“It just comes down to winning and losing.” – Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo.
Simply put it does come down to whether you win or you lose – score more points than your opponent. It’s that straight forward. But nothing in the NFL is simple or easy for that matter. Each game is hard-fought and even then sometimes you need a little luck.
1) True #1 Wide Receivers
In their home opener the Rams faced Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. They “held” him to 8 receptions for 80 yards but they also gave up 2 TDs. Week two they got pwned by Atlanta Falcons Julio Jones for 11 receptions for 182 yards and 1 TD. 81 yards came on the one TD where Rams’ cornerback Janoris Jenkins bit hard on Jones’ weak fake. Le sigh.
This week for the monster WR hat trick the Rams will have to come to terms with Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. Bryant had 9 receptions for 141 yards and 1 TD in a losing effort against the Chiefs last week. The Rams may have to resign to the fact that Bryant’s going to eat. He will be the poison they pick.
Well, it seems like every week everybody’s got at least one, maybe two. When you go into the game you think, ‘Well alright, gosh, if we could maybe pay attention here and shut this one down,’ you’ve got another on the other side that’s hurting you. – Head Coach Jeff Fisher
Makes you wonder who the Rams’ best receiving threat is at this point. Chris Givens has shown the most potential but he doesn’t strike fear in opposing secondaries, at least not yet. #FreeBrianQuick
So how do the Rams plan to stop Bryant? Gotta love “coach speak.” i.e. vague other than the part where they plan to double up on him. Cornerbacks Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan are going to have a busy afternoon.
You’ve got to make sure you take care of him. You’ve got to double him. It’s the same thing, he’s one of the best receivers in the league – physical and they’re going to get him the ball. We have to try to do a better job of taking away guys’ No. 1 threat and he is their No. 1 guy. – Defensive Coordinator Tim Walton.
2) The Big Guys Up Front
The most unlikely stat flying around Twitter this week was how the St. Louis Rams’ offensive line hadn’t given up a sack for four games straight going back to last season. This isn’t to say Sam Bradford hasn’t been hit but still it was surprising considering he’s averaged 35 sacks every year.
The Rams recently claimed off waivers tackle Mike Person from San Francisco and signed veteran free agent tackle Max Starks to beef up the depth in their offensive line. With right tackle Rodger Saffold out with a tweaked knee (Joe Barksdale will be replacing Saffold) and with left guard Chris Williams (foot) listed as probable it was an insurance move on their part. If Person or Starks has to come into the game then you know that four game no sack streak could be coming to an end.
Very high. Go back to last year, I mean his first start, I think ever in the league if I’m not mistaken, was against (Packers LB) Clay Matthews, and he goes out and basically pitches a shutout. Tremendous talent, we have all the confidence in the world. He’s played in a lot of football games for us. I think he’ll do a great job. – Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer on his confidence in Joe Barksdale.
Do you know who keeps offensive linemen up at night and haunt them during the day?
I think they’re going to try to run a little bit more to balance it up and play-action and do those kinds of things and try to throw the ball down the field a little bit. But, I think they will make a conscious effort to try to run that ball more to take some of it off of (QB) Tony (Romo) always having to throw it. – Defensive Coordinator Tim Walton.
In week six of the 2011 season, the Rams defense handed Dallas running back DeMarco Murray the Cowboys single game rushing record (253 yards). He surpassed Cowboys greats Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett.
Murray and company are hoping for repeat performance of that fateful day.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, ESPN’s Trey Wingo had a reassuring stat that should calm Rams fans.
4) Bend But Don’t Break Has Run Its Course… Right?!
When Walton was asked about how to tighten up the pass defense he replied,
The main thing is technique, but getting off the field on third down. That’s what I have to do. I have to clean up that part of it and put them in better situations to allow them to get off the field on third down.
That’ll take care of most of it right there because if you get off the field more on third down, that eliminates the extra plays that you have to play during the course of the game. That takes 10-12 plays off the game and that’s on me to get that done.
If it were only that simple.
Former NFL coach Rick Venturi had some interesting points on 101 ESPN’s Zach and Rammer. Basically he said “the Rams are handcuffing their great pass rushers with their soft coverage.” Bob Ramsey (Rammer) believes “whether by design or subconsciously making a move the cornerbacks (and/or the whole team) are worried about the inexperience and the coverage ability of the safeties.” He thinks that is “causing some of the problems the corners are having in one-on-one coverage.”
I agree with Rammer that something is going on, especially with Finnegan. Whether he’s just in a funk or if he’s taking the heat for shaky safety play they better get their act together now.
5) Location, Location, Location.
The big thing is in the Atlanta game we killed ourselves with those penalties. On the kickoff return, we backed ourselves up. On a couple punt returns, took away any few yards that we did have and then you back yourself up 10.
The worst thing that can happen is turn the ball over, but the second worst thing is you get a penalty and you lose any return yards you might get and you back yourself up.
That’s something we’ve got to really fix on special teams, just helping our offense out on our return phase in the drive start or not getting penalties. Same thing for our defense, keeping them backed up so we aren’t working on short fields and stuff like that. – Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel.
Four of the seven penalties called against the Rams in Atlanta took place during special teams plays. The Rams started those drives on their 8, 11, 13, and 5 yard lines and resulted in punts from the 15, 26, 37, and 10 yard lines respectively. (The offenders – Tim Barnes: offensive holding, Stedman Bailey: Illegal block, Stedman Bailey: offensive holding, and Ray Ray Armstrong: Illegal block.)
They just backed themselves up and couldn’t get out.
(Insert self-inflicted wound rant here.)
Note: Fassel also made it a point to single out the Cowboys return man wide receiver Dwayne Harris. He’s someone to keep an eye on in this game.
The first two games, I told the guys, he’s kind of like Josh Cribbs kind of reincarnated not only returning punts and kickoffs, but his gunner reps and his cover on kickoffs has been fantastic. He’s been really super, and gosh, the way he’s played the first couple weeks, impressive guy.
6) I’m Just Sayin’…
The St. Louis Rams can’t dig themselves into 21-point deficits going into the second half of the game. Coach Fisher loves the pace of the ground game but would it really hurt to incorporate some uptempo offense to take (and sustain) a lead instead of using it to play catch up each week?
7) “I don’t get no respect.” – Rodney Dangerfield
My biggest takeaway from Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett conference call this week was the fact that not once does he mention the Rams running game as a concern. He highlights Bradford, the speedy receivers, tight ends and the defense.
Let’s face it, opposing teams are not at all scared of the Rams ground “attack.” Maybe that’s why Coach Fisher is sticking to his running roots to get the Rams ground game going.
16 teams are averaging greater than 100 yards per game. The top rushing team is the Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) with 209 ypg with the Oakland Raiders (1-1) not far behind at 198.5 ypg. At least they’re not the Pittsburgh Steelers (37.5 ypg at 0-2) and the New York Giants (36.5 ypg at 0-2).
The Rams should have brought home the “W” from Atlanta last week and I expect the same this week against Dallas. If they can play their strengths (speed and defense) and a clean game (stop the stupid penalties) the Rams will defeat the Cowboys. Hopefully they can ride that momentum heading into their short week Thursday night match up to host the San Francisco 49ers.
Prediction: Rams 27: Cowboys 21 and go to 2-1.