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RamView, 10/30/2011: Rams 31, Saints 21 (Long)

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  • RamView, 10/30/2011: Rams 31, Saints 21 (Long)

    RamView, October 30, 2011
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions from the game.)
    Game #7: Rams 31, Saints 21

    It's as true today as it was when Commissioner Bert Bell said it back in the '50s. On any given Sunday, any team in the league really can beat any other team. The Rams made those words stand up today with the biggest upset of the NFL season, gaining their first win of 2011 over the powerful New Orleans Saints.

    Position by position:
    * RB: This day was a triumph for Steven Jackson, tangibly (25-159, 2 TD, 191 total yards) and intangibly. He proved largely unstoppable for the Saints today, driving through their back seven like he was back in training camp running against light-resistance equipment. Jackson ripped off big plays any number of ways. 15 off a flanker screen. Multiple gains bouncing outside off of Jacob Bell blocks. And when has Jackson last looked so good as a cutback runner? Instead of staying outside with a pitchout in the 1st, he cut it back inside for 8. He had a big gain on 2nd-and-19 and a later cutback run for 12 on the Rams’ first scoring drive. How many times did Jackson get the Rams out of really bad spots in their own territory? Late in the 1st half, he cut back through New Orleans’ soft zone for 16, which got Donnie Jones some room to punt, which set up the heroics that followed. Jackson performed some of those heroics, powering through two or three Saints at the goal line for the Rams’ first TD. Then, after halftime, he exploded for 40 yards behind Lance Kendricks’ block on the left side to set up another TD run of his own, a 3-yard stroll. Just as important, though, was Jackson’s leadership and palpable desire. As early as the 2nd quarter, Jackson could be seen steaming over a missed blitz pick-up. But in the 4th, with the Rams’ lead slipping to 10 points and the offense getting sloppy with mistakes and penalties, Jackson took it to a new level. He started tearing into his teammates on the field. Then he blasted up the middle for 16 to get the Rams out of bad field position. When the offense came off the field, Jackson rounded them up on the sideline for a nice firing-up. The whole team got Jackson’s message. The defense forced a clutch three-and-out. The sloppy offensive mistakes stopped. Brandon Lloyd helped keep the ball away from the Saints with an impressive diving catch. Then the defense scored to put the game out of reach. Jackson simply wanted this win too much to let the Rams fritter it away. When they got off-track, he willed and cajoled them back on. And his play on the field backed him up. It hasn’t always been obvious who the Rams’ team leader is this season. Steven Jackson made it obvious today.

    * QB: Like last week, the Rams got about everything they were going to get out of A.J. Feeley (20-37-175, 75.8 PR). And with it sounding like Sam Bradford will return next week, you know what? Feeley not only did his job, he exceeded expectations. Not that this had been much of an offense to keep afloat, but Feeley not only managed to do that, he navigated it successfully, too. Feeley will commit one devastating error a week, it appears. The INT last week; this week, a fumble at his own goal line that turned into an instant TD for the Saints’ first score. Feeley doesn’t have a reliable deep ball, either, as seen when he underthrew, then overthrew, Brandon Lloyd on back-to-back deep routes with TD potential in the 1st. But, as Saints acting head coach Joe Vitt might say, Feeley is what he is. And he’s pretty good at that. He got the ball out quickly and beat a bunch of blitzes that were right on top of him. He moved the Ram offense with excellent tempo. There were a lot of good gains on screen passes today because Feeley was decisive and quick. Yes, Feeley made some bad throws, and a couple of times, didn’t seize the reins of the offense like a QB needs to, while the Rams committed dumb delays of game and false starts. And the goal line fumble never should have happened. Feeley needed to see a quick unload was needed there, and failing that, should have done better to secure the ball. But when Bradford does return, we’ll want to see clutch plays like Feeley made. A nice 4th-and-2 pass to Greg Salas that not only got the first down but led him upfield into a big gain. A perfectly-timed TD pass to Brandon Lloyd through a gap in coverage that put the Rams ahead 24-0. He got sacked four times but also showed decent skill moving in the pocket and hitting his hot reads and checkdowns. After looking lost in the Rams’ offense all training camp, Feeley ran things competently and confidently. (Of course, the current offense is a lot closer to last year’s than it was in August.) Would you want A.J. Feeley starting your NFL team? Sorry, no. But I’d go to war with the guy as a backup. Good job.

