SECOND and LOOOOONG: Rams/Raiders Recap

Posted: September 21, 2010 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NFL
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You win some, you lose some. That’s how the old saying goes, but in recent times that saying has been shattered by the tendencies of the St. Louis Rams. That’s actually underselling it, extremely. Dropping 44 of their last 50 contests over the past 3 years, and now two games, proves that that saying doesn’t have any jurisdiction in St. Louis. However, it is not as cut and dry as it seems. Sometimes they will get beat outright and handily, but many times it is created by just a few small errors, which they create for themselves. The rap sheet  looks quite familiar:

Bad coverage reads, abandoning parts of the offense, missed field goals, penalties, personal fouls, etc, etc, etc…

Even one of these elements done at the wrong time can cause a team to fail, but when all of them occur at once, even the most beatable teams become invincible. Yesterday, the Rams empowered the Raiders to invinciblity by just maintaining mediocrity. Each Raider drive for the first 2 1/2 quarters was aided just as much by a Rams penalty or lack of focus as it was by solid play by the Raider offense. For the total of the game, St. Louis committed 8 penalties for 92 yards. Against a team with as many offensive issues as the Raiders have, that’s far too much help to give them to make an impact, it’s almost handing them the game.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo is left with very few answers for his team absent minded play.

A look at the Oakland offense will show how Rams errors did the majority of the work for them. Starter Jason Campbell was pulled for pure ineffectiveness at half time for Gradkowski. After entering, Gradkowski completed 11 of 22 passes for only 162 yards with a touchdown and an interception. This isn’t a world class effort, but when combined with the multiple penalties and personal fouls, was made to look heroic. Gradkowski’s impact in selling the penalties made just as big an impact as his passing did. OJ Atogwe’s 15 yard roughing the passer call which lead to a Louis Murphy TD and Fred Robbins late hit call tacked another 15 yards on and sealed the Rams fate.

After sinking themselves with penalties, Atogwe and the Rams defense have to realize less is more.

Some credit must go to Oakland’s second halftime adjustment, of stacking the defensive front to slow Steven Jackson, who had 67 yards on the ground in the first half, but was limited to 8 yards in the second half on only five carries. This forced the game into the hands of Sam Bradford, who despite connecting with Mark Clayton for two scores; never found the rhythm he had in week 1. By forcing the pass, and defending it well, the Raiders controlled the clock and kept possession for all but 7 minutes of the second half. They frequently ate up the clock with runs from Darren McFadden (145 yards) and made several big passes when they needed them and eventually beat the Rams in both strategy and timely playmaking. Remember also, this is still the Raiders were talking about here….exactly.

McFadden is the 2nd RB in two weeks to take advantage of a lackluster Ram run defense.

This is a team that simply beat itself in many instances, and also never adjusted to new wrinkles thrown at them. Oakland’s coach Tom Caple forced the Rams into playing his game and the Rams in turn handed him the whole thing. While some of the Ram struggles this year can be counted on growth, some are inexcusable in both frequency and intent. They simply did not make plays that professionals have to make, such as a failure of discipline and dropping easy interceptions that could have swung the tide of the game. On Sunday, they specialized in the handoff, but it was of the game, not the ball.


–          Bradford continued his success going to Clayton, this week finding him for two redzone scores of 7 and 17 yards, but those were the only two catches of the game for Clayton. He has to be able to find him more often to duplicate the consistency he had during week one.

–          Once again, the Rams run defense was consistently subpar against a constant attack. McFadden accumulated his 145 yards at a rate of 4.8 yards per carry, including a 30 yard run in third quarter that led to Gradkowski’s only TD pass.

–          Sunday’s co-leading tackler was safety Craig Dahl with nine. However, he sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter and his status is unknown for next week vs. Washington.

–          Kicker Josh Brown missed his second FG in two games, when he missed a 36 yard chance in the first half, which would have been the standing difference in the win or loss later on.


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