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USA Today: Rams Team Report

Discussion in 'RAMS - NFL TALK' started by -X-, Nov 23, 2011.

  1. -X-

    -X- I'm the dude, man.

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    <a class="postlink" href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/rams/notes.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football ... /notes.htm</a>

    With all the talk about a slumping offense, lost in it all has been the improved play of the Rams' defense. Granted, St. Louis hasn't played a murder's row of NFL offenses, but considering the injuries that have ravaged the team's cornerback corps, the rest of the defense has played well enough to keep other team from burning the pass defense.

    And the cornerbacks who have stepped up and gotten experience have done their part in making it a competitive unit.

    After Sunday's 24-7 loss to Seattle, coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "I thought the defensive guys were battling their butts off. I really do. I've got to credit them that way. I felt it over on the sideline. They never stopped battling. It's hard to play defense when you're behind, and it's hard to win games when you only score seven points."

    The Rams' offense owned the ball for just 25 minutes in the game, but despite being on the field for 35 minutes, the defense limited the Seahawks to 289 total yards and held running back Marshawn Lynch to 88 yards and an average of 3.2 yards per attempt.

    The Rams also intercepted two Tarvaris Jackson passes and sacked him four times while allowing Jackson to pass for only 148 yards.

    "We were able to make some plays," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "Chris Chamberlain made a great interception. The ball was thrown right to him, and you've got to catch 'em when they are thrown to you. He made a good break. It was something we had seen on film, and Chris practices hard, so it was a good play. Quintin Mikell made a huge play. So we were able to force turnovers. That helps with field position and helps with momentum."

    However, Laurinaitis still wasn't satisfied with the performance, noting the team still lost the game.

    "I'm never going to say that with a loss. That's not just being politically correct," he said. "I've been raised in a football mindset that if our offense gets three, the only thing we can give up is a safety. We have got to find a way. We didn't find a way today. We got that seven, then we have got to find a way to hold them to a couple of field goals or something and go 7-6 or something. We have got to find a way."

    —How ugly was the Rams' offensive performance in Sunday's 24-7 loss to Seattle? Let's count the ways.

    —The Rams managed a meager 185 yards on 62 plays (3.0 per play) and 49 came on a 30-yard touchdown play from quarterback Sam Bradford to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd and a 19-yard run by running back Steven Jackson on a third-and-27 play. Jackson had 23 yards on his other 14 attempts and the Rams totaled 136 yards on their other 60 plays (2.3 yards per play). Lloyd was so open on the touchdown play because he slipped and hit the turf, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman let up, and when Lloyd quickly got to his feet, Sherman couldn't adjust fast enough.

    —The Rams entered the game next to last in the NFL with an average gain of 4.45 yards on first down. That's also a big reason why the Rams were next to last converting just 28.7 percent of their third-down opportunities.

    Sunday, the Rams ran 25 plays on first down for an astoundingly inept 34 yards (1.36 per play). On first down, quarterback Sam Bradford was 6-for-15 for 47 yards, running back Steven Jackson gained four yards on eight attempts and Bradford was sacked twice for minus-17 yards. On third down, the Rams made just 5-of-15 attempts.

    When Bradford was asked afterward if he thought the offense was out of sync, he said, "I wouldn't say out of sync, but one of the keys that we talked about all week, and I even said it earlier in the week was that if we were going to be successful today, we were going to have to have positive plays on first and second downs. I feel that our production on early downs just put us in bad situations all day. You can't do that. We knew it was a key to our success on offense to have positive plays on first and second downs, and that's something we didn't do. I think that when you don't do that, it's hard to get into a rhythm as an offense."

    —Jackson's streak of 100-yard games was snapped at three, as he totaled just 42 yards on 15 runs. He had just two attempts longer than three yards; the 19-yarder and one for nine yards late in the third quarter when the Rams were trailing 17-7. The breakdown of his other 13 runs: two for minus-3, one for zero, four for one yard, two for two yards and four for three yards.