    * Receivers: The Ram receiving corps stayed quiet in the back seat while Jackson took the wheel. The Saint blitz definitely disrupted the passing game, but Brandon Lloyd (6-53) left a lot of yards and points on the field, too. That he and Feeley missed deep connections twice early was probably more on Feeley’s popgun arm, but Feeley beat an all-out blitz with a perfect pass to Lloyd on a quick slant late in the 3rd, and you could see before the ball got into Lloyd’s hands that he had a 78-yard TD. Unfortunately, Lloyd did, too, taking his eye off the ball and dropping it. He also had a costly crackback penalty and dropped a pass right before Jackson’s fiery on-field tirade in the 4th. Brandon Gibson (2-27) dropped a low but catchable pass in the 1st that would have extended a drive, and Billy Bajema (1-7) had a bad drop in the 3rd. Lloyd partially made up for his drops. He got behind the corner and the safety for an 8-yard TD before halftime. He made an impressive catch from his knees in the 1st and a jaw-dropping catch in the 4th. On 3rd-and-5, Lloyd dived toward the far sideline and snagged a ball inches off the ground for a 16-yard gain that allowed the Rams to eat a couple more minutes off the clock. At least if Lloyd is going to drop some passes, you’re also going to get big plays from him. Greg Salas (5-47) is flourishing in the slot receiver role. On the Rams’ FG drive, he took a quick screen for 10, then, on 4th-and-2, made a very clutch catch in the flat and turned it upfield for a big gain, almost a TD had his foot not just barely gone out of bounds. As far as catching the ball, Salas’ hands have come around. He’s excellent at getting upfield through traffic. He’s become a confident receiver the Rams can throw to with confidence. The caveat is that he has to take better care of the ball after the catch after putting a couple on the ground today. He was correctly called down the first time, but who wants to take that chance? The second time, he set up a Jackson TD run with a catch inside the 5, but only because Jackson himself pounced on the ball after it got loose from Salas. Rams TEs appear to have disappeared from the game plan; 3 of them combined for 2 catches for 9 yards. Provided their ball-handling improves, Lloyd and Salas look like a foundation for a good unit, though.

    * Offensive line: It’s a dubious honor, but my vote for best Rams’ offensive lineman this year so far would go to Jacob Bell. Yes, he got called for a two false starts today, and Will Smith ran right over him for a sack in the 2nd. But Bell has been key to any success the Ram running game has had, especially today. He was the reason Jackson cut back as successfully as he did. Jackson frequently looked for Bell so he could cut a run back across the grain. Bell’s block got Jackson 8 on the pitchout cutback in the 1st, and he and Jason Brown had perfect blocks on Jackson’s 15-yard run in the 2nd. Obviously Bell hasn’t always played well in 2011, but when he has, like today, it’s the best he’s played as a Ram. I thought he helped set the tone for the running game. When Jackson was stuffed on runs, a tackle was usually at fault. Rodger Saffold and Adam Goldberg cost him a couple of big losses. On the other hand, Goldberg helped Jackson get the edge on his easy 2nd TD run. And though Lance Kendricks may have caught only one pass, he was huge in the running game. Jackson got his 40-yard run off a Kendricks block, and Lance made the key block a little later on Jackson’s first TD run. Feeley was sacked four times, and the Saint blitz pressured him a lot. Saffold, who continues to struggle, flatout missed Roman Harper on a blitz/sack in the 2nd. But I don’t feel that much of the pressure was actually the fault of the linemen. Will Smith faked Michael Hoomanawanui into whiffing on his 2nd sack. There were plenty of plays where extra blitzers came free at Feeley, but that was a case of Saints DC Gregg Williams bringing more guys than the Rams could block. The pass pressure was more Williams outscheming Josh McDaniels, or gambling and winning, and/or Feeley not getting the ball out quickly enough at times. On Feeley’s sack/fumble/TD, I don’t think it was the line’s fault that two Saints got through, and certainly not Cadillac Williams’ fault he couldn’t block them both. If not for all the false starts, I’d have been willing to give the line about a B- this week. But Bell flinched twice, Saffold had one in the 4th that set Jackson off, and the whole line had another, which tells me Brown screwed up yet another snap count at center. That threatened to sink the Rams more than any blocking issues did. There’s still time for this line to salvage its season if they’ll clean up the stupid nonsense.

