posted on September 16, 2013 00:00
For the second straight week, it took the Rams until late in the third quarter to open up the offense, and for the second straight week, once they did, the points piled up.
The Rams have scored 51 points in their first two games. 35 of those points have come in the final two minutes of the third quarter or later.
I’m not sure what Brian Schottenheimer’s reasoning is for the conservative approach through the first 40 minutes of the game is each week---especially considering the Rams were trailing into the 3rd Quarter in both games---but after seeing that approach fail twice…and seeing the more aggressive approach succeed…I’d like to think we won’t see it again next week in Dallas.
The reality through two games is that it’s pretty clear the Rams can move the football through the air. After the Arizona Cardinals took Chris Givens away last week, Sam Bradford targeted him eight times and completed five of those passes for 105 yards. Tavon Austin still hasn’t broken off a monster gain, but you can’t argue with two touchdown receptions. And, Austin Pettis had eight catches for 78 yards.
On the other hand, it looks like the Rams are lacking a force to move the football on the ground. Daryl Richardson carried the football 10 times for 35 yards. Isaiah Pead ran it one time for one yard. Benny Cunningham carried it twice for no yards. And Zac Stacy didn’t dress.
These developments aren’t particularly surprising. By that I mean…I don’t think too many people looked at the players lining up as pass catchers and the players lining up as ball carriers and said, “The running backs are the guys who are going to score the points.”
So, if that’s the case heading into the games, and if that’s the case now after two games, I really hope that we see the Rams adjust accordingly and be aggressive offensively out of the gate…until it’s too late.
But, to focus on the conservative game plan and not the defense or the special teams would be a mistake.
The reason I loved the over in this game is because it’s clear the Rams have some issues covering the pass in the secondary. If Carson Palmer and Arizona’s ragtag offensive line could pick them apart, I figured you’d see something worse Sunday in Atlanta. And, we did…with Matt Ryan completing 33 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns.
The secondary got burned a number of times and just couldn’t match up with Julio Jones. Jones’ 81 yard touchdown came when he beat Janoris Jenkins…and safety Rodney McLeod wasn’t there---or even close---to help out. But, Jones had another 10 catches and 101 yards that weren’t associated with that play.
Ryan completed 22 passes to receivers other than Jones…and this is a team that was ahead by 21 at one point. In other words, unlike the Rams in their situation not having a choice, the Falcons were not looking to throw the football…and still completed more passes than the Rams.
The problems in the secondary are not going to go away. They may get better, but they’re not going to magically become the 2000 Ravens.
The offensive play calling should get better considering how effective the Rams have been through the air.
But, the element that the Rams are in control of that may have played the biggest role in Sunday’s defeat is penalties.
Both the Rams and Falcons had seven penalties for 53 yards, but the magnitude of the Rams’ penalties were much more devastating.
The Falcons are three and out on their first drive if Chris Long doesn’t jump offsides.
And then there were the horrendous penalties on returns.
Tim Barnes…starting field position at own 8.
Steadman Bailey…starting field position at own 11.
Steadman Bailey…starting field position at own 18.
Ray-Ray Armstrong…starting field position at own 5.
Four of the Rams’ seven penalties came on special teams…they all led to terrible field position.
Bottom line: the Rams went down to Atlanta, a team in the mix for the NFC Championship this year, and they outplayed them in the second half. But, self-inflicted wounds in the first half---in all aspects of the game---combined with the talent of the Falcons’ offense led to a hole that was just too big to climb out of.
For many teams, a trip to Atlanta would be as difficult of a road test as they’ll have all year.
For the 2013 Rams, they still have to go to Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, and Seattle.
They may have the raw talent to compete in all of those games, but few teams have the ability to overcome bad offensive play calling, mistakes in the secondary, and terrible special teams penalties.
The Rams will get a chance to show they learned their lesson in just six days in a winnable game in Dallas.
I’m not really sure what was going on with the Cardinal offense over the final six games of this homestand, but considering that they went 4-2 despite the struggles, they dodged quite a bullet.
With the Reds and Pirates positioned to jump on the opportunity of each getting the Cubs this week---and in the Reds’ case getting the Brewers as well---the Cardinals could’ve had some real problems in the National League Central standings with the offensive inefficiency they experienced against the Brewers and Mariners. Instead, the Reds blew it by losing two of three to both the Cubs and the Brewers. The Pirates held serve with the Cardinals as the the Redbirds scraped and scrapped---and got lucky---and won four of six…capping it off by beating the hell out of the Mariners Sunday 12-2.
