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RamView: Week 12 – Coaching

The Rams coaching staff was as up-and-down as the team was on the scoreboard. As much as Ken Flajole’s relied on soft zone coverage the last three weeks, you’d think his secondary would actually know how to play it. But he did make one of the key adjustments of the game right away. After Denver immediately went through the Ram defense like crap through a goose, Flajole quickly increased the amount of blitzing he was calling, which slowly got results. Flajole distinctly did not win this game from the x-and-o standpoint; a whole lot of his blitzes got beaten, too. But turning up the dial when he did, and keeping Denver from running up an insurmountable early lead, was still critical to the Rams being able to win today. Josh McDaniels or Wink Martindale or Bob Barker or whoever also helped a lot by dialing back Denver’s offensive tempo at exactly the wrong time. The Broncos slowed themselves down much more than the Rams ever slowed them.

More coaching after the jump!

Pat Shurmur once again put together a very nice game plan with an ugly lapse near the end of the game. Super decision to go no-huddle with the Rams quickly behind 10-0. His assault of play-action and end-arounds and fake end-arounds to Amendola kept the Bronco defense well off-balance. The screen TD to Hoomanawanui worked perfectly, going to the left with Denver blitzing from the right. That and the no-huddle may have been game-saving calls. He got Alexander and the TEs involved exceptionally well, with the work-of-art wheel route working for the 2nd straight week, this time to Bajema. It happened pretty quietly, but the Rams were not a dink-and-dunk passing offense this week; Shurmur had Bradford firing downfield, with excellent results. The Rams opened the 2nd half with their usual lull, but I think more because Bradford missed Amendola wide open on a smoke route on 2nd down. And they still scored a TD the next drive, with Shurmur using another fake end-around to get Jackson 20 and get Denver dizzier, and – hooray! – pounding it in when they got in close. The offense actually did a nice job moving the ball and grinding out the clock most of the 3rd quarter. Shurmur’s playcalling was a lot less successful in the endgame. Safe passing on 1st or 2nd down would have been helpful there with the Broncos keying hard on Jackson all game, but instead, run, run, pass, punt twice, and Denver’s back in the game. And on 3rd-and-4 with 2:00 to play, I don’t know what on earth possessed Shurmur to think that running Jackson outside would be a good call. (Especially odd because Jackson up the middle often seems to be the only running play in Shurmur’s playbook.) He should have let Bradford make a play there; instead, Denver got a chance to nearly tie the game. Today was a very good day for Pat Shurmur. A lot of the day, his offense looked like an unstoppable force. He ran some impressive plays. He’s just got to get that last little bit figured out.

Steve Spagnuolo made one of the key calls of this game, too, by going for it on 4th-and-1 from the Denver 35 down 10-0. That’s an obvious call to us armchair coaches, but Spagnuolo could have played it safe and given Brown the long FG try in high altitude. Which Brown would have blown badly, and Denver rolls on for a humiliating blowout. That was last year. Spagnuolo made it clear with his comments after the Atlanta game that this is this year. He’s not going to settle for just looking good against good teams and he’s not going to settle for playing to stay close when he can, and has to, play to win. That message has been coming through loud and clear lately and may yet carry this team farther than anybody would ever have expected back in training camp.

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