    * Defensive line/LB: For the first time this season, the Ram defense actually looked like a Steve Spagnuolo defense. Run defense and pass rush looked five times better than either has looked all season. Tackling was ten times better than it was last week. The Rams surprised strategically by going hard after Saint QB Drew Brees, a move that paid off in spades. Whoever woke Chris Long up, thank you, and please keep him that way. Long dominated Saint RT Charles (good grief!) Brown for THREE sacks with his speed. By the end of the day, Long had turned Brown into Fred Miller in Tennessee this time twelve years ago. Robert Quinn had his best game as a pro, beating Jermon Bushrod to the inside for a sack in the 2nd with the Rams rushing just three. What’s this? The Rams? Getting pressure with three rushers? Against the Saints? You’re not supposed to be able to sack Drew Brees. The Rams had hardly sacked anyone all season. But today, they got Brees SIX times, including Fred Robbins late in the game. James Laurinaitis was possibly even more dominant than Long was. He led the Rams with 10 tackles. He stuffed Chris Ivory on 1st down and broke up a downfield pass on 2nd down to stall the Saints’ first drive. He sacked Brees on a blitz the next possession. He held a bunch of runs to minimal gains and really set the tone for the Ram defense for the game. And this was a true team effort. Long and the rest of the Rams were strong against the run and held the Saints to 56 on the ground after allowing practically 300 last week. Gary Gibson blew up a screen pass. Chris Chamberlain atoned for last week’s struggles with a couple of good run stops and by destroying a screen to the fullback. Brian Kehl missed a couple of tackles but made up for it with a run stuff to help stop the Saints right after halftime. Run support from the secondary was excellent. And after giving up a soft TD drive punctuated by a Pierre Thomas run that made it a 24-14 game, the Rams bore down. Every Ram beat their man on 1st down, with Quinn pressuring Brees into an incompletion. Darian Stewart broke up a pass on 2nd down, and on 3rd, Long flushed Brees out of the pocket and forced a bad pass on the move. The next drive, it would be the Ram defense scoring to put the game away. Rams Nation has waited six excruciating weeks for the defense to play to its potential. They got there today. They didn’t give up any meaningful big plays and allowed one of the most feared offenses in the game only seven meaningful points. Where have you been, and won’t you come in and stay a while.

    * Secondary: 180-degree turnaround for the Ram secondary from last week. It was their best tackling and run support game of the season. Darian Stewart flashed in to blow up an Ivory sweep in the 2nd. Josh Gordy missed a couple of tackles but made a major 3rd-down stop of Ivory in the 3rd to force a punt. With Drew Brees throwing for a ho-hum 269, and doing most of his damage in a desperation effort that kept his TD passes streak alive late in the 4th, the Ram secondary, minus seven injured corners, had its best game of the season. Gordy may actually be a find. It took a perfect pass to beat him on Dez Bryant’s TD last week. This week, he goes to the ground while ripping a bomb away from Devery Henderson for an INT that set up a Rams TD late in the 1st half. Al Harris continues to provide excellent veteran play. He broke up a pass for Marques Colston on the opening possession and continues to keep receivers in check physically. Marquis Johnson even played well despite coming straight off the PUP list. And besides being strong against the run, Stewart was clutch down the stretch. With the Saints trying to drive down 10, he broke up a 2nd-down pass to help force a 3-and-out. And with 3:00 left, he put the game away with a leaping interception and 27-yard TD return. And the secondary’s hidden success: holding the hottest tight end in the league, Jimmy Graham, to 4 catches for 39 yards. That all’s with a safety the Eagles said was too old (Quintin Mikell), a 36-year-old corner nobody else wanted (Harris), a 2nd-year street free agent (Stewart), a kid off the Packers’ practice squad (Gordy) and another kid who hadn’t played in a year (Johnson), getting the better of one of the best passing attacks around. My hat is off to all of you.