    The Seahawks were fourth in the league in average per rush against at 3.6 and the Rams went to a lot of spread formations.

    Said coach Steve Spagnuolo, "We knew we had a front there that was pretty stout. We knew what the challenge was there so we took a little bit of a different approach and felt pretty good about it. Obviously it didn't work."

    Added Bradford, "We felt like we could spread them out. The teams that we had seen earlier in the year, put them in empty, had a very high success rate. They had a lot of completions, had a lot of yards. There weren't a lot of different coverages that they were going to play to that. We thought that with our four-wide group we could get some matchups in our favor, spread the ball out a little bit. We just didn't get a lot going today."

    That was obviously an understatement

    NOTES, QUOTES

    —The Rams' injury situation, which had focused on their cornerbacks for most of the season, entered the realm of the absurd on the offensive line. Adam Goldberg was already starting his fourth consecutive game in place of right tackle Jason Smith, who suffered a serious concussion against Dallas on Oct. 23. Left tackle Rodger Saffold had left the previous week's game against Cleveland because of a mild concussion, but was on track to play against the Seahawks. However, Saffold suffered a torn pectoral muscle lifting weights Friday morning and will miss the remainder of the season.

    His replacement was Mark LeVoir, who joined the team on Oct. 26 and played the second half of the Cleveland game. However, LeVoir exited the game in the second quarter Sunday with a pectoral muscle injury, the extent of which wasn't yet known.

    Numerous protection issues then surfaced with rookie undrafted free agent Kevin Hughes at left tackle. Hughes was signed to the active roster Saturday from the practice squad.

    It's too early to know how the Rams will handle the line when Arizona visits St. Louis this week.

    "We're banged up," Spagnuolo said. "It's really the offensive line on offense and tight ends and some other things. But I refuse to use it as an excuse and we've got a team of guys in that locker room that have fought to this point. I believe that they will continue to fight. I don't know that you can ask as a head coach anything more than that."

    Asked about the impact of line injuries, Bradford said, "I think it definitely played a part in what we tried to do. I think Kevin Hughes did a great job coming in. That's a tough situation to be in. Earlier this week he probably had no idea that he was going to be playing today. For that fact, I thought he did a great job. I think it forced us to get the ball out a little quicker than some of the plays we had in our game plan. When that happens, we've just got to make those completions and get in a rhythm."

    Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons had three sacks and two forced fumbles, and continually got around Hughes without even being touched.

    However, Spagnuolo refused to put the problems all on Hughes, saying, "There were a couple chips in there and moving the tight end over. There's a lot of things when those things happen pass wise, get the ball out a little bit quicker, guys block a little bit longer, guys downfield get open. I'm sure when I watch it, it will be a combination of all those things. It's not just one position. It's not just tackles. It's not just helping the tackle. It's how about we get open quicker, how about we throw it quicker, how bout we block a little bit longer. It's all of them."

    —Sunday's game was the ninth time the Rams scored one touchdown or less and they have scored more than 16 points in just one game this season, a 31-21 victory over New Orleans.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    PLAYER NOTES

    —RB Steven Jackson currently ranks fourth all-time on the Rams in all-purpose yardage, which includes kick returns. With 11,583 yards, Jackson is 124 behind third-place Henry Ellard.

    —WR Brandon Lloyd now has 26 receptions in five games with the Rams. If he reaches 30, that would increase the draft-choice compensation the Rams owe the Broncos from a sixth- to a fifth-round pick.

    —OT Rodger Saffold underwent surgery Monday on the pectoral muscle he tore lifting weights last Friday. His rehab period is expected to last four or five months. Saffold had the surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

    —DE Chris Long now has a career-high 9.0 sacks and has had a sack in four consecutive games. His 9.0 sacks are tied for the sixth most in the NFL. Should he reach 10 sacks, he and his father, Howie Long, would be just the second father-son combination in history to each have at least 10 sacks in a season. The other is Clay Matthews Sr. and Clay Matthews Jr., the latter of whom is currently with the Packers.

