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

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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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