30th March 11:43
RamView, 10/26/2003 (Long)
RamView, October 26, 2003
From The Couch
(Report and opinions on the game.)
Game 7: Rams 33, Steelers 21
The Rams make a major statement, dominating the Steelers in the rain
and muck in Pittsburgh.
Bright spots: With some help from the Bengals, the Rams are tied for
first in the NFC West.
Position by position:
* QB: Look out. Marc Bulger has figured out the long ball. And
unfortunately for the Pittsburgh Steeler defense, they never did, as
Bulger beat their brains in, with 375 yards passing and a TD. Half of
Bulger's 22 completions were longer than 20 yards. He hit Torry Holt
perfectly with two deep strikes on the Rams' first TD drive, a deep
corner route for 48 on 1st-and-15, and a 36-yard TD on 3rd-and-4. With
the game tied at 7, starting from his own 11, Bulger is instant
offense again, hitting Cam Cleeland for 26 and Isaac Bruce across the
middle for 30. A 21-yard seeing-eye pass to Dane Looker put them at
the 1 for Arlen Harris' first TD. Late in the first half, on
3rd-and-23 at the Steeler 45, Bulger reared back and hit Holt at the 5
to set up a FG. Marc makes at least one big play a week with his feet.
In the 3rd, he spun out of a sack attempt and scrambled 11 yards to
the Steeler 4. Marc could have run even more. For instance,
3rd-and-goal from the 3 after the scramble, the Steelers rush just 3
and have everyone covered, Bulger passed up a good opportunity to run,
and the Rams settled for a FG. The Rams fell behind 21-20, but Bulger
went to work again, with a 70-yard TD drive, hitting Torry for 23 and
Brandon Manumaleuna for a big 30-yard play. Marc missed Holt wide open
on a couple of occasions, including a big miss in the 4th. Still, he
threw decisively, threw away when necessary, and committed no
turnovers. He had over 300 yards before the 4th quarter of his
successful homecoming game even started, and right now, Marc Bulger is
playing as well as anybody in the NFL.
* RB: Boy, I tell you, Arlen Harris is the King of the Hill in St.
Louis right now, after three touchdowns today. The resilient rookie
was a veritable workhorse in this game, with 34 carries for 81 yards,
and made a lot of important plays. On 2nd-and-16 of the first TD
drive, he had a key 12-yard run. All day, he churned for yards inside,
wriggled through little seams, and showed nice footwork and body
control. Harris also made an EXCELLENT blitz pickup that made Bulger's
30-yard pass to Bruce in the 2nd possible. Arlen made the biggest play
of that 2nd TD drive, converting a 4th-and-2. He finished that drive
with a 1-yard TD, showing deceptive power, and scored the Rams' final
2 TDs on 9-yard draw plays. Arlen used his blocks masterfully, held on
to the ball superbly (no fumbles charged), and though Marshall Faulk
appears ready to take the job back next week, Arlen could well be
remembered as a key role player of the season.
* WR: Burn ointment is going to be hard to find in Pittsburgh after
the job the Rams did on the Steeler secondary today. Torry Holt
(7-174!) was a dominating force. He burned the safety for 48 and
turned Dwayne Washington around on a 36-yard route for the Rams' first
TD. Holt made like Randy Moss at the end of the 1st half, catching a
40-yard jump ball at the 5 to set up a FG. Isaac Bruce (3-73) smoked a
LB for 30 during the Rams' 2nd TD drive. Dane Looker (3-27) made a
21-yard catch at the 1 to set that TD up, thanks to outstanding
concentration. The ball bounced off Troy Polamalu's bicep, but Looker
raked it in and kept his feet in for the catch. The TEs got involved
today, too; Manumaleuna had a 30-yard catch, and Cam Cleeland caught 2
for 54. A complete and dominating effort.
* Offensive line: Kyle Turley struggled a little, with several
penalties, and Orlando Pace got whipped on an inside move on one of
Joey Porter's two Steeler sacks, but other than that, the Rams
controlled the line of scrimmage. Pace got a huge block just before
Bulger released the TD pass to Holt. Ex-Brown Dave Wohlabaugh had a
great game, possibly fired up to face the Steelers. On the 4th-and-2
Harris converted, he got HUGE blocks from Turley and Manumaleuna.
