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  • Ram View From The Couch ..

    August 21, 2010
    By M. Franke
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Preseason Game #2: Rams 19, Browns 17

    Questions on offense continued to dog the Rams in the Dog Pound, even as they won the game in Cleveland. Suddenly this week, the o-line was the best part of an offense that sputtered in the red zone, lacked open receivers, lacked an NFL-quality backup RB and appeared to lack trust in its $50 million rookie QB. All questions that will need answers by the time the Rams play games that count.

    Position by position:
    * QB: A.J. Feeley (5-6-45, 1 TD, 137.5 passer rating) was in a far better groove tonight than he was last week, leading the Rams on a nice, long TD drive to start the game, in what would turn out to be his only series. He made some accurate throws into tight spots, and certainly used his tight ends well, hitting Billy Bajema twice for nice gains and Daniel Fells over the middle for the Rams' lone TD. He kept that drive alive with a 3rd-and-2 quick slant to Danny Amendola, firing just as he was getting clobbered in the head by blitzing LB Chris Gocong. Feeley also hurt the thumb on his throwing hand on that play and got the night off early. For a night, Feeley appears to be everything the Rams expected when they signed him: unspectacular, but steady and comfortable in the system. It was a frustrating night, though, for Sam Bradford's fans, if not for the first overall pick himself. The QB everyone's expecting to be the Opening Day starter has yet to be remotely turned loose, stuck for another week in what I like to call Pat Shurmur's goldfish bowl, even though his pass protection was significantly better than last week. It's like signing Lance Armstrong to your racing team and then sticking him on a tricycle. I don't know what we, or even the Rams, can learn from a night of Bradford (6-14-24, 54.3 Page Ranking) throwing dumpoffs and useless screens to Chris Ogbonnaya, except to wonder if this coaching staff has anywhere near the trust in their rookie QB the rest of the world has assumed they have. Bradford made some rookie blunders. He stared down the receiver on his first pass and nearly got pick-sixed by Eric Wright. He bobbled the snap a couple of plays later, though unlike even many veteran QBs will do, he didn't try to force the handoff anyway and managed to scramble around for a minimal loss. Bradford didn't get sacked tonight, a tribute to his pass protection and his own pocket awareness. He checked down well against a couple of blitzes and slid away from pressure well when he had to. There was a 3rd-and-15 in the 2nd where he checked down to Ogbonnaya with Amendola seeming to be open on a deeper route, but other than that he stayed on the tight leash the game plan kept him on. He got to make a couple of probing throws toward the end zone, but both were broken up by blanket coverage. Actually, both looked underthrown, so maybe Bradford could use some work getting the timing down on those instead of 3-yard flares, if that's OK with the Rams coaching staff. I mean, c'mon, they turn Keith Null (3-14-46, 40.8 PR) loose every week; why him and not your $50 million QB? Null managed to lead the offense to a couple of FGs despite a lot of bad passes. After he hit Michael Hoomanawanui inside the 10 with a sweet 25-yard bootleg pass in the 4th, it seemed like all he did from there was chuck high passes out the back of the end zone. Thaddeus Lewis did not enter the game, not that he missed much. Weather may have had a significant effect on tonight's game plan. It was raining hard on Bradford a lot of the time but seemed to have let up a lot by the time Null got in. I'm sure we'll all be told that's what limited Bradford, anyway. But with preseason game #3 coming up in just a few days, it's time for brass tacks, for the rubber to hit the road, to poop or get off the pot, etc. If the Rams ever planned to turn Sam Bradford loose this preseason, they'd better do it soon. If he struggles, he struggles, but I don't know what anyone is learning from this steady diet of preseason pabulum he's getting.

    * RB: Though his appearance was ever so brief, Steven Jackson (4-20) was back tonight, and that was a good thing. He ran through the Cleveland defense for 11 on his first touch and was very good on blitz pickup, not a small part of the reason the Rams drove for a TD on their first possession, also Jackson's only drive of the game. After Jackson, though, there's still squaddoosh. Chris Ogbonnaya (7-6) again got nowhere. Now, a good part of that is because he got just atrocious run-blocking. Jackson seems to energize the offensive line; his replacements seem to give them that dreaded 2:30 feeling. Obie missed a couple of good holes that he did get, though. He seems tentative and doesn't show good vision. He's also still a near-disaster picking up the blitz, though that's an improvement over the disaster he was last week. Kenneth Darby (5-16) was unspectacular and tried to put a ball on the ground; nothing new there. Keith Toston (13-23) got a bunch of carries late but all runs right up the gut. Though I'm confident Ogbonnaya can spell “potato”, the Rams at RB aren't any more ready for a change at the top than the U.S. was circa 1990.

