I'm going to dive right into this weeks notes, because there's a lot to discuss...
- The offensive line got whipped all game. Specifically in the pass. There were points where players went completely unblocked. One thing you're taught early and often — and will hear your entire life when playing on the offensive line — is never let a player cross your face. Unfortunately this happened on numerous occasions. C Tim Barnes had arguably his worst game as a Ram, and LG Rodger Saffold wasn't too far behind. Both were repeatedly beaten like derby horses. It also might be time to strongly consider benching, trading, or changing positions of LT Greg Robinson. He's not improving enough in year three after being the second overall pick. There's really no justification to keep him out there. Not admitting to mistakes can be a coaches biggest mistake of them all.
- The Ryan brothers did as I predicted, and mixed it up. They decided to play both run and pass evenly as opposed to stacking the box 85% of the time like other teams. This allowed RB Todd Gurley to find a little more running room. However, he failed to take advantage of that running room. By my count he had a season high nine creases open up, but only hit three of them. Those three runs resulted in 35 yards (49% of his total output). He still continued to unnecessarily run into the backs of his blockers. And the two fumbles weren't pretty. Gurley on paper had an "okay" day, however he could have had a lot more production and maybe even broke a very long one on a zone stretch to the left in the second quarter. He hit it too quick and the cut back opened like the red sea. There wasn't a soul in sight and might have been about 62 yard touchdown. Its one he'll watch film on and kick himslef.
- QB Case Keenum went 21/31 with 271 yards. He entered the final drive with only eight incompletions. However he had two extrmely costly interceptions. The first went back for a touchdown, which was really the difference in the game. Upon further review, that int was a split blame ball. Keenum stared down the receiver and the corner read him the whole way. However, WR Pharoh Cooper ran a bad route, as he rounded it off and drifted backwards allowing the space and opportunity for the defender to undercut the route. Crisp and precise routes get the love they do for a reason. The second interception was pure ugliness. Keeenum made about as bad a decision as you can make with the ball. Considering he made great decisions so often in this game outside of the game changing pick six, it was especially disappointing that he happen to make his second bad decision at the point in the game that he did. Game on the line, fourth and very long, got to go deep. At least even if it fails, it would have made sense.
- WR Kenny Britt is well on his way to a career year. Currently on pace for over 70 receptions and over 1100 yards, it might be wise to start throwing his way more consistently. Britt has owned defenders on third down. He needs more looks. WR Tavon Austin gave his best return on targets of the season. He caught all but three targets, and none were his fault. The three misses were off throws. However, he's still only coverting a l little under 40% of his targets. Kenny Britt is coverting 50%. Throwing more to Britt may take some pressure off him, and result in more first downs.
- The defensive line looked as you might have expected when you are missing three starters. Actually, they probably still looked a little better than expected as they were only slightly below average. However, there's just no replacing the names that were missing. DT Aaron Donald was actually triple teamed a lot. To send three blockers at on defensive lineman is a lot. But it worked. If ever there was a game to blitz a lot, this was it. However, due to the scrambling fear of QB Tyrod Taylor, DC Gregg Williams seemed to dial it back a bit. It was a tough day to be on the Rams defensive line. How often do you hear that senctence?
- This was hands down the worst game the linebackers have played this year. None of them disengaged their blocks. RB Lesean McCoy had two long runs in the first quarter and one was on the shoulders of LB/S Mark Barron and the other on MLB Alec Ogletree. On the first, Barron got taken on head up by the lead blocker and failed miserably to keep his outside should free. He was blown back about three yards and he's already playing five yards off the ball. They ran it at him on design and it worked beautifully. The second long run — and this was the big one of 53 yards — was also ran a the backer by design. This time their victim was Ogletree. Ogletree played downhill so he wasn't blown off the ball, however, he took himself out of the play. He ran downhill and threw his shoulder into the lineman and was ultimately stood up. Not only did he forget all technique, but he didn't play the run lanes correctly, and created a gaping hole. McCoy and his lead blocker ran where he was supposed to be and found nothing but green grass.
- The secondary played this game scared. Williams had them in zone a lot, and the result was stare down Taylor in case he runs. This allowed receivers to pop open frequently. This happened on two big plays. One was to TE Charles Clay as he picked up 29 yards and set up their first touchdown. He ran a simple in-route. SS T.J. McDonald was in coverage and literally never moved his feet as Clay ran right at him. He was staring down Taylor until the last min. At this point it was too late and Clay had already broke his route in creating about four yards of separation. The other play which cost the Rams was the touchdown a few moments later to WR Justin Hunter. It was thrid down, Taylor was close to being sacked, but CB E.J. Gaines and McDonald both broke out of coverage because they got caught looking in the backfield. This allowed Hunter to slip behind them and sit down his route. If they stay disciplined then they force fourth down and a field goal, as Taylor would have had to either throw it away or take the sack. Realistically, this fear was forced by Taylor, after earlier in the drive he scrambled for 22 yards on 3rd on 19. Considering all of this took place on the opening drive for the Bills, it virtually set the tone for the entire game. They were never confident the play would be made if he broke out, again.
Coaching got a fat D grade from me in this game. I saw some really well drawn up plays called by OC Rob Boras, but most followed with a why the hell did you call that play. On defense, Williams failed to take advantage of an overly blocked Donald, and made few adjustments to slow down the run game early on. They did much better handling it in the fourth quater though.
As for Jeff Fisher, well even with all that went wrong in this game — as pointed out above — the Rams were still in it until the end. And then Fisher called an absolute bone head fake punt. Yeah, those plays are fun when they work, but in this case there was very little reason to call it. I've never had a problem with the fakes before, because the timing in which they were called always made sense, whether they were converted or not. That was not the case this time.
The Rams were deep in their own territory, but that wasn't my big issue with this call. It was the fact that the defense slowed the Bills offense down. Take away the pick six, and they're not even ahead. With the two min warning still lurking, and timeouts available, and your defense finally finding traction, I thought it made the most sense to punt. Had the defense been getting gashed the previous three or four drives, I'd understand, but that wasn't the case. To make it worse, his comments post game were shameful. He blamed the players for the failed attempt saying "they didn't execute". Surely the players aren't going to be too thrilled about this...