St. Louis Rams Positives And Negatives Heading Into Week 3 Against The Dallas Cowboys

Sep 15, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Isaiah Pead (24) runs against Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert McClain (27) during the second half at Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Rams 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

 

Last week, the St. Louis Rams got stonewalled in the opening half against the Atlanta Falcons, plagued by blown coverage, a tipped interception, and almost “predictable” penalties on both special teams and the offensive line. This week, the Rams will face-off against the Dallas Cowboys, who currently sit with a 1-1 record in a wide-open NFC East. Looking back at the Falcons-Rams tape, there were obviously some key “observations” that could be taken away from the game. Here are Ramblin’ Fans positives and negatives from that game that will likely effect their chances at a win on Sunday.

 

Positive: Blocking for Sam Bradford

For the second consecutive week, Sam Bradford did not take a sack throughout the entirety of the game, leaving him as the only remaining quarterback in the NFL who has yet to be taken down. Even after the injury to Rodger Saffold, the Rams’ signal caller had plenty of time to throw the football, leading to a near comeback in the waning quarters of the game. Joe Barksdale played admirably, allowing only three total pressure on Bradford in 51 offensive snaps. He will likely start next week after reports surfaced that Saffold suffered a strained MCL, and is considered week-to-week.

 

Negative: Punt Return… Everything!

The St. Louis Rams committed seven penalties, over half coming on punt return for holding or illegal blocks in the back. Even with the “extra help” the return blocking was atrocious, leading to Tavon Austin’s six total return yards on four attempts. The St. Louis Rams average starting field position was behind their own 20 yard line. You cannot win games backed up that often.

 

Positive: Rookie Defensemen

The combination of Rodney McLeod, T.J. McDonald, and Alec Ogletree drew some tough responsibilities on Sunday, being primarily responsible for maintaining Steven Jackson out the backfield, Tony Gonzalez from tight end, and Julio Jones deep. Ogletree started off the game on fire, recording four tackles, a pass deflection, and injuring both Steven Jackson and Bradie Ewing. McDonald and McLeod contributed 10 tackles of their own, including a handful of booming run stuffs and some solid open-field tackling. The trio will draw a similar assignment next week, with Jason Witten and Dez Bryant both playing well for the Cowboys.

 

Negative: First Half Inefficiency

Much like the Arizona Cardinals game in Week 1, the St. Louis Rams were less-than-stellar in the opening half of the football game. On Sunday, the Rams opening eight drives of the game resulted in a net -3 points for the team, with four drives concluding with fewer than 10 total gained yards. A combination of penalties, bad field position, and conservative play-calling could be considered the culprit against the Falcons, but Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams offense cannot continue this trend of trailing in the fourth quarter if they want to win football games this season.

 

Positive: Rams “Run Through The Pass” Game

Anyone who looks at Daryl Richardson’s box score through the opening two games and deems that new starter “ineffective” has obviously not paid attention to his play on the field. In a mere 101 offensive snaps, Richardson has averaged 88 yards from scrimmage per game. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, Richardson is currently ranked 11th overall among running backs. The Rams running back, on paper, may look ineffective, but we knew from the start of the season that they were going to be moving more towards the Green Bay style of running game, with less hand-offs and more quick passes to the running back out of the backfield. To show that with numbers, Richardson had 5 receptions for 45 net yards, but gained 47 yards after the initial catch; with all but one catch coming at, or behind, the line of scrimmage. Effectively, that gives Richardson 5.3 yards per touch for the game. Not too bad, especially considering the Rams fell into a three-touchdown hole early in the game.