    * Receivers: The Rams completed 14 of 34 pass attempts; 8 of those were to tight ends. Did a wide receiver get open tonight? Didn't look like Laurent Robinson (0-0) did. Looked like he was the primary on the Rams' third play but he could barely even get off the line. The most daring throw Bradford got to try was an end zone fade to Robinson, but Sheldon Brown had him blanketed and knocked the ball down. Didn't look like Donnie Avery (0-0) did. All they tried to him were short sideline passes, both on which he was blanketed, both of which were nearly picked off. Robinson and Avery have combined for 3 catches in 2 games; I can't see how that's good for anybody. As usual, about the only Rams WR with a pulse was Amendola, and he was just 1-7. But he kept the first two scoring drives alive, one with a sliding catch on 3rd-and-2, the other by drawing a (cheesy) interference penalty on 3rd-and-8. Dominique Curry (1-13) revived his roster drive a little bit, making a catch while blanketed, drawing a penalty and showing well on special teams, but he also dropped a Null fastball at the goal line. Jordan Kent was just 1-7 despite getting in earlier and wasn't as strong on special teams as he usually is. I don't think Keenan Burton (0-0) got open. He was targeted on Null's first two throws and never heard from again. Mardy Gilyard (0-0) looked lost at times and dropped a couple of passes. I don't think Brooks Foster (0-0) can get open. Brandon Gibson (inactive) can't get on the field. He's still solidly in the mix, though, in a WR corps that can't get any more separation than Chang and Eng Bunker. The tight ends were at least more productive. Daniel Fells (1-9) scored the opening TD, and pwned Brandon McDonald on the play, but that was all of him I saw. Billy Bajema caught 4 for 32 (two longer than 10 yards!) but also dropped a pass and missed too many blocks. Michael Hoomanawanui (2-33) was probably the best receiver tonight. He got open the most and made the biggest play, beating a LB downfield for a 25-yard catch in the 4th. He was also wide open in the back of the end zone several plays later but Null missed him badly. Fendi Onobun didn't have a catch, but would have had a TD had Bradford made a better throw late in the first, and the Browns really seemed concerned about him. I hope there's a fast-forward to hit on his development, because the way the Rams' wide receivers looked tonight, they're going to need all the tight ends they can get.

    * Offensive line: Ahh, MUCH more like it tonight from the Rams offensive line. After giving up six sacks last week, they gave up none tonight, and pass protection looked pretty strong all 60 minutes. Big turnaround for Jason Smith, who looked solid all night and even had a pancake in pass protection. Rodger Saffold looked strong. The middle of the line held up well. The closest thing to a sack was the holding penalty Jason Brown took after getting beat by Ahtyba Rubin in the 2nd. Beyond that, the Rams didn't get beaten much at all. Blitz pickup was fine with Jackson in the backfield; the blitzes that did get through, including the play where Feeley got whacked, were simply the Browns bringing too many for the Rams to block, not any missed line assignment, as I see it. Even the 2nd unit looked pretty solid, especially the left side, Phil Trautwein and Roger Allen. (The LG I wasn't real thrilled with last week wasn't Allen; it was Brown.) Eric Young had some trouble late in the game at RT. Run blocking was much more of a problem; the Rams ran for just 57 yards, including Jackson's 20. Obie didn't have a chance on some of his big losses. Bajema was beaten badly by Matt Roth for a loss in the 1st; Jacob Bell even worse by Derreck Robinson in the 2nd. Bell seemed to have the worst time of the starters in run-blocking, and Smith had some hits and some misses. But since both are barely back on the field from injuries, there's good reason to believe their play can still jump up a couple of notches. Rams Nation can certainly feel better about the state of its offensive line after tonight than it did after last week.

