- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- When Green Bay's James Starks broke up the middle in Week 2, Bacarri Rambo knew what he was supposed to do. But he knew a receiver was coming to crack block him. So Rambo tried to take out the receiver before making the play; he took his eyes off the running back. And Starks broke free through the left side for a 32-yard touchdown run.
It’s a play Rambo said taught him a lesson, one that he applied Sunday at Denver. Rambo recorded 12 tackles and, just as important, only missed one. A big reason for Rambo’s improved play was a simple lesson: read your keys and get to your gap. If the receiver comes to block him from the side, just take him on as you maintain your gap. And if the receiver cracks him, then it’s up to the corner to make the play.
"Most of my tackles came on taking the crack," Rambo said, "then just allowing taking on the crack and keep fighting to make the tackle … Just reading my keys, man. That’s what it came down to. Don’t run to the crack [blocker]. It’s small, but small things matter, too. I just had to correct those small things."
By doing so, Rambo played more decisive than at any point this season, including the preseason. Had he played this way in the first two games, he likely would not have lost his starting job. Instead, he spent three games inactive until Reed Doughty's injury and Brandon Meriweather's suspension created an opening.
Rambo did not start, but entered when Jose Gumbs hurt his ankle.
"You can see he got his confidence back," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said of Rambo.
During his benching, Rambo said he didn’t watch more film. But he studied it better. He also paid more attention to tip sheets provided to him by secondary coach Raheem Morris, a basic scouting report.
The result: Rambo played with more urgency.
"I felt more prepared," he said. "I felt my keys led me to the ball. If I have a tight end, I watch the tight end. He blocks, and I come down and try to help in run support."
What this means for him going forward remains uncertain. But Rambo at least showed Sunday that he could help. It’s a start.
"It made me look at myself a lot different," Rambo said. "I hit adversity and I had to work my way back on the field and show the coaches I can be that guy ... I was ready. I believed in myself, I felt prepared and I went out there and tried to do the best I could do."