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RamView: Week 11 – Coaching

Sigh. The shovel pass. I’ve been arguing about it all day, that’s why RamView is out so late. I thought Pat Shurmur called a fairly effective game. The TD play to Hoomanawanui may be the finest play he’s drawn up as the Rams’ OC. And his grade for the game includes the shovel pass, which had every right to be an effective call. I said as much in last week’s preview when I said Atlanta’s quick, aggressive defense can be vulnerable to plays like that. Atlanta couldn’t have been expecting the play, which the Rams haven’t run in the Spagnuolo regime, if my memory’s right. Atlanta had their sights set on Jackson. The play almost certainly works if Goldberg doesn’t crash into Hoomanawanui. I’m surprised Bradford couldn’t have seen the collision and held back the throw, but I can’t really blame him for the play. The throw was on time, the rest of the play just wasn’t. I’m not going to blame Shurmur for calling a play that really ought to have worked, even given the risk that the players involved rarely run it. I do think, though, when you have a couple of cracks at the end zone from the 2-yard line, Jackson ought to be getting at least one of them. The Rams get to the 2 and go rollout pass, shovel pass. I’m pretty sure a certain columnist would describe that as “pass-wacky”. Yes, armchair coaches complain about the Rams game plan being too vanilla, old-fashioned, conservative, ad nauseam. I for one feel like I’ve acknowledged when that’s worked, when it’s been right. And I definitely feel that inside the 2 would have been a good time for it. The Rams are a lot more George Foreman than Muhammad Ali. Sometimes you’ve just gotta line up and trade punches. The counterargument to my argument is the crappy recent play of the offensive line. But if Shurmur’s play-calling down there was out of fear of that, he shouldn’t have called a shovel pass. Maybe the “best” call would have been a quick-hitter to Amendola. But it’s going to bug me all season that they have a young, healthy, Pro Bowler, leading rusher in team history at their disposal, and he’s become about their last option when they get inside the 5. Leave the Bugatti Veyron in the garage, Ma; we’re going to town in the Buick.

More coaching after the jump.

Speaking of goal line plays, if the defense can’t be adjusted to keep Chris Long, who is a DEFENSIVE END, not a safety or a cornerback, from constantly having to cover receivers in short-yardage situations, especially at the goal line, somebody needs to go, and it isn’t Chris. It’s not bad enough to lose the Tampa game with Chris trying to cover an RB. They had him trying to cover a TE on a 3rd-and-3 in the 1st, had him trying to cover Justin Peelle on the TD that put Atlanta ahead in the 3rd, and, just when you think it can’t get more ridiculous, had him trying to cover RODDY WHITE on Atlanta’s late 2-point try. It took me till well after the game to realize that 16 points is still just 2 scores, so they really weren’t running the score up by going for two. Doh. But at least I’m not trying to cover the best wide receiver in the league with a defensive end. Steve Spagnuolo, Ken Flajole, please stop sticking your fingers in that particular light socket, ok? The secondary meltdown of the last two weeks, as swift as it has been disturbing, has also seemed to coincide with a large increase in soft zone coverage. You’d think that would be a lot easier to play than man-to-man, but the Rams DBs apparently can’t play zone. The 3rd-and-13 Snelling converted in the 4th, Frank Gore redux, was the last straw. The china shop frailty of the secondary this year hasn’t helped. You end up with a lot of younger guys who haven’t been coached up enough yet. Lack of pass rush today certainly didn’t help. But as simple as zone coverage looks to play, the Rams botch it over and over. 9-of-17 third downs allowed this week; one ridiculous big play after another in San Francisco (a team Tampa SHUT OUT today) last week; Spagnuolo and Flajole better yank back the controls of this thing before it crash-lands. Maybe it’s just as simple as getting guys healthy. We can hope.

And then there’s the Rams’ complete helplessness against the no-huddle. This isn’t the first time the Ram defense has been rendered all-but-useless this season by a no-huddle offense. Mr. Short Term Memory here thinks the Big Dead did it week 1. But that’s not even the half of it. All you had to do was watch last Thursday night’s game to know the Falcons employ a lot of no-huddle. Total amateurs knew it was coming when writing about this week’s game last week. Yet when Atlanta did roll it out, the Rams couldn’t do a thing. No pass rush, no pass coverage; they were just at a complete loss. The Rams had to know no-huddle would be coming, they’ve played against it once before, yet again this week reacted to it like cavemen to alien technology. Future Rams opponents will be foolish if they don’t no-huddle the Rams silly, at least until they show some inkling of how to handle it. They haven’t yet.

It’s funny that a week after Bradford led the Rams to their first end-of-game comeback last week, all Spagnuolo wanted to do with the ball, two timeouts and 30 seconds at the end of the half today was go back to the locker room down 6. But he was more than willing to have Bradford flail away in the last two minutes of the game down 17. To not even try to get in position for a long field goal at the end of the first half, when you have to kick off after halftime? I don’t get it.

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