    * Defensive line/LB: Good night for the d-line, which arguably won the battle in the trenches. Fred Robbins recovered a fumbled snap by Jake Delhomme to set up the Rams' first FG, and finished off a 3-and-out the next possession with a rousing sack, beating the Browns' right guard AND center to get there. Chris Long didn't have a sack but pressured the pocket effectively the whole time, especially on Robbins' sack to trap Delhomme in the pocket. Similar story for James Hall, who didn't have a sack but played like his hair was on fire. The Rams starters applied a great amount of pressure from the edge. That dropped off noticeably, though, when C.J. Ah You replaced Hall. Ah You could barely get off the line, and continues to be a liability in run D. He was barely back from an injury, though. With George Selvie inactive due to injury, the Rams' third source of pass rush turned out to be rookie Hall Davis, who had two sacks. In the 3rd, he whipped the TE with a pretty swim move and dropped Seneca Wallace. In the 4th, he looped from left end all the way around right end to sack Colt McCoy. That made the Rams' total for the night 4, thanks to Cliff Ryan catching a scrambling McCoy for a small loss the play before, though it was a little eye-opening to see Ryan still on the field so late into a preseason game. Run defense was not as strong, though, thanks to linebacker play quite a bit shoddier than last week. Though he was solid in pass coverage, James Laurinaitis was mainly noticeable in run defense for a series of missed tackles that allowed nice gains for Jerome Harrison. He also badly blew a tackle on a screen that Harrison took for 31 in the 2nd and just didn't look like he had a good night to me. Larry Grant didn't completely follow up on last week's success. On Cleveland's “first TD” drive, his blown coverage assignment gave Chansi Stuckey a 29-yard gain. The next play, his tackle attempt on Peyton Hillis' first run, for 9 yards, was so bad, he actually knocked Laurinaitis off the ballcarrier. Hillis gave the Rams LBs tackling fits until somebody else stepped in; see next section. David Vobora struggled mightily in the second half with Hillis, and Chris Chamberlain remains a liability in pass coverage, though not as raving as last week. It also helped the Browns running game that Long and then Victor Adeyanju got pinned inside more often than Rams fans would prefer to see. Nice pressure up the middle by Ernest Reid and Jermelle Cudjo late in the game, and Josh Hull made a couple of plays again. And Bobby Carpenter got to show off his pass coverage chops by stepping in front of a McCoy pass in the final minute to seal the deal for the Rams. Assuming the LBs get their play against the run cleaned up a little bit, the defense does appear to be on a nice track heading for the regular season.

    * Secondary: Back from injury, Ron Bartell stopped Cleveland's opening drive with a nice pass breakup, and absolutely stuffed a 2nd-quarter smoke route to Josh Cribbs, before leaving the game with a neck stinger. A fine outing, but I thought the secondary's star of the night was Craig Dahl. With Hillis “hulking up” for the home crowd and threatening to run through the Ram defense like he was Bronko Nagurski, the hard-nosed Dahl stuck said nose in there repeatedly to stop the Hillis Express, usually one-on-one. He slowed Hillis' momentum with a stop right after the 9-yard run where he “hulked up”, and stopped Hillis COLD for a loss on 4th-and-2 the next possession, one of the game's pivotal plays. Dahl has already made more plays against the run than James Butler did all of last season and should absolutely be the starting SS Opening Day. Good night for Quincy Butler as well. He blanketed Cameron Mitchell and picked off a deep sideline pass from Wallace and only gave up a TD to Cribbs because of incompetent officiating. Marquis Johnson didn't even seem that terrible tonight, though Cribbs appeared able to get open on Antoine Thompson any time he wanted. In all, the secondary did a great job backing up the front seven tonight. They covered long enough to give the rush time to get good pressure and, led by Dahl, supported the run defense nicely.

    * Special teams: The worry on special teams soon is going to be teams looking to steal coach Tom McMahon away, because he has turned a unit that was an embarrassment for almost a decade into a decided team strength. The injured Josh Brown was 4-for-4 on FGs, all short ones that he seemed to kick very gingerly. Kickoff coverage didn't suffer from shorter kicks, though, as long as the referees were awake. Dahl stopped the lethal Cribbs nicely on the second kickoff, and Grant stripped him for a fumble on the first punt, with Chris Massey making the recovery to set up a FG. Dominique Curry was really hitting on teams, absolutely CLOCKING Cyndric Steptoe on a punt return in the 2nd. Carpenter was often the first guy down the field on kicks, though he was hit or miss as a tackler. Onobun made another good stop on punt coverage. Though he seemed to bobble just about every ball he caught, Mardy Gilyard was impressive returning punts and kicks. He brought just about every kickoff out across the 30(!) and had a 24-yard punt return in the first off a solid block by Darby. Gilyard looks bigger than I expected, gets upfield quickly, sees the field well, cuts quickly and runs through arm tackles. I need to see him a lot more secure catching the ball, but you have to really like his potential as a returner. If the Rams have any issue on special teams right now, it's that they look pretty slow getting downfield on punts and are susceptible to longer returns.

    * Strategery: For all the dumpoffs and screens to Chris Ogbonnaya the Rams coaching staff is having Sam Bradford throw, they might as well have drafted Ndamukong Suh and let HIM play QB. 3rd-and-8 from the Cleveland 21 in the 1st, they have a Heisman Trophy winner throwing a 3-yard slant. First-and-10, same spot on the field the next possession, they line up trips right... and have EVERYBODY run a 6-yard comeback route. 3rd-and-10 two plays later, 3-yard pass to Donnie Avery. Maybe Sam's giving up on his downfield options early and just checking down quickly. With this team's wide receivers, that's completely possible. But the Rams didn't draft Sam Bradford and pay him $50 million just so he can dink and dunk his way downfield. They have A.J. Feeley for that. Hell, they have Keith Null for that. If Pat Shurmur doesn't get this offense opened up for Bradford, he's wasting Sam's time, and ours, and should expect to spend his time elsewhere very, very soon. Another week of Sam Bradford playing patty-cake is not going to be acceptable. I can't believe I'm arguing a coach needs to be more like Scott Linehan, but compared to what the Lions did with Matthew Stafford last preseason, or the Jets with Mark Sanchez, the Rams have Bradford in a damn straitjacket. Free Sam Bradford! I can't believe that has to be said.

