Rams reach a line in the sand, fail to cross

Week 2: Rams (0-1) at Raiders (0-1)

Sep 19, 2010 3:15 CST

14 logo-OAK 16

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Rolando McClain's finishing move on Danny Amendola. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

This is hard to write. A game that the Rams had won, was lost. A team that the Rams outclassed, embarrassed us. A fan base with pride on the line prepares for a humiliating Monday morning. And a team that could very easily be 2-0 limps back to Saint Louis with the same 0-2 record as a year ago.

There’s a battle of perception going on, between the fans (and players) that want to believe and those who need something concrete to latch on to.

Tough loss today. We are so close to bein where we wanna be. 2 games we should have gotten. Gotta get over the hump. We got it.

Two losses by a combined six points says that this team is better, more competitive, than last year’s. Two losses after two games says they’re not. Mike Sando’s postgame writeup captures my thoughts exactly:

The Rams’ 16-14 road defeat to the Bruce Gradkowski-led Oakland Raiders had to be especially troubling for Spagnuolo and the Rams’ leadership. New owner Stan Kroenke is watching closely for signs of real progress. Not progress imagined through the shrinking margin of defeat. Real progress measured through wins and losses.

Performances like the one St. Louis put forward Sunday — five personal fouls, 210 total yards and only 19 offensive plays in the second half — will not be good enough in the final evaluation. These are the sorts of self-inflicted defeats against bad teams that get people fired if they persist over the course of a season.

— ESPN NFC West Blog, “Defeats like this one troubling for Rams

Some quick thoughts for now, to be augmented after I get to sit down and rewatch this one.

  • If I could say two words to the Rams’ coaches, it’s this: “Play Action.” The Rams thoroughly outclassed the Raiders in the first half, holding McFadden to 38 yards, and making Jason Campbell look … well, like he usually does. Tentative and inaccurate. However, the Rams failed to capitalize while they had their offense going, and a big problem was telegraphing plays. I’t no coincidence that the only score of the first half came on their only successful play-action fake of the first half. This isn’t rocket science, and it’s one thing that Bradford already does very well at the pro level.
  • If I could say two words to Bradford, it’s this: “Hot Read.” Several times during the game — and you could see it from the very first series — the Raiders stacked all three linebackers at the line of scrimmage, on top of their D-linemen, forcing Bradford to guess where the rush was going to come from. (Hint: Kamerion Wimbley wears #96!) And nearly every time, Bradford looked unprepared. You have to know your hot reads! A defensive front like this is an open invitation for a slant or WR screen! That’s an easy 7-8 yards, maybe more, and it backs the defense up. As a bonus, if you throw the ball right off the snap, you don’t get hit! Thankfully, we know Bradford is a smart kid and a quick study. But you wonder how much help Dick Curl is… he doesn’t exactly have a sparkling record with quarterbacks.
  • In “put up or shut up” time, Laurent Robinson has been awful quiet. Do you remember when Robinson’s burst, vision and hands made him look like the best Rams player on the field, in the early games of last season? I do, but that memory is fading faster each week. After a pretty anonymous preseason, Robinson has had an invisible start to the regular season. He’s been targeted 13 times in two games, but caught only 4 passes for 22 yards. The Rams are damn lucky that Mark Clayton (two touchdown catches today, accounting for the Rams’ only points) fell into their hands. And if I’m making roster decisions next week? I activate Brandon Gibson and sit Robinson down. He’s essentially starting on “legacy” right now, and the Rams can’t afford to have anyone sleepwalking through games the way he has.
  • Fred Robbins knows better than that, right? After seven quarters of very solid play, I’ve backed off my early impressions of the Fred Robbins signing. Clearly, he still has gas in the tank, and he knows how to execute what Spagnuolo wants to do on D-line. But ostensibly, this veteran with a Super Bowl ring is the exemplar of the kind of player who “knows how to win.” So what the %@#& was he doing laying hands on Gradkowski well after the end of a crucial 4th quarter play? The refs were painting the field yellow all afternoon, did he honestly think he could get away with that? Never mind the difference in physicality between Rolando McClain’s Mortal Kombat tackle and Robbins’ love tap, at least McClain was going after a guy with the ball in his hand.
  • My patience with Mike Karney is hanging by a thread. I am beginning to seriously doubt whether Karney belongs on this football team. His lead blocking is so-so at best, and Steven Jackson often appears more comfortable cutting back away from the block anyway. And his attempts at blitz pickup were almost laughable, if you don’t mind laughing to keep from crying. The Saints seem to be doing fine without him…
  • After pummeling Derek Anderson, the Rams only hit the Raiders’ quarterbacks 4 times … and one of those was Robbins’ shove of frustration. I expected a big game for George Selvie, but the mammoth Oakland line simply swallowed him up. James Hall is good for a few good rushes per game, but the Rams need Selvie to step up and take the starting job, allowing Hall to be used on third downs only. And why again did we cut Jermelle Cudjo? I can’t help but think he could have been useful yesterday.

    Meanwhile, did anyone else think it was odd that the Fox announcers spent a good 15 minutes talking to Howie Long during the game, and didn’t ask one question about his son Chris? He was on the field virtually the entire second half… though perhaps if he had given the announcers a reason to call his name, the topic might have come up.

  • Is it safe to assume that the Rams didn’t gameplan for Bruce Gradkowski? Or, more to the point, did they fail to gameplan for a quarterback with a quick release, pocket presence, and snap decision making? Regardless of Gradkowski’s accuracy, which is only okay, it was Gradkowski’s speed in the pocket that made the difference. Quite simply, if the Raiders had left Campbell in the game, they would have lost, and I would be writing a very different story today. But Gradkowski came into the game and simply undressed us, and it opened up the whole field (Darren McFadden suddenly found the going much easier, gaining 110 yards in the second half), and the Rams failed to adjust.

Argh. After a loss like this I could sit here and name goats all day. At least no one is running away with the division yet…