Saturday, September 24, 2011
Thoughts on NFC West non-division games
By Mike Sando
Passing along a few general thoughts after watching the most recent games from Week 3 NFC West opponents Baltimore and Cincinnati:
- Rams' running game: The Ravens look like they're still tough against the run, but a quick-thinking quarterback can fare well against them. Tennessee's Matt Hasselbeck did just that in Week 2. Hasselbeck found receivers on short routes when pressure arrived quickly. He was very accurate on deeper passes and his receivers/tight ends made outstanding individual plays for him. The Rams' Sam Bradford hasn't fared as well against pressure. He needs to improve in that area for the Rams to win this game. He needs someone, whether it's Danario Alexander again or another teammate, to help him out down the field. The Ravens' Ray Lewis still tackles with bad intentions, but he does not move nearly as well as he did years ago. That stood out watching the Ravens against Tennessee.
- Rams' pass-rush: The Ravens' Joe Flacco held the ball too long a few times, inviting sacks. The Rams' pass rush should be able to give Flacco problems in the noisy Edward Jones Dome. That will be easier if St. Louis improves its so-far-disappointing run defense. The Rams have struggled against the run so far, but coach Steve Spagnuolo hasn't sounded overly concerned. The Rams' personnel should let them play the run better. The Ravens' screen game is also a variable to watch. Ray Rice hurt Tennessee with a 31-yard touchdown reception off a screen.
- 49ers' pass defense: The Bengals have a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton. They no longer have Chad Ochocinco at receiver. Still, the Bengals showed an ability to get the ball downfield in the second half against Denver last week, a concern for the 49ers. Jerome Simpson's 84-yard reception in the fourth quarter recalled the 77-yarder Dallas completed against San Francisco in overtime. Dalton is not yet as good as Romo, but he completed 27 of 41 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns and no turnovers against Denver. Dalton had second-half pass plays covering 22, 25, 26, 31 and 84 yards to Simpson and A.J. Green.
I don't always get a chance to watch games for all the upcoming non-divisional opponents, but when I do, I'll pass along a few impressions.
Enjoy your Saturday.