    Vanilla pervades this team like an episode of Happy Days, though like that series, it was successful for a time. Most of the blitzing was done in the last 2:00 of the first half, which was a shame, because it worked. Long knocked down a pass that would have been a huge gainer for Hillis, and Laurinaitis put a hit on Delhomme the next play to kill the drive. A couple of blitzes did get beat, but tonight's ROBI (return on blitz investment) seemed acceptable, and the 4-man rush was usually good enough to merit the take-it-slow approach for a change. More vanilla that worked was Steve Spagnuolo opting for the FG on 4th-and-goal from the 3 in the 4th down 17-13. It certainly set up the winning FG kick later, which you can't argue with, but how much work does Josh Brown need kicking 20-yard FGs? I'd have thought it a bigger risk to have Brown slip on the wet turf and reinjure himself, vs. failing on 4th down and making Cleveland take over on their own goal line.

    Maybe Spagnuolo should have sent Bradford in to throw a 3-yard pass on 4th-and-goal; it appears to be the only range at which he appears to trust him.

    * Waiver bait: The good news for injured wideouts like Gibson and Brandon McRae is that no one is doing anything to pull away from them while they're out. (No WR on this team can pull away from anybody, apparently.) I have no clue who's shaking out at WR right now, though Burton's night was discouraging. Curry did a nice job giving the coaches something to think about with his special teams play, though, and could be giving Kent a push. Chamberlain and Thompson still haven't shown NFL-level coverage skills, even in the 2nd half of preseason games. And I'm not sure any running back on this team would even make another NFL roster. OK, probably that #39.

    * Upon further review: Pathetic, atrocious, F-minus grade for the Walt Anderson crew tonight, which handed Cleveland 11 of their 17 points. The ball was still moving in Ben Watson's hand when his knee touched out of bounds on the play they correctly called incomplete, only to have Anderson dumbfoundingly reverse to a TD after getting to see slow-motion evidence that He. DIDN'T. Catch. It. Josh Cribbs' TD catch came off a generous shove off of Quincy Butler. No call. Joe Haden's first kickoff return, a near-TD, was only that dangerous because of a blatant hold along the sideline and Titus Brown impressively taking out two Rams, but completely illegally, with an obvious shove in the back. Penalty flags seem to fly on 75% of kicking plays in preseason, but this crew couldn't see any of that. And Gocong absolutely should have been called for roughing the passer on the play where Feeley was hurt. Sorry they don't rain out football games, fellas, but you'll have to do a LOT better than that.

    * Cheers: First chance to hear Martin Kilcoyne and Aeneas Williams call a game this year, and they did a decent job. I like that Kilcoyne stuck to business and that even though this was a road game, he could sense the fan base would be frustrated with the lack of downfield offensive attack, and called the team out on it. He was probably frustrated with it himself. Williams is as good as anybody doing color for NFL games right now, though admittedly that's a low hurdle. He was oddly obsessed with the Dog Pound, which I doubt plays a big role in preseason games, and often said something when nothing would have sufficed. Some of his play breakdowns weren't explained well enough for me as a partially-educated fan, but I really appreciated his breakdown of the long completion to Stuckey at the end of the 2nd, because I was totally ready to blame the wrong guy, Marquis Johnson, for that. He also pointed out the missed roughing call committed on Feeley. If this is Aeneas' only preseason in the booth like almost every other Rams color commentator before him, he'll at least leave a positive impression.

    * Who’s next?: The Rams have a short week to get ready for the New England Patriots on Thursday night. Oddly, the Patriots could be the perfect opponent for the Rams. In the first preseason game, they were actually vulnerable to the third-and-long screen passes, smoke routes and draw plays that are the staple of the current Rams offense. Then again, their opponent that week, the New Orleans Saints, certainly give a team a lot more downfield to think about than the Rams do. New England just got done dominating the Falcons anyway, so I doubt the Rams' tiddly-winks attack is going to threaten them much.

