Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rams Vs. Titans: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The St. Louis Rams had a solid preseason opener a week ago against the Indianapolis Colts. The Rams walked away with a convincing 33-10 victory.
Brandon Gibson hauls in an 83-yard touchdown reception against
the Titans last night on the very first offensive play of the night. 

This week, however, the Rams still won the game against the Tennessee Titans with a score of 17-16, but this week’s victory was not nearly as convincing.

There were obviously some positives, as they won the game, but the negatives were plentiful in the first half and difficult to ignore. So without further ado, here is the 2011 premiere of “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”…

The Good

The 83-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Bradford to receiver Brandon Gibson on the first offensive play of the night was seemingly a good omen, perhaps even a sign that the Rams would repeat last week’s routing of the Colts, but it turned out to be their only points in the entire first half.

Despite the touchdown pass being the only points of the half, Bradford played well the entire time. He was 8-for-15 with 138 yards and a touchdown. He also had an interception, although it came off of a pass that hit receiver Mike Sims-Walker perfectly in the hands but was deflected off of the gloves and into the hands of a defender.

The only other positive was the backup players.

Second-string quarterback A.J. Feeley looked sharp and alert for the most part. He hit Donnie Avery for a touchdown in the third-quarter, and Avery looked surprisingly fast and healthy coming off his ACL tear from 2010.
Third-string quarterback Thad Lewis drops back
 for a pass in last night's game against the Titans.

Third-string quarterback Thad Lewis was phenomenal during his playing time in the fourth-quarter. He completed 80% of his passes (8-for-10) for 74 yards, had a ten yard scramble, and he even led the Rams downfield for the final drive of the game, which resulted in a game-winning field-goal by kicker Josh Brown in the final seconds of the game.

The Bad

There are plenty of things from the game that are considered “Bad”, the only question is where to start.
The Rams were out rushed by the Titans 198 yards to only 44. Star running back Steven Jackson had only 10 yards on six carries, which equals out to a 1.7 yards per carry average.

But it wasn’t just the running backs. The receivers greatly struggled to get separation, with Gibson’s touchdown being the main exception. In fact, tight end Fendi Onobun and wide receiver Greg Salas led the team in receptions with only three each, and only five of fourteen receivers had more than one catch.

On defense, the team made some solid third-down stops that forced field-goals instead of touchdowns, but the effort of the unit as a whole was lackluster at best.
The Rams run game last night can be summed up with this picture.

The starters allowed over 80 rushing yards in the first-quarter alone. And although the pass defense was better, they were still flawed. They gave up 24 and 29 yard receptions, respectively, and allowed starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to go 7-for-9 on his passes.

Overall, the defense looked unfocused and they were lacking intensity. Linebackers were not staying home and they were blowing assignments, while the defensive line failed to apply consistent pressure.

The Ugly

The ugliest aspect of the game for the Rams came at the line of scrimmage. Both lines underachieved, but it was particularly the offensive line that stood out in a bad way.

Bradford was feeling pressure all night and, as mentioned earlier, the run game was non-existent.

But the most infuriating was the play of Hank Fraley, who started at left-guard in place of the injured Jacob Bell, as well as Adam Goldberg, who eventually replaced Rodger Saffold at left-tackle late in the half.

The offensive line allowed almost instant penetration as a whole, but the 33-year-old Fraley was particularly ineffective, and the Titans defensive line turned Goldberg into a ragdoll.

What is absolutely dumbfounding is that the coaching staff left Bradford in the game with Goldberg and Fraley guarding his blindside. On Bradford’s last play of the game he was taken down by a defensive tackle and was hesitant to get up.

It’s hard to justify risking your franchise quarterback just to build the self-esteem of two guys who barely belong in the NFL. If you want to give Bradford second-string blocking then put the second-string quarterback in the game.


It was a win, but it wasn’t easy to watch either.

There is a reason they have the preseason. It gives teams a chance to try a variety of players in different situations, and it also gives them a chance to identify clear problems before the season begins.

The game was not ideal, but it’s good for the team and the coaching staff that they were able to expose some team weaknesses before Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles, so that way they can go to practice this week and work on ironing out the kinks.

Next week the Rams will travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs for the third preseason game and the annual Missouri Governor’s Cup. The game is on Friday, August 26th and it will kick off at 7:00 PM CDT.

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