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RamView: Week 14 – Part 5

* Defensive line / LB: The Ram defense did some things right today. They held Tennessee to 4-of-13 on third down, 1-for-9 at one point. They didn’t score a sack – no new news there – but put decent pressure on the Titan QBs for ¾ of the game. For all his league-leading ability, the Rams stuffed Chris Johnson (28-117) many times. James Butler strung him out for no gain, and David Vobora broke up a screen pass, to force a FG in the 2nd. Cliff Ryan and Leger (the DOOZER) Douzable dropped him for back-to-back losses the next possession, which ended in another FG after Chris Long’s near-sack drew an intentional grounding call on Kerry Collins. The Rams trailed 23-0 at halftime but opened the 2nd half in style. Darell Scott, who had a great game, pursuing up and down the line, TFL’ed Johnson, followed by James Laurinaitis making a (unfortunately rare today) play in the hole, then James Hall TFLing Johnson again on 3rd down. They forced another FG after DOOZER drove through Kevin Mawae and dropped Johnson for -3. Good play by all the Ram DTs today. Unfortunately, early on they proved susceptible to the big play. First quarter at the Ram 39, Vince Young fakes a handoff left and both LBs (Rams were in nickel) bite. Johnson took the handoff right, went around the edge sealed by the TE dominating Long and patiently weaved through the Ram secondary for a TD. Long getting blocked repeatedly by no more than a TE is killing the defense. It’s how opponents generate a lot of big plays lately, and it’s entirely frustrating because there seem to be so few TEs who can block a defensive end. Yet every tight end seems to be able to block Long. The Rams paid big for a big blitz the next drive. Everybody came hard from Young’s left. He dumped off to Johnson on the right. Leonard Little, in zone coverage, dived and missed at the Titan 40. Then Johnson made Craig Dahl look like a fool with a pretty simple inside cut at the Ram 40. Patiently following WR blocks the rest of the way, Johnson had a 68-yard TD and Tennessee had a snowballing 14-0 lead. Lack of pass rush or an early answer for Johnson led to a 44-yard Young scramble in the 2nd. The 4-man rush didn’t come close, and with two linebackers assigned to Johnson, Young got acres of space to run. A Pyrrhic gain for the Athens of the South, though; Young appeared to tweak a hamstring on the play. Tennessee’s offense wasn’t quite the same the rest of the game, though more than enough for the Rams to handle. Johnson found plenty of running room going at Long, blocked only by a TE. I can’t emphasize enough how bad that is. That’s leaving linemen free to go cream Laurinaitis, and he had a pretty ineffective seven tackles today. He got blocked out of a lot of plays. The improved interior play was a highlight today, but the Rams are going to have to figure out how to fix the point of attack with Long if they’re going to quit getting pounded out of games on the ground.

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