With this week’s loss to the New Yorks Giants, the Los Angeles Rams fall below .500 for the first time since Week 1. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the three game win streak after week one was more of an aberration than the Rams actually being good. Now, after a third straight loss, the Rams appear to be nearing full blown panic mode.
Rams Offense vs Giants Defense
Rob Boras’s game script was off this week. There is absolutely no reason Case Keenum should be throwing 53 passes against any defense, let alone against a secondary like New York’s. New York has two top tier defensive backs in cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Landon Collins, both of whom played out of their minds on Sunday. The rest of the Giants secondary are not slouches, either.
For whatever reason, Boras abandoned the running game. The Rams were not destroying the Giants on the ground, but they were having mild success and needed the running game to help balance the offense. Instead, the game was largely cast upon Keenum’s shoulders. That is no recipe for success.
Keenum crumbled when it got down to crunch time. He threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter. The first interception granted the Giants good enough field position for them to take the lead on their following drive. The other two interceptions were thrown when the Rams offense was beyond the 50 yard line and had a chance to tie the game up at 17-17. Keenum is incapable of anything more than the bare minimum.
- Rodger Saffold had his best game of the season. Looked meaner, a bit more comfortable in space. Sign of more good things to come?
- OL as a whole had a solid game in run blocking. Cody Wichmann is still horrible and a handful of guys botched some assignments, but, for them, it was a solid performance.
- Janoris Jenkins Revenge Game was absolutely real. He balled out.
- Todd Gurley keeps getting looks in the passing game and it’s working.
- Rob Boras tried to employ some Wildcat stuff with Todd Gurley and Benny Cunningham. I get the approach, but it didn’t feel like they were ready to run it effectively yet.
Case Keenum Hit a New Low
Case Keenum was never legitimately good, but he was serviceable enough early in the season for the Rams to eek out a few consecutive wins. Through the three game win streak, Keenum turned the ball over just twice. In the last three games, though, Keenum has thrown seven interceptions. He has fumbled three times, too, though he was fortunate enough to not have any of them be recovered by the defense. Four of those interceptions and two of those fumbles happened this week alone.
But it wasn’t just the interceptions that made Keenum’s performance as excruciating as it was. He was extraordinarily slow in reading the field and made a handful of rushed decisions in which he passed up open targets. Keenum never made good use of the pocket, either. If the pocket started to close from one direction or the other, Keenum would hurry a throw instead of try to find an alternative solution. The Giants kept bringing pressure and Keenum didn’t know how to troubleshoot.
Aside from the interceptions, this was one of Keenum’s most frustrating plays. It’s still a completion, but it could have been so much more. This play harps on how poorly Keenum reads the field and what his slow snap-to-throw speed does to a play.
The Rams have ran this simple play-action boot, or others like it, plenty of times this season. It is not a new concept for Keenum. By now, he should have a great understanding of where each moving piece is at all times and where the matchups should be. On this particular play, Keenum didn’t seem to grasp where his ideal match up was.
As was noted in the film preview for this game, the Giants linebackers are suckers for play-action boot plays. The swarm to the line of scrimmage, and leave a ton of room between themselves and the secondary. That is something Keenum should have been aware of after studying film this week, but he didn’t seem to be aware of it at all on this play. Instead of looking for tight end Lance Kendricks initially, Keenum wanted the quick throw to Tavon Austin.
Part of the problem is that taking the short throw is who Keenum is. He’s a dink and dunk type of player. That does not excuse a blatantly missed opportunity, though. Had Keenum looked for Kendricks as soon as he flipped his head around following the fake hand-off, he would have been able to hit Kendricks in the open field and Kendricks would have had room to make a play. Keenum waited to long to throw to Kendricks, though, so Kendricks was forced to make a tough grab and endure a brutal hit from Landon Collins immediately after the catch.
New York’s Secondary Was Suffocating
The Giants have one hell of a secondary. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins has been lights out all year, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been good when healthy and safety Landon Collins has quickly asserted himself as not only one of the best young safeties in the league, but one of the best period. As a unit, they held Keenum to 5.5 yards per attempt and picked him off four times.
This is New York’s “Mable” coverage that was discussed in the preview. To no surprise, it worked to perfection against the Rams.