Turley also had the key block on Harris' 2nd TD run. The Rams came out
running in the 4th. Harris started with a 7-yard run behind a monster
drive block by Pace. Arlen got 5 on 3rd and 1, bouncing outside Adam
Timmerman's PANCAKE block of Kendrell Bell. After Pittsburgh's dumb
penalty on a Ram FG try, more Arlen, for 2, 4, then 9 and a TD behind
stiff blocks from Pace and Timmerman. The line hurt itself a little
with penalties, but the only decent pass pressure Pittsburgh got was
in obvious passing situations, and run blocking was dominating, a
* Defensive line/LB: The Ram defense gave The Bus a flat (42 yards)
and forced an XFL-like performance out of Tommy Maddox (159 yards, 3
INT). Leonard Little was a big factor in forcing Pittsburgh's opening
3-and-out. His pressure forced a poor screen pass on 2nd-and-10, and
he and Pisa Tinoisamoa stopped a dumpoff short on 3rd. The Steelers
tried to establish Bettis after the first Ram TD, but the Rams were
having none of that. Rich Coady (5 tkl) stopped him for 3 on 1st down,
and Grant Wistrom forced a fumble with a nice pop on the next play,
with Robert Thomas recovering. After a missed Ram FG, Bettis got three
rushes, then had to LEAVE FOR OXYGEN. When he returned, Little stuffed
him for minus-1 on first-and-10, then Wistrom got his first sack of
the season on 3rd down to kill the drive. Grant put a spin move on the
LT, took on the back, then beat the back and the LT inside to get to
Maddox. Sweet! Little got the Rams' other sack on the drive after
Pittsburgh's punt return TD, absolutely smoking the RT to force a loss
on 3rd-and-3. After the Rams went up 20-14, the defense crapped out,
although it was the amazing Little who tracked down Antwaan Randle-El
32 yards downfield for a tackle. No pass rush at all the next two
plays gave Pittsburgh a TD and the lead, 21-20. Little left the game
around that point with a bruised shoulder. But as has happened a lot
lately, other Rams stepped up. The defense made two key stops after
the offense got the lead back. Ryan Pickett submarined Bettis on
3rd-and-1 to force a punt. Same lead in the 4th, and Bryce Fisher, who
filled in nicely for Little, blew up a screen pass on 2nd-and-10 to
stall the Steelers again. Brian Young batted down a pass later on, and
the rest of the way, Maddox completed passes to the Ram secondary. The
Ram front seven has become a force the last few weeks, with another
complete and dominant performance today.
* Secondary: An up-and-down day for the Ram secondary fortunately
ended on the up side. Rich Coady made one of the game's biggest plays
early, defending a bomb/jump ball to Plaxico Burress despite blatant
offensive pass interference. Jerametrius Butler was REALLY
up-and-down. He dropped a sure INT in the 2nd, and Lovie Smith was ALL
OVER him after Hines Ward's first TD. DeJuan Groce's horrible tackling
that drive was mainly responsible for the TD, though. Groce whiffed
badly on Ward on a 46-yard gain, and whiffed again on that 8-yard TD.
As a result, Aeneas Williams saw some time at CB, with Jason Sehorn
(!) at FS. Butler made a beautiful play in the 3rd to deflect a ball
away from Ward, hauled in by Jamie Duncan. But later, he turned the
wrong way on a 22-yard floater to Ward for a TD that gave Pittsburgh
the lead. Pathetic! But Maddox's leading receivers the rest of the way
were Ram DBs. Sehorn nearly had a pick. Aeneas outwrestled Ward for
one in the 4th, and Groce added late icing to the Victory Monday cake.