    * Special teams: The hidden plays this week came on special teams, a unit that had an outstanding game. Dangerous Darren Sproles didn’t do much of anything on returns. The biggest reason? Dominique Curry, a guy I’ve been dogging all season as a poorly-used roster spot. Curry and Quinn Porter stuffed Sproles at the 12 on a kick return late in the 2nd, and right after halftime, Curry’s excellent submarine tackle stopped Sproles at the 15. Craig Dahl and Chris Chamberlain were also strong on returns. At the end of the game, Chamberlain even fielded what I’m pretty sure was the first offsides kick tried against the Rams this year. And extending excellence across all coverage units, Robert Quinn forged right up the middle to block a punt in the 2nd and set up a TD. Very unexpected the Rams would dominate on special teams, but very key to this week’s win.

    * Coaching: Everybody at Rams Park can sit back down now; your seats all just got a whole lot cooler. The Rams won on the defensive side of the ball this week in practice. They emphasized tackling technique after last week’s fiasco, and this week we got their best tackling game of the season. Almost every tackle was a form tackle. Determination to tackle well will always lead to good overall defense. The best word to describe the defense today is rejuvenated. Bold strategy helped. After several weeks of vanilla D to cover up for a depleted secondary, and several years of playing it safe against the Saints, Steve Spagnuolo unexpectedly brought a lot of pressure after Brees. I think the Rams did more zone blitzing than they’ve done all year, and though Sproles burned not-exactly-a-corner Chris Long for 20 early, the zone blitzing really seemed to befuddle the Saint QB. Well, that and Long coming at him like a locomotive every other dropback. Still, in past years against the Rams, Brees has been able to sit back and pick and choose. This week, Spagnuolo had him chuckin’ and duckin’. Win to the Rams’ staff there.

    And even with the success Gregg Williams had blitzing, I have to give Josh McDaniels a victory this week on points. The Rams had answers for Williams’ blitzing, the most important being Jackson, who got 29 touches. McDaniels also beat the Saint D a good half-dozen times with quick screens, and on one drive in the 3rd, got a first down out of an end-around to Gibson and another out of a reverse to Salas. He also stretched the field well with Lloyd, and honestly, probably should have gotten a couple more TDs out of that than he did. McDaniels has appeared to adjust his offense to his personnel well; it paid off this week.

    * Upon further review: Hey, NFL refereeing may be coming around. James Butler got the NHL-quality retaliation penalty after getting bumped while out of bounds in the 2nd. There were a couple of interminably long delays that brought the crowd’s wrath, and the Saints could have gotten called for holding more often than… NONE. Walt Anderson and crew had a pretty easy day of it, though. The highest-profile miss was when Salas stepped out of bounds on his 4th-and-2 reception, a very difficult call to be sure. A-minus

    * Cheers: When the St. Louis Cardinals appeared in the end zone with the World Series trophy, hell, when they appeared on camera an hour before the game started, I was afraid they would get the biggest cheers of the day from the crowd. Fortunately, things didn’t turn out that way. Though likely not topping 45,000, and a solid contingent of that Saint fans, the home crowd was still strong enough to get credit for a couple of false starts, and really turned it on in the 4th quarter after the video board played the movie montage I called for. Result: 3-and-out. I may have missed it before the game, but since I didn’t hear it, I’m hoping the “Rams Rules” video has reached its long-sought-for demise. And I hope Jacob Bell works as hard on his game as he did on his very funny “That’s My Dog” video. (It’s on YouTube.) He’ll go to the Pro Bowl if he does. There was so much excitement in the city over the Rams’ win there was even a parade downtown after the game. I must have gotten there late, though, all I saw were Cardinals players.

