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Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants: 2nd down, second guessing

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Who knew?

Los Angeles Rams v New York Giants Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Recap

Coming into the game, the Los Angeles Rams were barely favored to win this game against the New York Giants in NYC. Coming out of the game, it can only be said that the Rams put a whooping on the Giants.

So what do the pundits say about the Rams say after a 51-17 victory? “The Giants quit on the Rams.”

The Giants quit on the Rams and that’s what led to this beat down—that’s it—really?

No professional sport player, especially those that play football ever wants to labeled a “quitter.” First of all, it’s not true. Too much pride is at stake, even if your getting killed by your opponent to be called a “quitter.”.

There may come a point in the game the players on a team realize they can’t win like when the Rams blocked the punt against the Giants which led to another touchdown. But that realization is quickly overcome by a more pressing realization that this game is not over.

It’s therefore incumbent on every professional football player to get out there and play good football until the scoreboard reads 0:00—anything less and calling the players “quitters” is fighting words and humiliating.

The flip side of the coin is that the team that did the whooping might be really good; however, according to the pundits, it’s not the Rams.

Listening to the late night WFAN radio from New York Sunday night, the commentators refused to acknowledge that Rams are a Super Bowl contender. Instead, they contended the home team is a bottomless pit of last place losers who lost the game because they quit on their Head Coach. And the reason the Giants are so bad can be directly linked to suspensions, injuries and disarray this has caused within the team which came to a head against the Rams.

The best team in the NFL according to so called experts, including those speaking from ignorance this week, is not the NFC West first place 6-2 Rams. The best team resides in Philadelphia. The Rams are good, but NOT THAT GOOD.

So diehards fans, let’s keep a secret between ourselves the Rams are going to shock the football world. This kind of expressed disbelief in the Rams is exactly what we want the critics to talk about. Keep the pressure on the Eagles to maintain their status as the best team in the NFL. As they improve, the Rams are going to silence their critics.

We know this because we’ve actually watched their whole games and seeing is believing. Diehards know the Rams are a powerful team getting better every week who can only lose when they beat themselves.

It’s now time to take a peek at those things that the Rams didn’t do against the Giants which needs improvement, despite their 51-17 trashing of the Giants, to get our team to the promised land of Super Bowl LII.

Red Zone Foolishness

The Rams should be complimented as a whole for having implemented the recommendations I have written in my articles weekly about this issue. They have become creative in the red zone leading to more touchdowns rather than having to settle for field goals. Nonetheless, don’t get too creative inside the 5-yard line.

When the Rams had the ball at the 12 inch line, they called a TE shovel pass up the middle. To make this play work, the QB either hands the ball off or underhands a pass to the line of scrimmage. The TE takes the ball or catches it coming across, and then under the theory that the defense is caught off guard, the TE goes up the middle for a scoring touchdown.

This is a bad call inside the 5-yard line. Not only that, the Rams executed it poorly. To make matters worse, the Rams lost yardage on the play putting them at 2nd and goal from the 3-yard line. And in this particular debacle, the Rams got a 10-yard penalty for holding thrown against RT Rod Havenstein. Those are the makings of a really bad play.

Save this kind of craziness for outside the 5-yard line where’s there’s more room to execute the play. Down at the 1, this play is as good as calling a crossing-pattern pass in the Super Bowl even though you have RB Marshawn Lynch in the backfield.

It looked so bad, I was glad the Rams got the penalty and not a fumble or interception.

Additionally, don’t run the “no huddle” when you make a big play putting your team inside the 5-yard line. The reason is simple: the offensive line has to catch their breath. After a big play, the offensive line has to speed down the field to get set and into position as well as know the snap count and then be called upon to make an absolutely essential and critical block to put the ball in the endzone. It’s just too much stuff.

Give the O-line a chance to breathe, because you’re not fooling anyone on defense with the “no huddle” inside the 5-yard line. Defensive substitutions aren’t an issue unless you intend to pass. The “no huddle” at that point is dead give away to any competent defense that your team intends to pass.

Hopefully, the Rams learned from their experience that TE shovel pass doesn’t work as good as it looks when you drew it up.

Instead, get into the huddle. Make sure everyone knows the play and snap count, and then...ram that ball into the end zone.

