The 2012 St. Louis Rams are work in progress. They had their worst tackling game of the season, a good first half of rushing, a horrendous second half of rushing, and way too many third and longs against a pass rushing defense. Yet, they won. They won this game on coaching.
Jeff Fisher outcoached Pete Carol in many ways. Some of his play calls were better (ex. fake field goal). However, Fisher's coaching can also be noticed in the team's personality. They never get down because they believe in themselves. They have confidence. Look no further than Greg Zuerline, who doesn't even flinch when he is asked to kick a 50 plus yard field goal in his rookie season. I would dig a little deeper into the game, but Will already has a good game review article posted to the web site. Also, this is a short week, and I need to do another preview already.
Let's review the preview and see whether the factors I highlighted made any difference:
1. RUN MORE AND RUN MORE EFFECTIVELY
Running right up the middle and gaining two yards or less is not going to help the Rams, no matter how often they do it. I agree with the proposition that early failure in the run does not suggest game long ineptitude. Yes, the Rams need to keep trying to run if they do not have early success. At the same time, I want to see diversity. If Steven Jackson and his bad groin can’t find space between the tackles, I want to see more of Richardson and Pead. Both have superior speed. One of the ways to create doubt in the running game is to run counter plays. You need a healthy groin and great speed to run counter plays. I want to see 25 total runs, with an average of at least 4.0 yards a carry (I will not include quarterback scrambles in these totals).
REVIEW – The Rams ran exactly 25 times, if we exclude the two runs by Bradford. Again, excluding the Bradford runs, the Rams averaged 3.08 per carry. The average did not matter as much because the Rams had early success, so Seattle had to respect the run. The running game in the second half was an embarrassment from a productivity stand point. For those of you that do not know, Steve Jackson had 9 rushes for 54 yards in the first half. He ended the game with 18 rushes for 55 yards. Nevertheless, the running game accomplished one goal. It forced Seattle to respect the run. .
2. BLOCK, BLOCK, AND BLOCK SOME MORE
There is no way around it. Our offensive line has to be better. If Wayne Hunter is literally thrown to the ground with a left hand shove, Quinn Ojinnaka lets someone go right by him, and Richardson lets someone go right over him, we have no chance. Fans will not want to hear this, but it is extremely difficult to game plan around a bad line. The short drop/quick throw plan works for Tom Brady as a consistent game plan. However, he is nearly perfect on almost every throw. If our receivers can’t get open quickly, Sam Bradford will have to throw into coverage, place it nearly perfectly and the receivers have to consistently catch it. Perfection is not something Rams fan should rest their hopes on for a victory.
REVIEW – Wayne Hunter and Richardson were much better this game. Quinn Ojinnaka is still a turnstile. Turner and Dahl had their moments and their negatives. The tremendous number of runs for a loss in the 2nd half is on the line, but when the Rams needed it most (3rd and long) the line stood strong. We must keep in mind that this is a replacement line. Richardson should have been a back up, but became a starter through the futility of Jason Smith. The left side contains all backups right now. Thus, we can't expect perfection. These replacements were certainly not perfect, but no one can dispute that they did their job. Paul Boudreau is showing his value.
3. IF 1 AND 2 WORK, GO MARTZIAN
Going Martzian does not mean throwing 50 yard bombs. I am talking about timing throws. Martz was amazing at planning routes where the ball is thrown to a spot, not necessarily to a receiver. In other words, Martz wanted the throw made before the QB knew if the receiver was open. Most of these routes were deeper than 10 yards.
Why? If you throw to a spot before the CB turns his back to the quarterback, the CB has the advantage because he can see the QB’s eyes. Once the CB turns his back to the QB, the receiver has the advantage because only the receiver knows when he is breaking off his route and when the ball is going to be thrown. In three games, I have seen very few timing throws.
Maybe this is Bradford’s fault. Maybe it is coaching. Maybe the receivers can’t be trusted to make it to the spot in time. Whatever the explanation, almost every Bradford throw is designed to be thrown at the first sign that someone is getting open. (This may explain why he lasers in on receivers). If the line is bad, you can’t run deeper routes and wait for the receiver to be open. You have to throw before they are actually open. This requires trust in the receivers to make a play.
The only play that I can say for certain was a timing play was the interception. This may answer my question above why we do not have many timing plays. Sam threw the ball before the break, and Gibson wasn't where he was supposed to be. At the same time, many of Sam's best throws were thrown right when the break was being made. The slants to Amendola and the bomb to Givens were all thrown with some trust. Neither player had proven they were going to be open at the spot where the ball was thrown when Sam threw it. Thus, we saw a growth in Sam Bradford in this game. On the bomb to Givens, he did everything that his critics say he can not do. He looked off the safety. He threw it quickly. He threw it deep.
4. CATCH THE DAMN BALL – MAKE A PLAY
Catch the damn ball. If Brandon Gibson wants to continue to be starter, he has to show that he can consistently get open and consistently catch the ball. If Lance Kendricks wants to be a pass catching threat, he has to catch every ball thrown at his chest. I don’t care if there is tight coverage. Your only job is run a route and catch a ball. Do your job. Oh, and for all the wide receivers, when Sam Bradford doesn't’t make a perfect throw, can you try to make an adjustment, position yourself, and make a play?
REVIEW – Great. The receivers did a much better job of catching the ball. Last year, the throw to Gives would have been dropped.
5. STOP THE RUN
Many talking heads are raving about Seattle’s new quarterback, Russell Wilson. Will you mind if I ask why? The “incredible” Mr. Wilson was 18 for 34 for 153 yards in game one, 15 for 29 for 151 yards in game two and 10 for 21 for 130 yards and 2 TDs in game three (remember the last TD, yards and the completion were not legitimate). I have no fear of Russell Wilson. This team’s offense is based on the running game. Take it away and you will not have to worry about their offense. Including Wilson’s scrambles, I want to hold Seattle to less than 125 total yards rushing.
REVIEW – I could not have been more wrong. Seattle rushed 34 times for 179 yards with a 5.3 average. Nevertheless, the Rams won. How? Look to Howard Balzer for the answer. He used to annoy fans when he would claim a loss was the result of the inability to "make a play". In this game, the Rams defense made plays when they needed to. They got off the field on 3rd down. Seattle converted only 2 of 9 third downs. Fans may not love this style of defense, but there is no doubt it works. If the defense can get off the field on third down, the team can win many games.