 

Positive: Defensive Line Pressure

The St. Louis Rams may be trailing in the “team sacks” department, but they are certainly not failing to get pressure on the quarterback so far this season. Robert Quinn leads all defensive ends in the league with 16 total pressures on the quarterback, including 4 sacks, ranking him the Top 4-3 DE in the NFL through Week 2. Also in the Top 15 are William Hayes (T-13th) and Chris Long (T-13th), who have a combined 15 pressures on the quarterback. Moving over to defensive tackle, Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford can tack on another 5 pressures. According to Pro Football Focus, the Dallas Cowboys are ranked 14th in pass blocking and 25th in run blocking, despite playing against sub-par front-fours on the New York Giants (28th in pass rush) and Kansas City Chiefs (17th). Tony Romo has thrown for only 144 yards this season when “under pressure.” That should be good news for the St. Louis Rams.

 

Topics: Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams

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  • Beer O’Clock

    Sorry, Nathan. I have to disagree on one point.

    McLeod, McDonald and Ogletree have been awful. No positive here.

    The reason they’re getting many of their tackles is because opposing QBs are throwing in their zones and completing them due to their poor coverage. The safeties were completely out of position on Julio Jones 81-yd TD and several other plays. Jones had the best day of his career against the Rams last week and he’s had some pretty damn good days. He’s a premiere receiver and Jenkins/Finnegan needed help on coverage–they didn’t get much.

    The Falcons RBs caught 10 passes for 91 yds on 11 targets (8.3 yds a target), many of them on 3rd down that continued the drive. Eight of the passes were caught by second string players after Jackson and Ewing were hurt. Jason Snelling alone was targeted 4 times and caught all 4 for 41 yards. We’re talking Jason Snelling, here.

    The Rams are 29th in pass defense. They had coverage problems in the preseason.

    McDonald and McLeod are great in run defense. McDonald was great at stuffing the run at USC, as well. But, when Matt Ryan is torching you on 33-43 passing, 374 yards, 2TDs and 0 Int and 7-13 third down efficiency, it really doesn’t matter how well you stop the run. In fact, Ryan’s passing numbers are even more disturbing when you consider the fact that the Falcons couldn’t run the ball.

    Ogletree has a ton of potential and will be a good, if not great player in time. Right now, it’s fair to say that all three of them would not be starting on very many teams. I will give Ogletree his props–he literally wiped out 2/3 of the Falcons backfield on tackles. Too bad he couldn’t hit the trifecta by putting Ryan out of the game too.

    Absolutely agree on the other positives and glad you clarified Richardson’s performance.

    • Nathan Kearns

      I can concede a little on the rookie defensemen, but I will not go to the extent that you appear to be going; a happy medium.

      First, I have been defending Rodney McLeod on the 81-yarder all week, placing 90% of the blame on Janoris Jenkins for biting on the not-so-strong fake from Julio Jones, and the other 10% on some of the lineman who were doggin’ it a bit in the pass rush. From the snap of the ball, McLeod opens his hips to the inside, dropping back into Cover 1. With Cover 1/Man-Under, McLeod is responsible for the deep middle. Cornerbacks are taught to press receivers into the middle, or, at least, not get beat deep on to the outside. McLeod isn’t “responsible” for help over the top on the outside of the field in that particular situation, in that particular coverage.

      I’ll admit, the extremely high catch-rate is a tad alarming, but some of those numbers are being inflated by a high number of pass attempts from the opposing quarterback and this soft zone, that Tim Walton, apparently, is going to start using more and more sparingly throughout the game.

      With Ogletree specifically, Matt Ryan targeted him 8 times on Sunday, three coming on the opening drive alone. After that drive, aside from a 16-yarder to Jacquizz Rodgers, Ogletree only allowed 3 receptions, all while primarily being responsible for Tony Gonzalez (who had one catch on him the whole game).

      T.J. McDonald is currently ranked as the 13th overall safety in the NFL (16th in coverage), despite playing more of the SS role in the defensive secondary. McLeod, on the other hand, has struggled a bit in coverage… albeit, primarily when going against players like Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones.

      Obviously, that is sugar-coating the situation a little bit, but when a new defensive coordinator, four new defensive starters, and two rookies playing safety… things could certainly be a lot worse. I think that as McLeod gets more quality reps and Tim Walton settled into this whole defensive play-calling thing, the secondary will pick up.