My God, these Rams are looking more and more like Jeff Fisher’s teams from Tennessee every day. No doubt about it, the Rams victory over Buffalo was ugly. Many of Fisher’s victories over time have been ugly. However, I am so happy to see an ugly victory instead of an ugly loss.
Some of you may be expecting another exaltation of Bradford. If I thought he had great game after a 222 yard no touchdown performance against the 49ers, then I should be jumping for joy after the 200+ yard 1 touchdown game against Buffalo. Sorry to disappoint, but Sam had his issues in this game. I give him tremendous credit for the last drive, but his overall performance was acceptable, not great.
There was one player who was great. I watched the game twice now and Michael Brockers looks better each time. He is occupying blockers, pushing them deep, and even getting pressure on the quarterback. Anyone who still complains about the RGIII trade is blind. We got Bradford instead of Suh, and then we got a Suh replica. Brockers is becoming a beast inside. Plus, we still have two more first round picks courtesy of the trade.
Let’s take a look at the preview and see if anything I thought would matter actually mattered.
Preliminarily, I will note that the commentary about the Bills defense was dead on. They are the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde. They were downright ugly at the beginning of the season and now are one of the better defenses in the entire league.
PREVIEW 1. CONTROL THE RUN
While I started with defensive statistics for the Bills, the most important factor in this game is the Rams’ run defense. The Bills are 4th in the league in rushing yards gaining 147.9 per game. They are averaging an exemplary 5.2 yards per rush. They also rarely turn the ball over while running with only 5 fumbles this year. On the other hand, the Bills rank 26th in the league for passing offense gaining only 198.5 yards a game. They frequently turn the ball over when passing. They have 13 interceptions with only 374 attempts. This is the 4th worst interception percentage in the league.
If the Rams can control the run, the Bills will be forced to try to pass, which is the weakest part of their game. If Rams don’t control the run, they will lose the game, barring an extraordinary offensive performance.
REVIEW – This one is easy. The Bills averaged 147.9 per game and the Rams held them to 61 total rushing yards. The Bills average 5.2 yards per rush and the Rams held them to 3.0 yards per rush. The Rams run defense was so extraordinary that I have confidence the Rams are ready for the ultimate test this week. Controlling the run was a large factor in the Rams’ victory. The game remained close enough to allow for the last drive that ultimately won the game.
Preview 2. PASS TO OPEN UP THE RUN
As a preliminary statement, I am assuming that Danny Amendola will start and that Givens will replace Gibson as the other starter. If Danny A. is not playing, we do not have the option of following the strategy I am setting forth below.
I have to expect the Bills will come into the game with a strategy of focusing on Steven Jackson specifically and stopping the run generally. Furthermore, the weather at this time of year in Buffalo is never advantageous to a passing attack. Therefore, no one will expect the Rams to come out firing. While the Rams are not a passing Juggernaut, I do not believe their passing can be considered a weakness.
I would like to see the Rams come out with a two to one pass to run ratio focusing on the intermediate range. I am not that impressed with the Bills linebackers, which is partially playing a role in this strategy. I am not going to suggest a Tom Brady passing attack for the whole game. Instead, I recommend that the Rams try to get a 10 to 14 point lead in the first three to four possessions. At some point, the Bills will adjust and focus on the pass. At that point, we let Jackson and Richardson take over.
I am not a huge fan of going away from your strength based entirely on an element of surprise. I want to make clear; my recommendation is not based entirely on an element of surprise. It is partially based on a belief that the Rams have an advantage with Danny Amendola, Chris Givens, Lance Kendricks and all three of the RBs in the short to intermediate range with Bradford throwing the ball. Moreover, it is my belief that an initial pass happy attack will open up the run as the linebackers and safeties have to focus on their pass defense. Once it is opened up, we can begin to pound Jackson and Richardson and hopefully maintain the early lead.
REVIEW – Danny Amendola did not play and the Rams did not follow my game plan in the 1st half. The bang your head against the wall strategy lead to appalling offensive stats for the first half. Maybe, I am seeing more here than exists, but I think the Rams saw what I saw and adjusted in the 2nd half. The first drive of the 2nd half was exactly what I wanted to see to begin the 1st half. The Rams gained over 200 net yards in the 2nd half. I am not recommending that the Rams rebuke the run. I still believe the run has to be a primary focus for this team to succeed. Against the 49ers, you have to bang you head against that wall. Against the Bills? Maybe, it is time for the Rams to take a cue from Martz and try to pass to set up the run, at least early in games.
PREVIEW 3. TURNOVERS
The initial offensive game plan requires short drops and quick throws. Bradford cannot afford an interception when the defense begins to anticipate the quick throw. I am not suggesting he has to go the entire game without an interception. I am suggesting that a game plan that is primarily designed to take a quick lead, requires the Rams to take advantage of each possession. Also, once we get the Bills to begin throwing the ball, we have to take advantage of it. The primary reason to get them to throw the ball is to try to get Fitzpatrick into his interception mode.
REVIEW – Epic fail. The Rams did not grab a quick lead. Yes, Buffalo got pass happy due to the tremendous Rams defense, but the Rams did not take advantage of Fitzpatrick with interceptions.
REVIEW 4. BRADFORD UNDER PRESSURE
If the Rams ignore my initial game plan, then Sam will have the same role he had in the 49ers game. He will not throw often, but when he does he will need to complete the pass and move the chains. A heavy run game plan against a defense designed to stop the run, will lead to long third downs from time to time. The Bills can get pressure on the quarterback. Sam will need to deal with that pressure by either getting rid of the ball quickly or running when the protection falls apart.
If the Rams follow my game plan, there will be running opportunities for Sam early because the linebackers will be busy covering our receivers. Also, the quick throws will cause the lineman to try to get quick pressure, which should open up some running lanes. In the quick throw portion of the game plan, I would like to see Sam take off when the opportunity arises.
Also, my game plan eventually switches into a running focused offense. We will then have the same situation as set forth in the first paragraph of this section. Once we get into run mode, Sam Bradford will need to take advantage of his opportunities. As the safeties move up to stop the run, a deep throw to Givens should cause hesitation in that approach.
REVIEW – The Rams did not follow my game plan, and in the first half, Sam did not keep the chains moving. When the Rams decide to focus on the run, Bradford has a very difficult job. His limited passes have to be completed. In the first half, Bradford did not make those completions. It is obvious that the receivers have difficulty getting open with press man coverage. Even in the last drive, Sam was throwing to covered receivers. However, he completed enough of the passes to lead a game scoring drive. Hopefully, Amendola returns next week and we will have one receiver who can consistently get open. Also, any double team will switch to Danny, which should open up the deep routes for Givens.
PREVIEW 5. PENALTIES
It is time for the Rams to grow up. Double digit penalities, especially on the road, are not acceptable. I want 8 or less penalties. Execution matters.
REVIEW – Allelulia. The Rams had 2 penalties for 17 yards.