In short, “Mable” coverage is a Cover 3 shell where the deep safety and intermediate zone players shift their coverage more toward the strong side and leave the weak side cornerback in 1-on-1 man coverage. Most teams dream of having a cornerback that they can leave 1-on-1 like this, but for the Giants, that dream is reality.
Janoris Jenkins, lined up as the weak side cornerback, completely erases wide receiver Kenny Britt from the play. Jenkins locks on to Britt’s inside hip, then sits and turns with Britt as Britt tries to gain separation with his route break. Britt was never even close to being open on this play.
To the strong side, cornerbacks Eli Apple (on the boundary, playing a deep third) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (in the slot) do an excellent job of playing their assignments. Rodgers-Cromartie is quick to latch onto the receiver, not giving him any room for a possible catch-and-run to pick up the first down. For good measure, Apple made a heads up play, quickly bailing on his deep third assignment when he realized the ball was going to the underneath receiver. The Giants secondary suffocated the Rams passing offense.
Rams Defense vs Giants Offense
The Rams defense had a good day. They only allowed ten points (one of New York’s scores was a Keenum pick six), they held the Giants running game to fewer than two yards per carry and the pass defense did not allow any passing touchdowns. It was not the team’s best performance, but they played well, especially considering they did not have their top cornerback to play against Odell Beckham Jr.
- Ethan Westbrooks had a good day in run defense - a much needed effort with Michael Brockers out.
- Williams Hayes generated a good amount of pressure. He wasn’t ever able to finish the job, but the pressure he provided played a part in Eli Manning’s subpar performance.
- The success in coverage was much more a result of the front seven getting pressure than the secondary playing well in coverage. Gregg Williams blitzed a lot and had success in doing so.
The Rams Need Michael Brockers
Calling desperately for a run defender to return to the lineup after allowing fewer than two yards per carry may seem odd, but it makes sense, in this case. The Giants have a horrid offensive line and were not going to have success on the ground against the Rams no matter what. That being said, there were a handful of moments where the Giants got good push at the line of scrimmage when they shouldn’t have.
Part of the problem was having to play Dominique Easley at 1-tech too much. Easley is a great player and can have success being spelled at 1-tech, but playing him there is extremely hit or miss.
Easley’s game is predicated on quickness, so when he doesn’t get that initial jump, he tends to lose plays. On this play, Easley doesn’t win with his quickness, forcing him to take on the blocker head on. Easley gets walked back a step from the start, then gets pinned out of the play by a pulling guard on a double team. In fairness to Easley, Ethan Westbrooks playing too wide and Mark Barron getting wrecked by the tight end did not help the play, but this is the type of play Michael Brockers helps prevent.
Cam Thomas wasn’t great in place of Brockers, either. Thomas is a more natural 1-tech type, but when forced into a bigger role with Brockers out, Thomas was mediocre. On this play, Thomas gets pushed backwards by the center, then completely cleared out of the way by the guard on the double team. Brockers rarely loses his ground, even against double teams like this.
Brockers is an immovable force; Easley and Thomas are not.
Rebound Game For the Linebackers
After a miserable few weeks, linebackers Mark Barron and Alec Ogletree had a nice rebound game. Neither of them were special, but they played to the standard that this defense needs them to. For the first time in a while, they looked reliable. Of course, they had their fair share of poor plays, but they did more to make up for those mistakes this week than in any week prior.
These two plays look nearly identical. On both plays, the play side linebacker read the play, attacked without hesitation and wiggled their way to the running back. Barron and Ogletree have not looked this confident all season. They have had flash plays like this, but Barron and Ogletree played with this sort of intensity and twitchiness all game.
It may have been an anomaly, but confidence can be built upon. With two weeks before they play the Carolina Panthers, the two linebackers will have plenty of time to see what they did well and prepare to replicate it. The Rams need Barron and Ogletree to play more like this version of themselves.
Jeff Fisher and the Rams are spiraling downward into 7-9 (at best). Even with a great game out of the defense, the Rams could not get it together and pull out a win. The offense was terribly inept, largely due in part to Case Keenum’s newfound interception disease. The Rams won’t win games playing offense the way that they did, regardless of how well the defense plays.
The Rams need this bye week. They quickly spun out of control and they need to figure out a way to get back on track.