Don’t Get Pushed Around On Defense

The gameplan for the Giants for decades is “smashmouth” football by opening up holes for the running back with the running game putting them into makeable third and short downs. Smashmouth football is designed to run the clock and keep opposing high-powered offenses off the field. By converting long drives into points whether it be field goals or touchdowns, it keeps the game close. By the time a smashmouth football team gets into 4th quarter, they believe the opposing defense is vulnerable by being tired out and need only one more drive to win the game.

For the most part, the Giants started out the game as they planned it.

The one thing you can’t do with this kind of old school football is turn the ball over.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the Giants did and the Rams converted three crucial mistakes into 17 points. Take into account missed makeable field goals by Giants (opportunities) to keep the game within striking distance and you have the makings of a Rams blowout.

What one doesn’t want to see is the Rams defensive front under these circumstances get pushed around. The Giants team was able to do this. They were only down by 17 points at the half effectively moving the ball with runs right up the gut of the Rams defense. The defensive line was getting pushed around, and this is never a good sign. A look at the final statistics reveal that the Rams had 61 total plays to the Giants 66, pretty close and the total time of possession was 30:30 minutes for the Rams to 29:30 for the Giants, also too close for comfort.

Fortunately, not only were the Giants unable to get the first downs needed to sustain the drives on makeable 3rd downs due largely to bad passes and dropped balls thrown, they missed those pesky field goals and had self-inflicted turnovers.

The Giants personnel at the skill positions is sorely lacking. The plays were there, not the players. Contrast this with the Rams who have terrific skill position players. The Rams converted on their big play, high-powered offense by out gaining the Giants 154 yards in the pass game, including a 67-yard bomb to WR Sammy Watkins for a touchdown. Throw in a special teams blocked punt to boot that was converted into an offensive touchdown as well, and it’s amazing the Giants held the Rams to just 51.

Additionally, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, “smashmouth” teams will take their shots now and again when the opportunity strikes. On at least three long pass plays, QB Eli Manning, maybe the result of the pressure, sailed passes way over the outreaching wide receivers’ hands even though they were open. How the wide receivers became that open is an issue—was it the result of the lack of communication by the secondary or because the Rams were caught blitzing?

It seems from observing the game that it was the latter.

As a result, if your defense blitzes, pressure alone isn’t enough. The Rams have to get to the quarterback for a sack. There can be no “ifs, ands or buts.” The Giants are not the Eagles, Saints or Cowboys.

QB Eli Manning is a 37-year old, two-time Super Bowl-winning QB without any weapons to go to unlike the weapons the Eagles, Saints and Cowboys possess. Nor does he have the qualities of Eagles QB Carson Wentz, Saints QB Drew Brees or Cowboys QB Dak Prescott. When any of those other teams give their QB just enough time to throw the deep ball and the Rams are blitzing, it is more likely than not, it will be completed.

A review of the game tape should reveal where the blitz flaws when blitzing against stout offensive lines. Pressure is good. A sack is better.

Fix this problem now before the Rams play both the Eagles and Saints. Don’t ignore it just because the Rams scored 51 points or else the Rams could wind up looking like a “Air Coryell” group being a one-sided offensive team guaranteed to lose in the playoffs...bust.

Game Balls

What was most impressive about the Rams wasn’t WR Robert Woods’ catch-and-run for touchdown on 3rd and 33 yards, but how well he blocks down field on runs. The same can be said about Watkins and teh rest of the Rams receiving corps

When you combine Woods’ breakout game as a receiver and his consistent excellent blocking downfield for both Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin, the USC product gets my game ball.

Wide receivers blocking down the field to spring short gains for long ones is a lost art in the age of diva wideouts. Given the emphasis on the passing game, receivers are drafted for their catching skills, not whether they can block down field. This is something that is taught, but not always learned.

Wide receivers who make critical, picture-perfect blocks on runs are rare breed in today’s NFL. Yet, the Rams have some of the best group of blocking wideouts in the game and Woods is the best of the bunch.

So while its easy to hand out a game ball to Woods for his breakout two touchdown performance, he deserves the award for not only this, but his consistent self-sacrifice to make outstanding blocks downfield.

Even though all the Rams wide receivers are doing their part, Woods stands out from the rest. This comes as no surprise to since he played for USC.

Looking Ahead

This was a good game for the Rams. Throw away the tape on offense. Review the tape for defensive lapses, and move onto the next game.

Keep winning, and the Rams will suddenly be where no one predicted they would be at the beginning of the season as a possible Super Bowl Champion.

But remember...let’s keep that a secret between ourselves.