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Ram View: Week 11 Preview

RamView, November 15, 2009
From Row HH
(Report and opinions from the game.)
Game #9: Saints 28, Rams 23

* Who’s next?: Of all the streaks in all the football joints in all the towns in all the world, this one has to come back into mine. The bane of my football existence, Bill Bidwill’s Big Dead, return to St. Louis next week not only having beaten the Rams five times in a row, they’ve won four straight in the Dome. So worthless Bidwill has more success with his franchise as the visitors in St. Louis than he ever did in 28 incompetent years here as the home team!

More preview after the jump!

One trend in this series the Rams have to break is their proclivity to give up touchdowns to the Big Dead defense. Arizona has scored 6 defensive TDs in the last five games against the Rams, 5 of them on INT returns. But instead of arguing that the Rams’ receivers and offensive linemen need to become better tacklers, let’s take the tack that facing Arizona puts extra emphasis on the Rams to try to win with their usual offensive M.O. There’s just one problem. Arizona’s pretty much shut Steven Jackson down the last three meetings, and they entered this past week with the #3 run defense in the league, and their 3-4 under new coordinator Bill Davis has gone from the bottom of the league to the top in points allowed and third down conversions. And they lead the league in runs stuffed (per Football Outsiders), led by super safety Adrian Wilson. Carolina, though, gashed them for about 250 by lining a slot receiver up on one side, to take a defender out of the box, and running behind the tight end to the other side. NFL.com sure makes it sound easy, anyway, and seeing Billy Bajema or Mike Karney picking off Wilson all day would be a sight for sore eyes as far as this rivalry goes. Jackson should be a dangerous receiver next week either way. Arizona’s aggression makes them vulnerable to screens and short passes, and a great way to defuse Wilson and Arizona’s aggressive LB corps is to make them cover people downfield. The Rams’ll enter this showdown at least with some outs; will they hit one this time or get flushed down the river they way they have been?

Speaking of things the Rams need to hit, another crushing trend of this series has been their inability to pressure Kurt Warner. They’ve sacked Kurt three times in the last four meetings and given  Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin more time than they’ll ever need to get open. Opponents have slowed Arizona down a little by dropping their safeties back to take away the Warner-to-Fitzgerald deep game and daring the Big Dead, with their typically bottom-of-the-league rushing game, to run on them. For the Rams to make that work, they’d better defend the run a LOT better than the last time Arizona was here, when Tim Hightower and J.J. Arrington rolled them for 170 yards. The Rams did hold that same pair to 54 yards in Arizona last December, so there’s reason for hope, though rookie Beanie Wells is emerging as a big upgrade to the out-of-the-league Arrington. But that won’t be enough reason for hope if the Rams don’t put serious pressure on Warner for a change. More than even Jackson this week, the Rams have to get a winning effort from their defensive front. Not a very promising prospect after today.

I’ve said before the Rams would be improved over last year just because they changed coaches. Jim Haslett’s defenses failed for three years to put much pressure on Warner. Steve Spagnuolo’s here because of past brilliance pressuring the QB. Unleash the hounds, coach. This is the perfect week for an underdog playing with more intensity to knock off a talented, yet inconsistent, favorite. If Spagnuolo combines a good defensive game plan with 53 players rockin’ right out of the locker room next Sunday, he can certainly catch Arizona by surprise. It’s time to draw a line in the sand in this rivalry. The Rams need to let Bidwill’s boys know that when they step off the plane in St. Louis, they’re not stepping on a doormat any more – they’re stepping into a snakepit.


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