RamView, October 6, 2002
By Ram Nation's Mike Franke
Position by position:
* QB: Well, Jamie Martin has picked right up where Kurt Warner left off, with 2 first half INTs today to set up 49er scores. Although Martin will show you good accuracy at times, he also threw AWFUL passes that led to Ram disasters. A horrible overthrow of Rickey Proehl (covered by 4 defenders) in the 2nd led to a 49er TD, and a pathetic screen pass thrown well behind Marshall Faulk was tipped to Jason Webster for a TD return to put the 49ers up 27-3 at halftime. That is a turning point of the season right now. The offense is walking around like zombies with 0:15 on the clock, Martin looks unsure of what he’s doing, the Rams have 2 timeouts but do not use one, and a half-hearted pass attempt blows up in their face. Martin’s lack of velocity continues to show even on his good passes. He had several knocked down just before they could get to the receiver. His ball is too slow getting there, definitely not as quick as Warner’s, which affected the timing with the WR on more than one play. Jamie didn’t show anything after the first drive of the game, 60 yards for a FG, when he seemed to throw with good rhythm and accuracy. He spent a lot of the day dumping and checking off. One neat play was a backhand toss Faulk took for 10 in the 1st. But after that 1st drive, when Jamie showed he could operate pretty well out of a quick drop, quick pass scheme, it was 7-step drops for Jamie the rest of the day, and he played confused, and he couldn’t get the ball downfield. Until he gets comfortable with the offense, Jamie Martin isn’t taking this team anywhere, big mistakes or not.
* RB: I have never seen Marshall Faulk as down in the mouth as he looked on the sidelines today. I think that look on Marshall’s face captures the attitude of the team. They are aghast at what’s going on out there and feel powerless to do anything about it. Marshall gave his best effort, but 18-73 rushing and 7-37 passing was far from enough. He took a screen pass 17 yards on the Rams’ first play. He snatched Martin’s backhand flip with one hand and stepped hard on the gas to gain 10 on a 3rd-and-9 later in the 1st. Faulk had a 24-yard run where he broke through a jam at the line and broke a couple of other tackles with an all-out effort. He left the game briefly in the 2nd half with back spasms after converting two tough 4th-and-shorts to set up the Rams’ 2nd FG. Marshall’s doing all he can despite getting hardly any run blocking and getting bad play calls on too many of his touches. Lamar Gordon showed some flash again with a TD in garbage time.
* Receivers: The WRs who showed up did so early, and then disappeared. Isaac Bruce had a 16-yard catch and Rickey Proehl (4-41) added a 21-yarder to set up the opening FG. Torry Holt had one 1st half catch for 20 yards. Look at these game totals - Holt 3-38, Bruce 4-32 – weak! Heck, Brandon Manumaleuna nearly passed them both in yards, with his one catch for 28, the ONLY completion today to a TE. I think that was the only PASS today to a TE. Terrence Wilkins and Troy Edwards not only didn’t get into the game on offense, they didn’t even get in with the SCRUB offense running at the end of the game. Good thing Martz made the goofball Eric Crouch pick in the draft instead of picking up a legitimate WR. Major personnel blunders have turned the “greatest show” into a punchless unit that can’t get anybody open.
* Offensive line: Typical 2002 performance for this disappointing unit. Martin was sacked only once, on an LB blitz not picked up on the left side of the line, but he got banged around a lot and rarely had a solid pocket to pass from. This despite keeping TEs and RBs in to block. They cannot protect the passer adequately on seven-step drops (Warning: theme developing here!), and aren’t always that solid on short drops. John St. Clair and Grant Williams were usually able to keep the speedy 49er DEs in front of them; maybe that’s a moral victory, but they were hardly Rocks of Gibraltar out there. Run blocking was a total disappointment. Faulk got stuffed a lot, and every yard he gained was on his own. The offensive line didn’t open a hole for him today and has opened hardly any holes this season. They have been dominated by opposing run defenses in every game, and they don’t really show any signs of getting better.
* Defensive line/LB: This defense has become completely gutless. We’ll be fired up for Opening Day. No. We’ll be fired up for the first home game. No. We’ll be fired up for Monday night. No. We’ll be fired up for our biggest rival, the 49ers. No, no and NO. The Ram defense absolutely got rolled today. There isn’t a defensive tackle on the team worth a darn. The 49ers carved them up for about 180 rushing yards. Garrison Hearst repeatedly had big holes to run through. And there usually wasn’t an LB to fill that hole right away. Jamie Duncan sure wasn’t there on Hearst’s 40-yard run in the first, where Adam Archuleta badly blew the tackle. The 49ers strolled 98 yards downfield to go up 17-3, thanks to no run defense and no pass pressure at all. The complete lack of pass rush continues to kill this defense. Lovie Smith had to blitz more to get anything going, but that gamble lost consistently because of the inexperience of the secondary. (Exhibit A: J.J. Stokes’ TD off Travis Fisher.) Jeff Garcia still had all day to throw, or scramble, which he did twice for their first TD. Grant Wistrom’s weak run defense and weak pass pressure have him in the lead for the Kevin Carter Award for disappointing play from a DE. Grant had all of 1 tackle today, although by all indications, he’s not dogging it. Leonard Little wasn’t much of a factor, either, maybe a couple of pressures. Archuleta got the team’s only sack on a 3rd-quarter blitz. Brian Young hasn’t gotten anything done at DE since the Giant game. Duncan made a shoestring tackle of Hearst to force an early FG, and the 49ers’ first TD was really made possible by a HORRIBLE call on Tyoka Jackson for “roughing” the passer. Not many highlights from a unit that didn’t show up to play, hasn’t all season, and got completely outplayed today. Maybe this defense hasn’t given up the ship, but it sure looks like it. Nice “effort,” fellas.