    —LB James Laurinaitis was credited with 13 tackles (all solo) in the press-box statistics. After tape evaluation by coaches, he was credited with 10 solo tackles and two assists. He remains the team leader in tackles with 80 tackles (57 solo, 23 assists).

    Laurinaitis went for an MRI on a sore foot. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said the team wants to "make sure we're not sitting on anything there. He kind of toughs things out, but we're going to be careful."

    —OT Mark LeVoir was diagnosed with a Grade 1 pectoral muscle injury and will be sidelined from 2-4 weeks.

    —LB Josh Hull had missed a game with a hamstring injury, then played Sunday and aggravated it. Hull went for an MRI, and will likely be out of practice this week.

    —CB Marquis Johnson was hospitalized with an abdominal contusion. Said coach Steve Spagnuolo, "They're going to keep him there for the night, precautionary, making sure we're not sitting on anything too serious here. We'll find out where we're at with him tomorrow.

    —CB Justin King suffered a mild concussion the previous Sunday against Cleveland, injured an ankle in practice last Thursday and then suffered a knee injury against Seattle. An MRI ruled out a serious knee injury, but there was swelling.

    —DT Justin Bannan has a very sore shoulder and went for an MRI.

    —DE Chris Long played through an ankle injury Sunday and was sore Monday. He could be limited in practice this week.

    —WR Mark Clayton is expected to be limited in practice because of a sore knee.

    —WR Austin Pettis is expected to be limited in practice because of a sore knee.

    —TE Lance Kendricks suffered a mild concussion Sunday against Seattle and will go through the normal concussion protocol. It is expected that he will be able to practice Wednesday or Thursday.

    —WR Danario Alexander, who has missed four games because of a hamstring injury, did some running Monday, but coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "He still felt it a little bit today. So, we'll have to be careful again this week and we'll see where we're at, at the end of the week. It wasn't one of those, go out there on Monday, I feel great and I'm ready to go."

    —OT Jason Smith, who has missed four games because of post-concussion symptoms, could be close to being placed on injured reserve. Smith did some work on the bike Monday, but only got to about 50 percent of exertion when he experienced symptoms, "so we just kind of shut it down," coach Steve Spagnuolo said.

    REPORT CARD VS. SEAHAWKS

    PASSING OFFENSE: D — QB Sam Bradford completed just 50 percent of his passes with the only bright spot a 30-yard touchdown pass to WR Brandon Moore. Without that play, Bradford's 19 other completions totaled just 151 yards. He was sacked five times

    RUSHING OFFENSE: F — RB Steven Jackson totaled 42 yards on 15 runs, and 13 rushes gained just 14 yards. On eight first-down runs, he totaled four yards. Should they have run more? Perhaps. But there is little indication it would have worked.

    PASS DEFENSE: B-plus — The Rams got to Tarvaris Jackson for four sacks, intercepted him twice and held him to 148 passing yards and a passer rating of 55.6. And he was the winning quarterback.

    RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus — A late 22-yard touchdown by Justin Forsett was a negative, but the Rams stuffed the Seahawks' ground game most of the afternoon. Even with that 22-yard run, Seattle averaged just 3.2 yards per attempts, and Marshawn Lynch had 88 yards, but it took him 27 runs to do it.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: C — Donnie Jones Punted 10 times, and many were good, but a couple low, short ones ended up being 25- and 37-yard returns by Leon Washington that tilted field position in Seattle's favor.

    COACHING: C-plus — The offensive coaches were being hammered for the spread passing approach they believed would work because Seattle had troubles with it during the season and were stout against the run. Then problem was in the execution, and that became more difficult when rookie tackle Kevin Hughes had to replace Mark LeVoir at left tackle.
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