* Stupid teams: Yet again, the Rams had to overcome their own
"special" teams today. Antwaan Randle-El's 84-yard punt return kept
Pittsburgh in a game the Rams were flat-out dominating. First of all,
it's off a re-kick, because the Rams committed a face mask on the
first take. The Steelers went for the block; they weren't even TRYING
to set up a return. But James Whitley gets juked like a grade-schooler
after Randle-El makes the catch, Spencer Nead gets crushed by a Chris
Hope block, about 5 guys get caught too far upfield, easy TD for
Randle-El, who hadn't done anything all year. Even after that, the
Rams kicked RIGHT TO Randle-El all day. Kick returns were terrible
with Joffrey Reynolds, who got little blocking, and muffed the opening
kickoff. Groce is now also an accident waiting to happen on punt
returns, making dangerous returns he should be fair-catching, and
running backwards FAR too often. At the end of the 1st half, on a punt
he should have let bounce, he fields it and RUNS BACKWARDS WITH IT FOR
15 YARDS!!! And Whitley failed to FALL on a fumbled kick return late
in the first half. Pittsburgh was in this game FAR longer than they
deserved to be because of Bobby April's horribly-coached special
* Coaching/discipline: Mike Martz deserves great credit for the Rams
2nd TD drive. The Rams came out throwing from their own 11, and went
for it on 4th-and-2 from the Steeler 25, succeeding with a run * up
the middle *. Extra-good decision, because Heinz Park is a bad field
for kickers anyway, let alone when it's raining cats and dogs. Martz
imploded at the end of the first half, though. A double reverse for
Harris loses *13*, thanks to horrible blocking by Manumaleuna, but
Holt's huge play gets them to the 5 2 plays later anyway, and a
penalty gets them to the 1. Martz then runs ONCE, and calls two
passes, apparently intended for one Richard Angulo. You're going to
ANGULO from the 1 instead of Holt or Bruce? And why quit running? The
Rams settled for another FG after 1st and goal their next drive, and
as a result of that and lousy special teams, they actually trailed
with 6:51 left in the 3rd quarter despite completely dominating the
game. But Martz deserves credit for sticking with the run, leading the
Rams to another two-to-one advantage in time of possession. Plus the
Rams committed NO turnovers, despite sloppy conditions. But Martz can
have some blame for all three second-half timeouts getting used in the
third quarter. And one was on a two-point conversion that Martz was
probably going for too early in the game anyway. Clean that up, and
let's get stupid teams playing at better-than-Pop-Warner level, and
we've really got something going.
* Upon further review: The Steelers could only stay with Ram WRs today
by grabbing their jerseys, but Johnny Grier and crew finally got the
Rams some calls on that today, all good calls, too. This is typically
a good crew, but I think they missed a few noticeable calls. Burress
committed blatant pass interference on the bomb Coady defended in the
first. Damione Lewis got away with a late hit on a Randle-El reverse
in the 2nd. Harris got face-masked near the goal line late in the 1st
half. The holding call on Turley was bad. The guy he supposedly held
just slipped and fell on his own. So I'd call the crew just pretty
* Cheers: I hope the Rams start getting better Fox crews soon. Bill
Maas yammered all day about bashing Bettis being "Pittsburgh Steeler
football." Classic Steelers, maybe, but they've been a pass-first team
for two years now, Bill. Maas took over an hour to pronounce
"Manumaleuna" correctly; how about preparing for a game, buddy? And he
stupidly accused Holt of pushing off all day, saying so again and
again over replays showing Torry not even remotely pushing off. Other
than a distracting stand-up routine throughout the 4th quarter, Maas
added absolutely nothing to this game, and frankly, sounded like an
idiot. No Blue Pants Curse for the Rams today, as they wisely went
back to gold. Stick with those winning colors, Mike.
* Who's next?: Bwa-hahahaha, somebody got caught peeking ahead today,
didn't they? San Francisco's impressive win over Tampa Bay last week
sure looks seriously fluky now, after losing in OT to the Big Freaking
Dead today. The 49ers may well be closer to imploding on themselves
than exploding on the Rams next week. Their offense has stunk this
season. Terrell Owens complains about not getting the ball enough,
then drops the ball on big plays that do come his way. Jeff Garcia's
really struggling. He's got happier feet than Steve Martin, and his
average-at-best arm has really been exposed. The offensive line is
banged-up and ineffective, so they don't normally establish much of a
running game, either. The key is to keep Garcia from making big runs.
