Saturday, November 19, 2011
2011 Rams Week 10: Five observations
By Mike Sando
Five things I noticed while watching the St. Louis Rams' most recent game, a 13-12 road victory over the Cleveland Browns:
- The Rams' one playmaker at wideout. Brandon Lloyd's addition gives the Rams a receiver good enough to beat man coverage, even in compressed areas. Lloyd beat the Browns' Joe Haden for a 7-yard touchdown on a third-and-3. This was a passing situation, but the Rams tightened their formation and made Lloyd the only viable receiver. He was the only one they needed and the only one on the team able to make such a play regularly.
- Sacks aren't everything. Chris Long has five sacks in the Rams' last three games, leaving him one sack away from setting a career single-season high with nine. His run defense caught my attention in the second quarter. Long beat right tackle Tony Pashos to the inside and had a clear path to stop running back Chris Ogbonnaya. Pashos grabbed Long around the neck and held him. Long carried the 326-pound Pashos a few steps and made the tackle anyway.
- Inexcusable coverage lapse. The Rams led 10-6 with 23 second left in the half when they allowed a 52-yard reception to Greg Little down the middle of the field. The Rams rushed four. The Browns kept six players in for protection. A seventh, Ogbonnays, released parallel to the line of scrimmage. The Rams should have had six defenders against three vertical receivers. How can this happen? We might expect more errors such as this one given all the injuries at cornerback for St. Louis.
- Phil Taylor gave Rams' guards trouble. The Browns' rookie first-round draft choice showed up at key moments in the fourth quarter. He beat Rams right guard Harvey Dahl before delivering a frightening hit on Sam Bradford to force an incomplete pass. Then, with the Rams facing third-and-3 at the Cleveland 9 with 8:17 left, Taylor beat left guard Jacob Bell for a sack. Taylor looked like the type of player the Rams should target in the 2012 draft.
- Minimizing the fluky nature of defeat. Yes, the Rams needed the Browns to botch a 22-yard field goal in the final minutes. Cleveland was fortunate it came to that, in retrospect. The Browns fumbled two plays before the missed field goal. They muffed a handoff between McCoy and tight end Alex Smith, who had subbed into the game at fullback when an injury sidelined Owen Marecic. Rams fans critical of former coordinator Pat Shurmur would have had fresh material had the Rams messed up a handoff to the tight end under Shurmur's watch. The missed field-goal wound up overshadowing everything, but why handoff to a tight end?
I'm heading to the airport shortly for a late flight to San Francisco for the Cardinals-49ers game Sunday.