed only short passes. He took a sack in the 3rd with Steven Jackson open in the middle of the field lonelier than Tiger will be at Christmas with Elin's family, and threw his 3rd INT with Jackson animatedly calling for the ball on a screen on the opposite side. On the other hand, would Boller have been much better today? Null's skillset isn't a null set. He hung very tough in the pocket and stepped up to avoid the sack when he had to, making his offensive line look a lot better than it was in the process. He got Tennessee to jump offside with a hard count. He threw a seeing-eye pass to Randy McMichael betwixt three Titans on 4th-and-7 for the Rams' only TD of the day. Null had a far worse game than Brock Berlin did in Cincinnati a couple of years ago; why don't I rip him more? Null showed us some ability he can build on, against a much better opponent than the '07 Bengals. Berlin didn't show that, and he was here as a pretty much finished product. Let's see what the kid's got the rest of the way.

    * RB: The Ram running game today looked like the crowded cabin scene from Night at the Opera. Steven Jackson struggled through the crowd 19 times for just 47 yards, fewer than Kenneth Darby got in one run via a fake punt in the 3rd. Jackson may have run himself into trouble once, failing to follow Jacob Bell's pull block and getting stopped for no gain by Keith Bulluck in the 2nd. But too much of the day, the problem was Titans coming in unblocked, or barely so. Kyle Vanden Bosch in the 1st. Minus-2. William Hayes beating McMichael...
    -12-14-2009, 11:28 AM
  • MFranke
    RamView, 12/27/2009: Arizona 31, Rams 10 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, December 27, 2009
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Game #15: Arizona 31, Rams 10

    2009 can't end soon enough for the Rams, and without Steven Jackson today, they were playing their first preseason game of 2010 anyway, absorbing yet another blowout loss to Arizona. Ndamukong Suh's starting next week, right?

    * QB: Both in “rookie moments” and incomplete skills, Keith Null (20-31-171, 3 INT, 50.0 rating) showed significant holes in his game today. He started the game with a poor screen pass and a near-pick forced into double coverage. The pass-rush clock in Null's head needs some tuning; he might have been able to avoid a couple of the sacks he took. Other times, he avoided sacks, but with really dumb plays, putting some balls just up for grabs. Null gave Greg Toler a gift INT in the 1st, simply chucking a ball into double-coverage under heavy pressure, not even looking where he was throwing. Null had some recognition issues. Adrian Wilson came in totally unblocked to sack him in the last 2:00 of the game; Null didn't seem to know it was coming. 3rd-and-1 at the Ram 35 in the 3rd, with defenders creeping up to put nine in the box, maybe a good time to check off or call a time out instead of handing off to Chris Ogbonnaya. No gain, Rams punt. Null's long accuracy still needs much improvement. He missed Brandon Gibson by a couple of yards late in the 1st and overthrew the TD pass to him in the 3rd, necessitating a circus catch. A deep ball for Donnie Avery in the 4th – a TD if thrown well – was instead well-underthrown and picked off by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Null was picked off one more time, the veteran Wilson toying with him, reading his eyes and baiting him into a dumpoff to Randy McMichael in the 4th. I don't think the ball was even out of Null's hand before Wilson stepped in front of McMichael for Arizona's third INT. Null's not bad at stepping up in the pocket and he's not bad throwing on the move. He had to do both quite a bit today under pressure from Arizona's pass rush. His best pass of the day was a bootleg pass up the sideline to Billy Bajema for 12 to start the 4th quarter. He hit Donnie Avery for 13 on 3rd-and-8 the next drive to set up a FG. Sweet throws. The mistakes are starting to mount, though, and Keith Null's going to have to show he can function better under the type of pressure a team like Arizona, or San Francisco next week, can create if he's going to progress to the next level as an NFL QB.

    * RB: One of today's big shockers: Ram RBs gained 85 yards on 20 carries even with Steven Jackson in street clothes, with back and assorted injuries finally leaving him unable to answer the bell. Jackson's had no reliable change-of-pace back behind him all season; suddenly this week, Kenneth Darby (11-40) and Chris Ogbonnaya (9-45) were back there showing the speedy, shifty style of RB play the Rams have been looking for from their backups...
    -12-28-2009, 01:28 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: “OK, drop back... first option, not open... second option, he's not open, either... third option... GAAAH!” 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
  • 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 can’t hit it and only gains a yard. A variety of Jackson’s...
    -10-05-2009, 02:28 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
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