    The Patriots have been trying very hard to work the TE into their passing game in August. I believe rookie Aaron Hernandez has already been thrown to about a million times. Covering the TE has been an eternal sticking point for the Rams, and a guy like Chris Chamberlain has to feel like he's in a show-up-big-or-go-home situation. Three quarters or so of going against Tom Brady should be a valuable test for the Ram pass defense. Brady's not terribly mobile, but he doesn't get sacked often, either. The ball's coming out quickly, so the line is going to have to pressure quickly to have much effect on Brady. I assume Long is going to see a lot of Sebastian Vollmer at RT; he looks like a good one, and his size could give Long fits, but Long has an experience edge and this is a matchup you'd really like to see him win. The Patriots have trouble in the interior line, with Nick Kaczur likely out for the season due to a back injury and Logan Mankins holding out. You would like to see the Rams DTs exploit Patriot guards who will effectively be second-stringers. The secondary's going to have its hands full downfield, not only with Randy Moss, but with the returning Wes Welker. Also watch out for Julian Edelman, who they've used similarly to Welker and whom the Saints absolutely could not stop last week. One WR we unfortunately won't see is Torry Holt, who's IR'ed for the season due to a knee injury.

    New England shut Atlanta down well in the red zone this week, which probably means Josh Brown better stay loose given the Rams' already-woeful performance in that area. The Patriots surprisingly (to me) don't sack the QB a lot; 31 times last year, a third of that by Tully Banta-Cain. They have a budding star in ILB Jerod Mayo, and a secondary full of young talent led by safety Brandon Merriweather and veteran CB Leigh Bodden. But I don't see that New England's defense is going to play the biggest role Thursday night; it'll be the Rams coaching staff. Will they let Bradford throw downfield? Will they challenge New England's defense enough to develop favorable matchups? Or are they just going to make the offense an easy target for almost 60 minutes yet again? Is this team taking decisive steps to a winning future? Thursday night, Rams Nation will watch, and wonder.

  • #2
    Re: Ram View From The Couch ..

    Well for starters, this was a great read! I also think that the Coaching Staff mostly Pat Shurmur is trying to see if our O Line can gel before they let Sam take 5 or 7 step drops and get killed.

    Remember the first game? Because I sure do, and I definently do not want to see that again. Although, our Line did pull away yesterday with a very impressing performance showing why we almost pay the most money in the NFL for the Line.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Ram View From The Couch ..

      Originally posted by sosa39rams View Post
      I also think that the Coaching Staff mostly Pat Shurmur is trying to see if our O Line can gel before they let Sam take 5 or 7 step drops and get killed.
      On that note, does anyone think it is time for Shurmur to let Sam have at least one series with Steven Jackson in the backfield along with the starting O-line, thereby keeping an opposing defense honest for a few ticks longer and thus allowing for deeper routes? I am hoping Bradford will get that chance on Thursday. If the coaching staff is really thinking Sam has a chance to be the opening day starter, it would seem time to let Sam have the opportunity to be on the field with Jackson for at least one or two series .. Thoughts?

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Ram View From The Couch ..

        Originally posted by MauiRam View Post
        On that note, does anyone think it is time for Shurmur to let Sam have at least one series with Steven Jackson in the backfield along with the starting O-line, thereby keeping an opposing defense honest for a few ticks longer and thus allowing for deeper routes? I am hoping Bradford will get that chance on Thursday. If the coaching staff is really thinking Sam has a chance to be the opening day starter, it would seem time to let Sam have the opportunity to be on the field with Jackson for at least one or two series .. Thoughts?
        I agree with that. I truly do think Sam gets his true shot this Thursday. Giving him some playing time with all the starters, or at least I hope. I would also love to see Sam get the opportunity to launch one deep with his beautiful arm and get a nice touchdown to boost his confidence....or at least myn ;).

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Ram View From The Couch ..

          Originally posted by MauiRam View Post
          On that note, does anyone think it is time for Shurmur to let Sam have at least one series with Steven Jackson in the backfield along with the starting O-line, thereby keeping an opposing defense honest for a few ticks longer and thus allowing for deeper routes? I am hoping Bradford will get that chance on Thursday. If the coaching staff is really thinking Sam has a chance to be the opening day starter, it would seem time to let Sam have the opportunity to be on the field with Jackson for at least one or two series .. Thoughts?
          We should probably kneecap Feeley just to be safe.

          Agreed that Bradford needs to get playing time to sync with the wideouts and Jackson. Otherwise, why did we blow all that money on a QB when we could have done what we do now with some cheapo backup.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Ram View From The Couch ..

            Always nice to hear your insights. I'm hoping the receivers' woes on Saturday were in some way related to the weather. Maybe they couldn't get good traction or something. At least, I hope they've got a good excuse. As much as I like Amendola, right now I like him better as a gritty slot receiver than as a projected starter.

            As far as the defense goes, it's still tough to say what we have there. They looked bad against a good team and good against a bad team, which kind of doesn't tell us a whole lot.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Ram View From The Couch ..

              Originally posted by PeoriaRam View Post
              We should probably kneecap Feeley just to be safe.

              Agreed that Bradford needs to get playing time to sync with the wideouts and Jackson. Otherwise, why did we blow all that money on a QB when we could have done what we do now with some cheapo backup.
              So much hate.. I have to admit that I was not too keen on him when we had Bradford waiting, now I think it is a good idea to let him iron out the O Line. I see a lot of gaping holes down field when they throw the ball and a lot of empty heads when we do. This guy hit the nail on the head.

