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RamView: Week 14 – Defensive Line and Linebackers

After going missing for disturbing stretches of the last three games, the Ram pass rush went completely AWOL in New Orleans. The Saint offense spent the whole first quarter playing backyard pitch-and-catch. Drew Brees wasn’t even remotely pressured while the Saints strolled out to a 14-0 lead. They converted ALL SIX of their 1st-quarter 3rd downs. The 4-man rush, which the Rams relied on FAR too much, might as well have been a 0-man rush, and even when the Rams blitzed, most of the time, the blitzer didn’t even make it through the line. The Rams didn’t do much early to stop the Saint RBs, either. C.J. Ah You overshot a handoff to Chris Ivory by a mile for an 11-yard gain. Ivory got 11 more on a red-zone 3rd-and-2 after George Selvie and Oshiomogho Atogwe couldn’t get outside in time to defend a pitch left. Reggie Bush gained 6 on a 3rd-and-3 swing pass, with no Ram within 10 yards of him at the catch. Ivory bounced outside for 18 the next play, with Chris Long, Quincy Butler and Bryan Kehl all getting well blocked out of things. Brees had plenty of time to throw his first TD pass, and the Rams zone-blitzed on the 2nd one, almost as if they wanted to guarantee he wouldn’t be pressured on that throw. The Saints bolted right back across midfield their next two drives but started shooting themselves in the foot. Robert Meachem dropped a 4th-down pass and Brees threw a dumb-looking INT. Blitz pressure was finally starting to weigh in a tiny bit, so what did the Rams do after halftime? Quit doing it. They actually rushed THREE on a 3rd-and-6 in the 3rd, and Brees hit Lance Moore for 13. Two plays later, nobody coming on 3rd-and-10, 11 to Marques Colston. Two plays later, TD, game, set, match. A James Laurinaitis blitz was picked up easily by the tailback to start the next drive; 9 to Jeremy Shockey. Pierre Thomas gained 14 after Long and Chris Chamberlain missed him. Ah You blew up a screen pass near the red zone, though, to force a FG. Pass rush finally loosened up a little in the 4th, with nothing riding on anything by then. A dog blitz helped harass Brees into a 2nd INT. On the final Saint possession, somebody FINALLY got to Brees. Darian Stewart blitzed from safety and ran a twist with Eugene Sims. Sims beat Thomas, and Stewart got inside a lineman and through to Drew for the Rams’ first sack of the day, only 57 game minutes in coming. You’ve got to be able to get the other team off the field; the Rams failed miserably at that today. They never threatened Brees with a 4-man rush and most of their blitzes didn’t even make it through the line. There was one 2nd-half play where Brees literally had time to fall down, get back up and set himself for a bomb into the end zone that barely missed. How pathetic is that? The Saints’ 3rd-down conversion rate was a ridiculous 10-for-12 at one point. Fred Robbins was quiet. James Hall was quiet. It feels like Long has made just one play of note the last three weeks. For his run-stuffing, Gary Gibson was probably the best lineman today. The bright spots were probably Laurinaitis and Chamberlain. Laurinaitis (8 tkl) stuffed several runs and looked good in pass coverage. Chamberlain missed a tackle or two, but still had six, and repeatedly did a nice job getting out to the edge to stop the Saints’ outside rushing game. He also had a fine pass defense on WR Meachem to help stop the Saint offense for the first time. But this game was won by the Saints in the trenches on passing downs, and decisively. The Ram pass rush just has to become more consistent. It’s been much too feast-or-famine the past month. This is the time of year for feasting, you know.

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