    * Who’s next?: Funny how things change in just a week. The Rams go into next week’s game at Arizona having gotten a lift with a win; the Big Dead are scuffling their way through a six-game losing streak after gagging on a 3-TD lead in Baltimore Sunday. Both teams are 1-6, and when the Rams do beat the Big Dead, they tend to do it in Arizona. (They NEVER beat the Freaking Big Dead here in St. Louis.) So next week is a golden opportunity for a victory.

    Kevin Kolb was supposed to be the answer to Arizona’s offensive problems coming into this season, but that hasn’t really come to pass. He’s thrown as many INTs as TDs, coughed the ball up 6 times and has a very pedestrian 77.8 passer rating. He has not been a terribly accurate passer, he’s very flinchy under pressure and is easy to pressure into bad throws and back-footed throws. And he’ll be playing next Sunday with a turf toe injury. Steve Spagnuolo should have the full playbook available to him against Kolb. He can blitz him to try to get big plays while not having to worry about getting burned in zone as much as the Rams could against other QBs. Kolb’s line also does not protect him terribly well; he’s been sacked 24 times. Their turnover ratio is a poor -5. Kolb has a super receiving threat in Larry Fitzgerald, whose matchup with Al Harris I’m eager to watch. Harris can get physical with Fitzgerald. If Kolb and Fitzgerald pick next week to be in sync, though, look out. Rookie Rob Housler looks like a threat to develop into the next dangerous young TE in the league, another one of those TE’s who’s actually a great, big WR. Arizona doesn’t have Tim Hightower to haunt the Rams with any more, but they do have the dinged-up Beanie Wells, who has powered for 4.5 yards a carry, and dangerously-fast LaRod Stephens-Howling as the change-of-pace and 3rd-down-type back. Over the years, the Rams have always seemed to find ways to make the Arizona running game three times as effective as it is against any other team. This week’s defense is the one that needs to show up at the Pink Taco Dome.

    If you thought the Saints blitzed a lot Sunday, just wait for Arizona, which makes Gregg Williams look like Larry Marmie. I think they blitz every play. Josh McDaniels has to have counters to the Arizona run blitz, which has often held Steven Jackson in check. Against Pittsburgh last week, they were especially aggressive with OLB Clark Haggans (who may have been extra-motivated to play his old team). In just the first quarter of that game, he had a big tackle for loss, a deflected pass… and gave up a TD, when he failed to cover the Steeler TE. Heath Miller had a huge game in Arizona, and he’s not normally a big offensive contributor. Conclusion: Big Dead can’t cover TEs. Good week to establish that part of the passing game. Pittsburgh countered the Big Dead blitz with WR screens. Conclusion: throw to Greg Salas a lot. Though 1st-round pick Patrick Peterson and rookie A.J. Jefferson are playing quite well in the Arizona secondary, Richard Marshall is terrible and you can beat them with play-action. Conclusion: check to a play-action bomb anytime Brandon Lloyd is lined up across from #31. Whether it’s Feeley or Bradford behind center, this is the week to open the passing game up some. Arizona’s ranked 28th in pass defense and is one of the worst teams in the league at giving up completions of 20 yards or more. Don’t let them play a short field. Arizona can blitz on every down, blitz at halftime, blitz in the locker room, blitz during the National Anthem, all they want. A good team and a good QB will find the way around them. It’ll be the key to next week.