              GO RAMS

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              • MFranke
                RamView, 8/20/2011: Rams 17, Titans 16 (Long)
                by MFranke
                RamView, August 20, 2011
                From Row HH
                (Report and opinions from the game.)
                Preseason Game #2: Rams 17, Titans 16

                The Rams pull off another preseason win, but not with the good vibe that accompanied last week's. The Rams showed too many holes in run defense and pass protection to like how they shape up for the Eagles Opening Day. Good thing that's still three weeks away.

                Position by position:
                * QB: It looked like tonight was going to be a big ol' party for Sam Bradford (8-15-138, 79.3 passer rating); his first pass, the first play of the game, even, was an 83-yard TD bomb to Brandon Gibson. The Titan secondary bit on play-action and on Lance Kendricks' crossing pattern and left Gibson all alone behind them on a simple post route. The rest of the first half for Sam was far from that easy. He wouldn't lead the Rams to another score, or even that much sustained offense. A poor throw for Mike Sims-Walker the next drive got him several caroms and an interception for his troubles. Sims-Walker's pratfall the next drive denied Bradford a chance to move the chains. As the second quarter arrived, so did the Titan pass rush. Will Witherspoon came in essentially unblocked for a sack to kill a drive; Cortland Finnegan repeated that feat the next drive. By the time Finnegan flew in again and nearly blindsided Bradford into next week with a second hit, it had become clear that though he's getting the ball downfield more quickly than he was at the scrimmage, he still needs to get it out quicker against real competition. Pass pro was poor, but that final slobberknocker was more Bradford's fault, and too much more of that is going to make Josh McDaniels, if not Steve Spagnuolo, harness their inner Shurmur. Bradford knows, too, that he has to do better than one TD in one half of play. A.J. Feeley (5-9-44, 105.8 PR) played the third quarter-plus and has looked surprisingly sharp in games. He split the defenders with a perfect 19-yard TD to Donnie Avery. And it may be time to wonder if Thaddeus Lewis (8-10-74, 97.5 PR) isn't playing too well to make it through waivers and to the practice squad again this year. He led the Rams from their own 9 in 3:30 to set up Josh Brown's game-winning FG. Lewis showed good mobility, pocket awareness, field reading and throwing accuracy in taking the Rams 67 yards in 11 plays. The Ram passing game might have taken a step or two into the future tonight; they did show some ability to stretch the field. But when it came down to brass tacks, they won the game with Shurmurball. Whether that's the offense's future in 2011 remains to be seen, but Bradford and his offensive line can't continue getting him knocked around.

                * RB: The Ram running game, distressingly, didn't get anywhere tonight, 44 yards on 21 carries, to the credit of the Titans and the discredit of the Rams' offensive line. In an all-too-familiar tune, Steven Jackson (6-10) got met in his own backfield...
                -08-21-2011, 12:49 PM
              • MFranke
                RamView, 8/26/2011: Rams 14, Chiefs 10 (Long)
                by MFranke
                RamView, August 26, 2011
                From The Couch
                (Report and opinions on the game.)
                Preseason Game #3: Rams 14, Chiefs 10

                Taking last week's shortcomings to heart, the Rams beat the Chiefs at their own game, controlling the line of scrimmage, pounding out a 2-TD lead and holding them with run defense, to re-claim the Governor's Cup. Good reversals of some bad trends should have them pointed in the right direction for the regular season.

