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RamView: Week 16 – Part 5

Defensive line / LB: With Leonard Little (knee infection) and James Hall (birth of first child) BOTH out, the Ram defense appeared to be in for a grim day.  Chris Long gave them some early hope by grabbing Kurt Warner as he threw, causing a pass to sail incomplete and forcing a 3-and-out. Fine run defense by Justin King, Victor Adeyanju and James Laurinaitis, along with a pretty lucky zone blitz, got the Cardinals off the field a second time before old patterns took shape in the second quarter. Almost no pressure on Warner whatsoever as he drove Arizona 80 yards to their first TD. Next drive, rinse, wash, repeat, with Warner driving 83 yards for another TD, hitting Anquan Boldin at will, or Tim Hightower (10-32) running through LaJuan (WHO?) Ramsey for 16. Same thing again the last 2:00 of the half. Though Long stuffed Chris Wells (17-68) and pressured Warner once, Arizona still drove 82 yards before King’s clutch tackle of Boldin at the one held them to a late FG and a 17-0 halftime lead. Long and Adeyanju got nearly all the defensive snaps at RDE and LDE respectively. Long had an enjoyable second half. Good edge rush by Long on the first possession after halftime forced Warner to step up, but into Ramsey, who was bouncing back up after running over the center. Whack, sack, fumble, recovered by Adeyanju and setting up a TD. Adeyanju then got a 3rd-down hit on Warner with the Rams just rushing 3 to force another 3-and-out, and the Rams were battling their way back into the game. Until Amendola fumbled away a punt return. They outsmarted themselves with a fake blitz and gave up a 25-yard 3rd-down completion to Early Doucet, then Darell Scott roughed Warner. Arizona got down to the 2, spread the field with 4 wideouts and drew Hightower through Doozer Douzable for a pivotal TD. The Rams had the dime package in to answer Arizona’s formation and Doozer had no LB help behind him. Though down 24-7, the line kept up its effort. Adeyanju got another 3rd-down hit on Warner to end a drive. Long smoked the RT for the Rams’ 2nd sack the next possession, which Laurinaitis and Doozer followed up by blowing up a screen pass. Long split two blockers to stuff a Wells run in the 4th, but Wells delivered the coups de grace after Wilson’s long INT return in the final 3:00. He went up the middle for 9, with Ramsey and Scott getting shoved around, then outran King around the left corner for a final TD. Long owned Jeremy Bridges, a guard pressed into playing LT, in the 2nd half, and likely had his best half of the season. And with Arizona rarely attacking him with a TE, he was strong against the run as well. The Rams got to Warner probably as well as any time since he left the Rams. The second quarter was killer, though, and with Long and Adeyanju pressed into service at the DE positions all game, that was probably when the absences of Long and Hall were felt the most. But with a good chance the youngsters are the starting DEs on opening day 2010, it was very good to see them both making plays against a team the Rams defense hasn’t made many plays against lately.

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