Defensively, the Niners have nice speed at LB with Julian Peterson and
Jamie Winborn, but look who's back next Sunday: Marshall Faulk,
professional Niner killer. Marshall may be off to a bad start this
year, but he still ran for 90 against the 49ers in September. Now he's
healthy, and will be part of the passing game. Bulger has not thrown
to the backs much at all lately. Look for that to change, and with
Isaac Bruce spoiling to tee off on his least favorite rival again, the
Ram offense looks to be much more wide open next week, and this
offense has topped 30 the last 4 games as it is! But, as they showed
against Tampa, a motivated 49er team can beat anybody. It'll be up to
the Rams to come out of "49er Week" fired up, deliver the first punch
Sunday, and continue to execute at least as well as they have lately,
if they want to come out of Candlestick with a crucial win in the
Game stats from nfl.com
30th March 11:43
RamView, 10/26/2003 (Long)
Great as always, Mike! My comments interspersed below...
The guy is quietly making a believer out of many, including myself. The only
notable flaw I saw today was on his second sack, in which he eluded two
seperate rushes, and still refused to get rid of the ball. Still, no one's
perfect, but I disagreed with you on the assesment that he gets rid of the
ball when necessary. Rather, he rarely throws the ball away. So far though,
he's rarely had to, as he's usually had all the time in the world to throw.
On one of his pass rush escapes, he made a SWEET spin move to break free and
ran for good yardage.
He's finally had his road "cherry" popped. Let's see if he makes it two in a row next week.
Got the "Arlen" reference to King of the Hill (Boy I tell you, ha ha).
Sometimes, Martz actually looks smart for some of the guys he uncovers.
Today, Harris made everyone forget about his two special teams fumbles
earlier this year, and just worked his ASS off. His YPC were nothing
special, and Martz should've used Reynolds with 4 minutes to go in the 4th,
as Harris was CLEARLY gassed. Other than that, the kid deserved a game ball.
He seemed much more decisive on his choice of hitting gaps than both Faulk
AND Gordon today. MAybe the gaps were just bigger than the other two got?
Question... Where the hell are Curtis and McDonald? The Rams aren't using
any 4 and 5 receiver sets, and if they are, they aren't using either of
them. I'll comment on the Holt "pushing off" here, instead of below. He may
have done it once or twice, but NOWHERE NEAR as much as Bill Maas
insinuated, nor not more than any other premier receiver. Bottom line is,
top players get a little extra treatment, and Holt deserves it.
By the way, does Holt just catch EVERYTHING his way nowadays? I remember
earlier in his career, he obviously was talented, but occasionally fell
victim to the "dropsies". Now, anything near his hands gets ****ed in.
Dane Looker is a Looker, alright. Proehl was a fan favorite, and deservedly
so, but Looker may make everyone forget.
I remember reading a quote from the Saints GM in the first week saying that,
in the coming weeks he predicted the Rams OL would jell, and become the best
in the NFL. Not sure why he commented on it, or where I read it to be
honest, but found it to be a peculiar quote. I gotta say, at the time, even
*I* doubted it would happen. But damn if he wasn't right. This OL is even
better than any of the OL's the Rams have had during their 1999-current run.
Amazing work. I have always believed you are only as good as your OL, and if
that's the case, we're REAL good right now.
Any word on he injuries to Little/Lewis/Tinoisamoa?
Having Tinoisamoa go down with 1:30 left in a meaningless drive really
hurts. I hope it's not serious, because with Polley out too, I don't think
we can lose another starter at LB.
Losing Little, of course, would be a MAJOR blow as well.
Who is that guy in the #59 jersey? It SAYS "Duncan" on the back, but it
can't be JAMIE Duncan. *THIS* Duncan's actually playing some inspired football.
I nearly threw my shoe at the tv in regards to Butler's play today. He did
have some good moments, but overall, I think the jig is up. There is too
much game film out there exposing how weak he is, and I'm afraid a halfway
decent offensive team is going to just put his photo on their bulletin board
and they'll throw at, and PAST him, all day. His coverage on Hines' TD was
TERRIBLE! And on the attempted INT where the TE caught it (not the one he
tipped), he made no attempt to knock the ball away, and just expected that
the guy wouldn't get it, and he'd get it.
How many INT's have we lost this year, where the Rams DB had the ball in his
hands and just dropped it? Butler had one in the 1st quarter, where the ball
hit off the receivers hands right into his, and he just dropped it.