                Position by position:
                * QB: Good night for Sam Bradford (9-16-95, 87.2 passer rating), who took advantage of the starting offense's running prowess for two touchdown passes. He kept the opening drive alive with a 3rd-and-19 pass to Brandon Gibson that gained 20, and later in the red zone, a 4-yarder to Danny Amendola that gained 4.0001. With Steven Jackson running amok the rest of the drive, Bradford could take advantage at the goal line with play-action that sprung Mike Sims-Walker wide open in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard TD. Getting the ball out quickly paid off for Bradford the next drive. Off a short drop, he hit Amendola on the sideline for 11 to get the drive moving. In the red zone, after having hit Lance Kendricks to convert a 3rd down, he spied the rookie TE single-covered by a linebacker and went right back to him, cashing in the mismatch with a perfect pass into the corner of the end zone for a 14-0 lead. Bradford's night flattened out from there. Near his own goal line in the 2nd, he threw an interception directly to Derrick Johnson. Greg Salas was open a few yards away. I can't say if Bradford missed Johnson rotating coverage, or saw him and threw a bad ball, or if Salas was supposed to shorten his route instead of continuing upfield. The Rams avoided disaster there, but now on the next drive, Bradford started taking some shots. Johnson hit him from behind to force an incompletion, and two plays later, yes, more Johnson again, sacking Bradford on a dog blitz. Bradford's 13-yard scramble got the Rams across midfield in the final 2:00 of the half, but they couldn't advance from there. Bradford threw well, and was as mobile in the pocket and aware of the pass rush as you like to see from him, with the exception of that Johnson sequence. One worry is that the Chief D was more vanilla than a Tea Party mixer on the drives the Rams scored, and the Rams didn't score once K.C. started coming after them with blitzes. A.J. Feeley (8-13-64, 41.8 PR) played almost the whole second half but spoiled an otherwise good outing with a bad-looking sideline INT with the Rams in scoring range. He did a nice job getting the ball out to beat the blitz but couldn't lead the second team to a score. Thaddeus Lewis (0-2) didn't get much opportunity to repeat last week's success and got hit on one of the two dropbacks he did get to take. Buoyed along by a strong running game and another dose of the Lance Kendricks Experience, the passing game regained its stride...
                -08-27-2011, 06:47 AM
              • MFranke
                RamView, 9/1/2011: Rams 24, Jagwires 17 (Long)
                by MFranke
                RamView, September 1, 2011
                From The Couch
                (Report and opinions on the game.)
                Preseason Game #4: Rams 24, Jagwires 17

                The Rams go undefeated in preseason for the first time since 1979, beating the Jagwire blitz in the first half and riding a star-making performance by their third-string QB in the second half for a 24-17 victory. Bring on the regular season.

                Position by position:
                * QB: After a shaky opening drive, the Ram offense adjusted for heavy Jagwire blitzing and Sam Bradford cruised to an excellent outing, 7-11-133, 135.8 passer rating. It is encouraging to see how much Bradford has improved in Josh McDaniels' offense just since the team scrimmage a month ago. Sam's reading the defense quickly and getting the ball out quickly now. He beat an early blitz with a screen pass to Steven Jackson for 26, but Bradford and his receivers were really out of sync after that and the drive stumbled to a halt. No such problem the next drive. After a bootleg pass to Lance Kendricks got 13, Bradford executed a perfect play-action fake on 3rd-and-inches, the Jagwire safety bit harder than Joey Chestnut on the 4th of July, and Bradford had his second wide-open long TD of the preseason, 44 yards to Kendricks. Bradford continued to beat the Jagwire blitz with screens to Cadillac Williams, until the 1st quarter, and his time, were up. A.J. Feeley (6-10-61, 37.9 PR) didn't exactly maintain that momentum. He hit Fendi Onobun a couple of times with tight passes in tighter quarters, and had his one long effort dropped by Danario Alexander, but he marred his outing again this week with a really dumb interception, throwing almost blindly over a defensive lineman being blocked into him and directly to Terrence Wheatley, a really ugly interception. No points for Feeley tonight. Thaddeus Lewis stepped in after halftime and made as strong a push for a roster spot as a player can make in a preseason game. He ran out of trouble. He threw accurately and made clutch third-down and long-yardage-down plays. He overcame mistakes by his teammates, drops by his receivers. He drove the Rams 80 yards right out of halftime to lead them back to a 14-7 lead. On 3rd-and-4 near midfield early in the 4th, he uncorked a perfect bomb down the far sideline to Alexander, 42 yards, setting up the Rams' third TD. Lewis kept it up down the stretch. He fled the pocket on 3rd-and-12 and hit Mardy Gilyard for 17. He hit Ben Guidugli for 7 on a 3rd-and-4. At the Jag 35 with about 2:00 left, he hit Gilyard for 15 more just before the rush got to him. That set up a clinching FG for the Rams. Lewis' stat line tonight could be mistaken for Drew Brees': 12-15, 164 yards. 112.2 PR. He just gave the Rams another tough decision to go with two dozen others (or more) they have to make this weekend. Thaddeus Lewis is unmistakably one of the Rams' 45 best players. But, whether it's him or Feeley, do you keep a third QB, a guy who's going to do little...
                -09-02-2011, 02:06 AM
              • MFranke
                RamView, 8/13/2011: Rams 33, Colts 10 (Long)
                by MFranke
                RamView, August 12, 2011
                From Row HH
                (Report and opinions from the game.)
                Preseason Game #1: Rams 33, Colts 10

                Just about everything Rams fans could want from the first preseason team tonight, as the home team rolled up a high-efficiency, low-mistake, virtually injury-free win over the quality-depth-starved Colts. If they were only all this easy...