    Once upon a time, I’d tell everyone that the Rams’ 2011 season wouldn’t really start until November, then they’d get into the NFC West race. I lost confidence in even that modest prediction to the point of opining the Saints would beat them 45-7 Sunday. (Hey, I did predict the Rams would do better than the Colts.) The ***** don’t look catchable for the division title, but with a win under their belts against one of the NFL’s best, the Rams suddenly look like they’re good enough again to make some hay down the backstretch. I imagine everyone in the Rams locker room will be out this week to prove the win over New Orleans wasn’t a fluke. Well, you know, there’s a real good way to prove that next Sunday. Make it two.

    -- Mike
    Game stats from nfl.com

    Note from management: RamView will probably be delayed again next week due to work-related activities. I'll be shooting for Tuesday night.

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  • MFranke
    RamView, 10/23/2011: Cowboys 34, Rams 7 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, October 23, 2011
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Game #6: Cowboys 34, Rams 7

    Football at its heart is all about blocking and tackling, and when your team does none, you get games like today's. While the Ram offense was overwhelmed as usual, the defense turned a rookie RB into Emmitt Smith, and if they didn't quit, you couldn't tell the difference. These Rams aren't competitive at anything.

    Position by position:
    * QB: The Rams probably got as much out of A.J. Feeley (22-30-196, 64.7 PR) today as they were going to get. He got the ball out quickly, looked good throwing on the move and hung well in the pocket. The Ram offense was far from in sync, though. Their opening drive ended after Danario Alexander broke one way and Feeley threw the other. After a Dallas offsides penalty during the second possession, the Rams immediately took a delay-of-game penalty. After a dead ball? Down just 14-7 in the 2nd and trying to get out of their deep end, Feeley got all day to throw on 3rd-and-long and launched a terrible pass, right at Dallas CB Michael Jenkins. Even if Feeley and new wide receiver Brandon Lloyd weren't on the same page on that play, which is likely, Lloyd never would have gotten to the poor throw instead of Jenkins. The offense did almost nothing but sputter in the second half. After hitting Michael Hoomanawanui for 27 in the 4th, Feeley 3-and-outed the Rams with a bunch of poor throws. He'd hit Lloyd for 34 on a slant very late in the game, but even that didn't lead to a score. Feeley looked fairly composed most of the time, and wasn't a disaster coming off the bench like too many Rams backups from the past, but for a veteran QB, it's not unfair to have expected better execution, fewer mental mistakes.

    * RB: Steven Jackson (18-70) spent most of the day taking handoffs out of shotgun and slamming into a stacked-up line of scrimmage for no gain. The Rams did not control the middle of the line at all, and I doubt they picked up a run blitz all day. How challenging a day was it for Jackson? As a receiver, he had four catches for three yards, with a long of 8. If not for a two-play explosion in the 2nd, Jackson's day might have been a total loss. Near midfield, he blasted up the middle for 40 to put the Rams in scoring position, then did the deed himself with a 6-yard TD run he scored untouched off right tackle. Not for nothing are the Cowboys #1 in the NFL against the run, though, and not for nothing is the Rams' offensive line still the most underachieving unit in the league. Jackson's day mostly resembled a crash-test video. Cadillac Williams (2-1) looked like a lemon yet again, getting nothing done on the ground and killing a promising Rams drive late in the 1st with a fumble. And if the turnover wasn't bad enough, Jason Smith had to be carted off the field due to a neck injury incurred diving after the fumble. About all Williams accomplished...
    -10-24-2011, 11:41 AM
  • MFranke
    RamView, 12/4/2011: ***** 26, Rams 0 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, December 4, 2011
    From The Couch
    (Report and opinions on the game.)
    Game #12: ***** 26, Rams 0

    The Rams amazingly find a new low in 2011, failing to even score against the ***** Sunday and looking like they wouldn't have scored against them in a month of Sundays. Even if the coaching staff had tried.

