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RamView: Week 15 – Defensive Line and Linebackers

Chris Long’s best game in a month was enough to keep the Rams in the game for a while. Long was reliably in Matt Cassel’s face much of the game. The Rams were even effective against Kansas City’s top-ranked running game, at least for a while. The defense dominated the 1st quarter. James Laurinaitis knocked down a pass and Chris Chamberlain broke up a pass for Dwayne Bowe for an opening 3-and-out. James Hall blew up a Dexter McCluster end-around to force a 3rd-and-long the next drive, which the Rams exploited for an interception. Long hit Cassel the next drive on 3rd down for an incomplete and another 3-and-out. Where the defense failed today, though, was on moment-of-truth plays. 4th-and-1 at the KC 48 in the 2nd, they let Jackie Battle rumble through for SEVEN. Long crashed hard inside, got blocked farther inside, no LB in the gap. At the 2-yard line later that drive, Craig Dahl sold out against the run and let Leonard Pope leak off the end of the line for a TD catch. Cassel now starts stepping up and scrambling away from solid edge rush because the Rams are getting nothing done in the middle. I don’t think Fred Robbins was 100% at all, and he was off the field a lot. Darell Scott and Gary Gibson and Jermelle Cudjo aren’t going to get you the push you need. Later in the 2nd, Laurinaitis made a coverage mistake and left Thomas Jones all alone in the middle to convert a 2nd-and-13 down to the 7. Jamaal Charles walked in on 3rd-and-goal from the 2 to make it 14-6 behind Brian Waters punking Laurinaitis. That lead gave K.C. license to try to ground-and-pound the 2nd half away. Charles took a draw for 9 thanks to an awful gap fill by Bryan Kehl. James Hall got manhandled the next play as Jones went around him for 10. David Vobora and Long held that drive to a FG with back-to-back sacks, with Long whipping Barry Richardson for his. Oshiomogho Atogwe got Jones a couple of times on blitzes for big losses. After James Hall whipped Brandon Albert and made a beeline for Cassel for the Rams’ third sack, the Rams pulled to within 20-13. With about 4 minutes and all three timeouts left, all the Rams had to do was stop the Chiefs another time. Another moment of truth. Disaster struck instead. The whole d-line got shoved to the left, not for the first time. Blitzing took Atogwe out of the play. Running right and then countering left, Charles ripped through a hole, Chamberlain whiffed on him, Dahl took a poor angle and the Chief RB was off and away for an 80-yard gain, with Jones finishing off the drive for the coups de grace TD. Yeah, not exactly clutch defense there. The Rams improved over the last couple of weeks, especially their edge pass rush. They need more than that to hang with quality teams, though. Defensive strategy needs to be better (more on that later). They need a lot more productivity out of the middle of the line. And they need much more help at linebacker. Chamberlain’s serviceable at WLB, but his blown tackle was a killer. Kehl, though, has no business being on the field in run situations. He plays too light and is much too easy to block. Like the offense, the Ram defense has some strong pieces capable of winning games, but not enough depth and talent to do it against tougher competition.

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