                Position by position:
                * QB: Red zone offense was one of the Rams' Achilles heels last season, but it's been a strength early in preseason, as Sam Bradford and A.J. Feeley led the offense to 27 points in 5 red zone trips tonight. Bradford (7-12-45, 94.1 PR) picked up right where he left off last season – that is to say, throwing all kinds of dumpoffs and underneath passes. Pat Shurmur would be proud. Bradford looked comfortable in the pocket, got the ball out quickly, threw accurately, and was kept from stringing longer drives together in part by gift field position (two Ram drives started IN the red zone) and a couple of receiver drops. The short passing game may have been the coaches' decision not to show many of their cards yet, which is fine. But at the same time, Bradford folded pocket kings before the flop a couple of times, too. He missed a couple of open opportunities downfield in favor of checkdowns, especially Lance Kendricks streaking into the end zone before the Rams settled for their first FG. But Bradford already has excellent chemistry with the rookie TE. He showed command of the offense and didn't make any glaring mistakes; tonight was a perfectly good warm-up game. Feeley (10-14-100, 91.4) looks markedly better in game situations than he does in practice. He looked comfortable in tonight's offense, anyway, and also showed nice pocket presence and ability to extend plays. Bradford played a quarter-plus; Feeley played a quarter-plus; Thaddeus Lewis (3-5-28, 75.4) played most of the 4th; Taylor Potts closed out the game with handoffs. Lewis showed he has a decent arm and can run out of trouble well. Positive night for the QBs, showing no regression; they can still run last year's offense. They're getting the ball out quickly, which has been an issue in camp. Next let's see them extend their skills to the downfield game.

                * RB: Good night for the running game, even with Steven Jackson cast as the world's largest cheerleader. Cadillac Williams (11-40) is a no-nonsense runner; he just takes the ball and gets upfield. He lunged in for a TD on third-and-goal. Third-and-goal success is another heartening development for the Ram offense. Jerious Norwood (8-37) had the long run of the night, a 17-yarder where the right side of the field parted like the Red Sea. And that's when we saw Norwood still isn't 100%. The Norwood Atlanta drafted would have scored a TD through a hole that big. He's going to prove an excellent addition, though. Keith Toston (11-64) would like us all to know that rumors he won't make the team have...
                -08-14-2011, 08:51 AM
              • MFranke
                RamView, 11/6/2011: Arizona 19, Rams 13 (OT) (Long)
                by MFranke
                RamView, November 6, 2011
                From The Couch
                (Report and opinions on the game.)
                Game #8: Arizona 19, Rams 13 (OT)

                Many things may be remembered about Sunday's maddening overtime loss to Arizona, but it's most likely to be remembered as Steve Spagnuolo's Waterloo. Questionable coaching decisions helped the Rams take a game they had won and turned it into an utterly bewildering, utterly avoidable loss. Amazing.

                Position by position:
                * QB: I give Sam Bradford (23-36-255, 73.3 PR) credit for being willing to play hurt, but he probably came back at least a week too soon. He'd had half a day of practice in three weeks before stepping back in against Arizona, and it showed. His long passing game was pretty terrible. In the 1st, he underthrew a flea-flicker for a well-covered Brandon Lloyd and gave Patrick Peterson an easy INT. Austin Pettis was open deep for what should have been a 60-yard TD the next drive, but Bradford badly overthrew him. Bradford got sacked at least a couple of times by holding the ball too long. LB Darryl Washington nearly picked him off a couple of different times. In the 3rd, he took so long calling an audible he got the Rams a delay of game. The Rams did what they've done all season with Bradford guiding the offense – get into enemy territory and then sputter into a FG attempt or a punt. No TDs yet again this week for Bradford. And it's not like he warmed up during the game. In overtime, when the Rams desperately needed a momentum swing, he overthrew Lloyd by five yards on one play and brought the punt team in two plays later with a what-the-hell-was-that throw nowhere near anybody on a blitz read. The Cardinals won the game immediately after that. Bradford didn't have any play that made you say “Wow” or “Only Sam Bradford could have made that throw”. Instead, Rams Nation was left with the nagging feeling that two things could have won the game for the Rams this week: a) a dialed-back passing game and b) A. J. Feeley.

                * RB: Though his teammates could have used another conspicuous dressing-down from him this week, Steven Jackson (29-130) let his play do the talking instead, and told quite a story. After 8- and 9-yard draw plays in the 1st, he got the Rams into FG position again in the 2nd with a 12-yard gain, crashing off the left side behind Jacob Bell's block and winning a huge collision downfield. Unfortunately, Adrian Wilson tripped Jackson up for a big loss on a sweep on 3rd-and-inches to end that drive. That wouldn't be Jackson's last failed sweep of the day, but he did bring some of his best game for the closing stretch. On 3rd-and-8 in the 4th, the Rams completely fooled Arizona with a direct snap to Jackson, and he took it over the left side for 18. But the offense didn't advance from there. With time running out in regulation, Jackson again cut back inside with a shotgun handoff for 9, and got 19 up the middle the next play off a huge block by...
                -11-08-2011, 10:33 PM
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