A welcome to Jason Sehorn to Rams Nation. He almost got an INT too, and
granted it was a tough play, but he could've had it as well. God I hope he
and Archuleta can play next week, because we MUST had Aeneas back at corner
Aeneas is proving each week that he's not only healthy, but is still a STUD.
A whole essay could be written on the Rams special teams inpeptness, but to
be honest, I have to work in the morning, and can't write about how bad it
is all day. But granted, I could.
This marks the 4th year in a row we simply haven't figured out special teams
as a whole. Not just parts of it, the WHOLE GODDAMN thing. At this point, I
would just assume that everyone on the other team on kicks and punts are
Dante Hall and just kick the ball out of bounds.
What's worse than our coverage is our returns. I have seen an increasing
strength in Martz's judgement as a coach, but am constantly befuddled by his
selections for kick and punt returns. Remember when it got bad for the Rams
in LA, they resorted to Henry Ellard as punt returner? He was their top
receiver, but still used him to return kicks. And there were times here when
it was so bad, they used Marshall Faulk. Well folks, its that bad again. I
KNOW we don't want to risk injury to a star player, but I honestly don't
know why they don't try Torry or Ike at PR; unless they have in practice and
they just can't do it.
Injury or not, punt returns are just as important as the offense, and we
simply can't be forced to drive 80-90 yards for every TD. In the playoffs,
teams don't LET you get 80-90 yards a drive, so special teams will hurt us
then. It's time for drastic measures.
On the flip side, I have seen the kick coverage improve, and Wilkins,
despite a miss today, has had an excellent year, both on FG and PAT, but as well on kickofs.
1. Time outs
2. Poor red zone play calling
3. Not getting Harris enough rest late
4. A little too MUCH trickery when the situation called for a simple play
5. Still not putting teams away
Other than that, Martz is clearly showing signs of growth as a head coach. I
have voiced my hatred for Martz more than once here, but know when to give
credit when its due; Martz is improving as a coach.
I was screaming at the face mask non-call too. Good thing we still got a TD on that.
Bill Maas is an idiot. He commented that Cam Cleeland was "coming into his
own" in the Rams system. While he has started to see the ball a little bit,
Cleeland has hardly been used this year. I can't remember what it was, but
he had some terribly bad pun joke that the play by play guy totally laid out
on him on.
He's a Madden wannabe, and he's terrible. He offers very little insight.
"Harris has a low center of gravity". DUH!
This is a more crucial game than many may admit. Should the Rams finish in a
tie for the division lead with SEA down the road, they MUST win as many, if
not all their divisional games, so as to ensure they take the division by
tiebreaker. Considering they play Seattle at HOME and play Arizona almost as
home, this is as close to a "must win" as the Rams have on their schedule
this year as they will have. SF will be akin to a wounded animal, and seem
to trade poor efforts with good ones. They're 3-1 at home, and despite a
shaky win over Detroit, and a loss to Cleveland, they still annihilated the
Bears in week one at home, and fairly well trounced the World Champs last
week. It'll be interesting to see which Niners show up. Hopefully the same
one that did today!
Anyone else notice the Rams are still creeping in under everyone's radar?
Tom Jackson of ESPN still doesn't even have the Rams in his "Top Ten", and
listed the BENGALS as his "rising" team of the week. On ESPN's Sunday Night
game poll, they asked fans who the MVP so far was, and out of 6 players, not
a mention of Holt or Bulger, despite the fact Holt's #s are better than
As far as I'm concerned, I'm glad they are still under the radar. I strongly
believe when you're on top, people do gun for you, and its an intangible
that gets widely overlooked. Next week though, I'm sure the Niners won't be
overlooking us. That may be the last time we'll be under the radar though
for the year, if we win.
1st April 00:55
RamView, 10/26/2003 (Long)
Thanks, man, GREAT comments.
More thoughts about Holt. He's easily playing the best ball of
his career. He looks faster this year, if that's possible. He has
caught damn near everything and really made some difficult snags
to help Bulger look good. And Sunday he did that Randy Moss jump
ball, outmuscle/outmaneuver the DBs play that he's never had in
his game before. The guy has stepped up his game dramatically, and
there aren't enough good things to say about his play right now.