    Position by position:
    * QB: With Sam Bradford missing his third game this season due to a sprained ankle, the Rams at a minimum would have wanted A.J. Feeley to be able to run the base offense without making any killer mistakes. Mission not accomplished. Feeley (12-22-156, 58.1 PR) always has to make that one huge mistake per game, and this game tilted rapidly downhill after Dashon Goldson intercepted a well-underthrown long pass right after halftime. Feeley lofted a gentle lob into double coverage while attempting to leap back from a charging Parys Haralson. That wasn't Feeley's only pass-rush-induced turnover; he fumbled in the 2nd when Ray McDonald got a finger on the ball as A.J. drew back to throw. The goofy-looking turnover set up a ***** FG. Feeley wasn't afraid to throw deep into coverage, as if that's a good thing. He hit a blanketed Brandon Lloyd up the far sideline for 34 to mark the first of two times ALL DAY the Rams would cross midfield. He underthrew a deep ball for a well-covered Danario Alexander in the 4th that was close to a TD, close to an INT, and ultimately incomplete. When the Rams got Feeley a little time, he could do some business. His 17-yard spear to Austin Pettis in the 2nd was probably his most impressive throw of the season. But the line rarely got Feeley even a little time, forcing him to unload quickly, getting him out of sync with his receivers. By the end of the game the passing game and especially the pass-blocking game had gotten so wretched, the coaching staff preferred goofy reverses or hopeless handoffs to throwing on third down. In all, a typical Feeley performance. You're not going to blame him for losing the game, but he brought little to the table to inspire hope of winning, either.

    * RB: Even without an injured Patrick Willis on the field for most of the game, the ***** still dominated the line of scrimmage to the point of limiting Rams rushers to an average of four feet per carry. Steven Jackson (10-19) didn't have anywhere to run until it was time to hit the showers. He didn't have a carry in the first half for more than 2 yards. The Rams didn't appear to attempt to take advantage of Willis' absence by running outside or going after his replacement, former Ram washout Larry Grant. A series at the end of the 3rd was the Rams' season in a nutshell. Jackson gets his best block of the day, from Danario Alexander, and goes off left tackle for 9. 2nd-and-1, Brit Miller misses his lead block badly and Grant meets Jackson hard in the hole for no gain, so hard his own helmet popped off like a champagne cork, but not so hard that...
    -12-05-2011, 11:45 AM
  • MFranke
    RamView, 11/27/2011: Arizona 23, Rams 20 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, November 27, 2011
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions from the game.)
    Game #11: Rams vs. Arizona

    Let the epitaphs begin for the Steve Spagnuolo era in St. Louis. In the last “must-win” game he'll coach here, Spagnuolo's run defense once again went belly-up, the offense wallowed in mediocrity, and the coaching staff continued to kill the team with stupid “strategy” on special teams. The Rams lose AT HOME to the freaking Cardinals for the SEVENTH straight year, and I have had freaking ENOUGH of this.

    Position by position:
    * QB: Pretty average game for Sam Bradford (17-31-208, 85.8 PR). He made some nice throws and missed some makeable ones. He threw a TD pass, so that's news. Ultimately, he couldn't elevate his offense's level of play over the poor performance of his line. And the Ram defense. Granted, a daunting task. His first impact play was a costly fumble after Sam Acho sacked him in the red zone in the 1st. You know, if I had Adam Goldberg protecting my blindside, I'd try to have eyes in the back of my head as much as possible, but an unsuspecting Bradford got nailed from behind instead, and it was little surprise the ball came loose. From midfield before halftime, Bradford got the Rams inside the 5 with passes to Brandon Gibson and Brandon Lloyd. We'll call Lloyd's pass an intentional back-shoulder throw for now. First and goal, though, bang, it's Acho from the blindside again, and the Ram offense only produces three points in the first half. Bradford set the Rams up for another FG in the 3rd with a 35-yard bullet to Austin Pettis, and by getting a 3rd-down pass thrown away under pressure to maintain field position for Josh Brown. The Rams stalled for a couple of drives while down 20-13, including a 3-and-out in the 4th. Bradford threw poorly behind an open Lloyd on 2nd down and too high for Pettis on 3rd down. But Bradford rallied right after. He drilled one to Lance Kendricks in triple coverage to get the Rams close and then, at last, threw a perfect fade pass to Lloyd to beat a blitz and score the tying TD. But the Rams' final drive ended when they couldn't convert on 3rd-and-1. Bradford managed the offense well enough and didn't hurt the Rams with any glaring mental mistakes, which has been one of his strengths this season. But the net effect of that this week was like being the one person on the Titanic who remembered to lock their cabin door.