Matt Carpenter went raking once again, and he now has 183 hits on the year after collecting three yesterday. He’s on pace for 199 hits (per Jen Langosch of STLCardinals.com), and he’d become the first player since Albert Pujols in 2003 to reach 200 hits if he can get another 17 over the final 13 games.
The Cardinal offense will have a chance to explode with seven games at Coors Field and Miller Park. While the Cardinals are playing teams that are a combined 32 games under .500, the Reds get to go to Houston, and the Pirates host the Padres. Then it’s three games in Pittsburgh for the Reds and Pirates as they finish off the season by playing each other six of nine games.
This is a golden opportunity for the Cardinals. While the Pirates and Reds are playing each other assuring that one of the two teams will lose, the Cardinals will get the Brewers on the first weekend and the Cubs on the final weekend.
Considering the schedules for all three teams and considering the Reds are now 3.5 back, this is mathematically getting into the territory of the Cardinals and Pirates playing for the Division Title. Let me put it this way, if the Cardinals go 6-7 (and that would be against the Rockies, Brewers, Nationals, and Cubs…so not particularly likely), the Reds would have to go 10-2 to win the division outright.
The Reds have the Astros for three, the Mets for three, and those six against the Pirates. The Pirates have the Padres for four, the Cubs for three, and those six against the Reds.
The Cardinals have quite a range of outcomes two weeks from today when the playoffs begin. They could be as high as the number one overall seed overall in the National League as they trail the Braves by only two games…or they could be on the road for the play-in game against the Reds.
Win nine of 13 against some of the worst teams in baseball, and I’d wager they’re starting at home against the Dodgers in 16 days.
- Illinois had the offense to compete with Steve Sarkisian’s Washington Huskies Saturday night at Soldier Field, but they have some real issues defensively. Of course, now that I think about it, how many football teams---both at the collegiate and the pro level---have you watched far this season and thought, “That’s a damn good defense.” Defenses at both levels are behind the curve as offenses are relentless with throwing the football from start to finish…or in the case of the Rams…from about 44 minutes in to finish.
- Missouri is a 5.5 point favorite in Bloomington Saturday night. The Hoosiers beat up on Bowling Green Saturday to improve to 2-1.
- The Rams are a four-point underdog at Dallas. Fun fact per RJ Bell of Pregame.com: The underdog has covered in 71% of Cowboys’ games over the last four seasons.
- Rangers’ manager Ron Washington is in the midst of his third potential collapse in as many years. You know what happened in 2011. Last year, the Rangers blew it after having a monster division lead…only to lose in the play-in game after the A’s won the division. And, the same thing is happening this year. They’ve lost six in a row, trail the A’s by 6.5…and are holding on to a wild card spot by just one game over the Cleveland Indians.
- Yesterday marked the fourth consecutive game in which the Rams’ offensive line didn’t allow a sack. The Rams haven’t had a streak like that since 1973.
- Barring a surprise, the Rams likely need help at running back. With Reggie Bush and Joique Bell moving ahead of him in Detroit, Mikel Leshoure has let it be known he’d be “open” to a trade from the Lions, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Would the Rams be “open” to making a deal for the 2011 first round pick? Would it even be much of an upgrade. Leshoure is averaging 3.7 yards per carry in his NFL career.
- This time next week, I’d wager we’ll have a really good idea of where things are going for the Cardinals, Rams, and Missouri in 2013. We know the Cardinals are going to be playing at least one game in October, but if they have a big week against the Rockies and Brewers, they could very well be in control of the National League Central. And, when it comes to both the Rams and the Tigers, these are swing games. Few expected the Rams to lose to the Cardinals (even though Arizona has proven to be a better team than at least I thought they were going to be). And few expected the Rams to beat the Falcons. So, 1-1 is where most thought they’d be…but this trip to 1-1 Dallas is the game that you could see going either way.
Same with Missouri in the sense that damn near everyone expected them to be 2-0 at this point…but the game at Indiana is one many could see going either way. Win it…and you’re likely 4-0 heading to Vanderbilt. Arkansas State at home is the only thing that would stand in their way. Lose it, and you’ve been beaten by a team that lost at home to Navy.
Suffice it to say, it’s a huge weekend of football locally for which direction these two teams’ seasons go.
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