    * RB: Other than an awesome blitz pickup where he flipped Darryl Washington head-over-heels to give Bradford time to throw the tying TD to Lloyd in the 4th, Steven Jackson (17-64) wasn't that much of a factor this week. He didn't get a whole lot more running room than he got last week. The coaching staff apparently didn't want to give him the ball on 1st-and-goal at the 3 in the 2nd, or on 4th-and-inches in the 3rd, or on 4th-and-1 in the 4th. He was used heavily in the opening drive, and had his longest run of...
    -11-28-2011, 06:58 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, 09:33 PM
  • MFranke
    RamView, 11/20/2011: Seahawks 24, Rams 7 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, November 20, 2011
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions from the game.)
    Game #10: Seahawks 24, Rams 7

    The poorly-run, poorly-manned, poorly-schemed Ram offense puts on one of its poorest performances in memory as the Rams get dominated at home by a 3-6 team. God I hate this season.

    Position by position:
    * QB: It’s hard to say Sam Bradford (20-40-181, 60.5 PR) looked anything other than awful in this game. If he’s really as bad as he was this week, we’re all screwed. He certainly made his share of poor plays. His first throw of the game was behind Brandon Lloyd and should have been intercepted. That was a theme of the Ram passing game – force the ball to Lloyd – that usually didn’t work. Bradford got nothing done with his long ball and showed sporadic inaccuracy on medium passes. However, he strung a few completions together from time to time, and he hit a wide-open Lloyd in the end zone with a pretty 30-yard pass to open the scoring. Midway thru the 3rd, the Rams are still in the game, down 10-7. But at that point, the Ram offense that had been sputtering at best suddenly stepped on the gas and ran headfirst into a tree. Problems Bradford has had all season reared their ugly heads. Poor feel in the pocket and poor ball protection led to a critical sack/fumble for Chris Clemons that led to a Seattle TD. Midway through the 4th, Bradford once again fails to throw a pass over the defensive line; Brandon Mebane tips it and Red Bryant ends up with it, another Bradford turnover that led to another Seattle score. Seattle put the game in the cooler when Bradford fumbled again late in the 4th after another sack by Clemons. Those are situations where Bradford’s got to do better and elevate the rest of the offense. But before we start calling for A.J. Feeley, (or I get accused of it) let’s make sure to step back and look at the whole picture of this game. Bradford got hurt a couple of times in the 2nd half by momentum-crushing drops. You might even say there was one on his INT. The Rams lacked any running game, certainly complicating his job. He seemed to lock onto receivers and hold the ball too long on sacks. Don’t put all of that on Bradford. There weren’t a lot of receivers breaking open. The offensive line was decimated by injury and played abysmally. Just as bad, the game plan did nothing to adjust for these issues, rarely throwing over the middle, getting away from the quick passing game, calling overcomplicated downfield pass plays on 3rd-and-shorts. Several times Bradford threw dumb-looking passes towards not-open receivers not expecting the pass because it was either that or get sacked. On the second fumble, Bradford had all of 2 Mississippis before he got hit. Tom Brady wouldn’t have succeeded in Bradford’s shoes this week, and Bradford’s not going to succeed until the Rams’ offensive coordinator recognizes he’s working for the 2011 Rams, not the 2007 Patriots.

    *...
    -11-21-2011, 01:39 PM
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