* Secondary: For the first time in his career, Aeneas Williams could not suit up for a game, and the Ram secondary definitely missed him, not to mention Dexter McCleon. Terrell Owens took advantage of an Aeneas-free day to treat Dre Bly like a rag doll a couple of times with strong stiffarms. Dre got some shots of his own in, and made a nice 3rd-down defense to hold the 49ers to an early FG, but Owens won the matchup with 7 catches for 89. Travis Fisher had one of those rough games a rookie’s bound to have, giving up a rare J.J. Stokes TD in the first. For some reason, he’s playing 6-7 yards off Stokes on 3rd-and-5, and after Garcia hits Stokes with the quick pass, Fisher slips trying to make up ground, and it’s over. Fisher and Kim Herring blew tackles terribly on Stokes’ 51-yard catch-and-run from the 49er 2. In addition, Bly lost his jock on that play, which sparked a too-easy TD drive to put the Niners up 17-3. Fisher made some solid tackles, but disappointingly blew quite a few today. As I think we’re still waiting for Herring to make a play in a Ram uniform, he’s another recommended Cap Victim after this season.
* Special teams: Jeff Wilkins actually hit two FGs (note: both under 40 yards), and there is no doubt the shoeless approach has helped his kickoffs. Everything went into the end zone except a goofy trick squib kick that wobbled out of bounds. Terrence Wilkins had several good kick returns. He finally got some blocking, and got out across the 40 a couple of times. Mitch Berger averaged just 37.8 per punt, thanks to a late shanked kick and a punt pinned at the 4 in the 2nd thanks to an excellent diving effort by Yo! Murphy. Too bad that was the Rams’ highlight of the game.
* Coaching/discipline: A team takes on the personality of its coach. Mike Martz is adrift at sea, and so is the team. This team has come out flat for every game and played without fire throughout every game. Martz, and Lovie Smith, and everybody else, has failed totally at having this team emotionally ready for any game this year. A complete lack of leadership. No wonder you had the offensive zombie act at the end of the 1st half. That was worthy of the sad-sack offense of 1998. No wonder you had a defense that made no plays today, let alone a big play... I don’t see how Martz is going to get anything out of Martin, or the offense, at all, without going to the get-the-ball-out-quickly, FIVE-step drop passing game. It worked when it was used against Dallas, and it worked the ONE drive it was used today. Martin can’t get the ball downfield, and the line can’t hold back the rush long enough for him to get it there anyway… How about that “we surrender” draw to Faulk on 3rd-and-15 before the first FG? Very unlike “Mad” Mike… With no rush from the front four at all (calling Bill Kollar!), Smith had to blitz more than usual, and did. But only one of the blitzes got through to the QB, which means Lovie needs to come up with better blitzes. The minimal extra pressure only helped a couple of times, while Garcia was repeatedly able to beat it. And blitzing does things like leave a very green Travis Fisher all alone on a WR… Personnel failures are really biting the Rams hard. Eric Crouch, Terrence Wilkins, Kim Herring, Jamie Duncan, Trung Canidate. Having 7 WRs on your roster, two of whom never play on offense, instead of having a competent 3rd DE to rotate in. Damione Lewis looks more and more like a total bust. Consider that Dan Morgan was taken right before him and Marcus Stroud right after him. The front office has hit it big with Warner, the Faulk trade, Holt, Wistrom, Little, Aeneas and others, but really have to pay the piper now for those recent moves that have gone bad… Bobby April got WAY too cute on special teams. Wilkins apparently returned one from the end zone because the dreaded fake reverse was on. He got out only to the 18. Late in the game, wow! It’s Wilkins AND Troy Edwards on the field at the same time, but to blow a reverse on a punt return, with Edwards covering up the loose ball. Is April trying to help the team through comic relief?
* Upon further review: Didn’t expect good officiating from Tony Corrente and crew; didn’t get it. They allowed plenty of contact downfield in pass coverage, until taking a TD away from Torry Holt with a pretty ticky-tack offensive pass interference call. They made the first 49er TD possible with a complete bullcrap roughing-the-passer call against Tyoka Jackson, who did nothing more than make a textbook hit on Garcia.
Couple of facemask calls missed, including on the reviewed & overruled Faulk incompletion in the 4th. Officiating doesn’t decide a game that ends 37-13. Doesn’t mean it was any good, though.
* Cheers: None from this quarter. The Rams are STILL winless. They are now THREE games behind the freaking Big Dead. They looked every bit as bad as the Bengals today. They give you very little reason to think they will win a game any time soon. They have not just melted down, they have evaporated. They are painful to watch… Fox’s coverage was fine, although Troy Aikman seemed a little eager to accuse Faulk of not running hard. He was just trying to find a hole to hit, Troy… The Cardinals game at 6:30 next Sunday should affect attendance at the Raider game. Baseball is way out front again on the St. Louis sports scene.
* Who’s next?: 0-6, that’s who’s next. Doing the football equivalent of “shooting your age” in golf, the 100-year-olds on the Oakland Raider offense have put up 101 points in 2 weeks. The Rams have scored 74 points in 5 weeks. Oh boy. The Raiders may be the best team in football. Oh boy. Rich Gannon is having a dynamite season, and the Raider offense is purring like something once called The Greatest Show on Earth ™. Fellow AARP members Tim Brown and Jerry Rice are still solid receivers, Jerry Porter is coming into his own, and RB Charlie Garner has developed into a deadly Faulk-type weapon. Last year’s Ram defense could have held its own against the Oakland West Coast attack, but the good Raider offensive line figures to shut them down like everyone else has. Making things even worse, the Raider special teams are a threat to score every time they return a kick. The Raider run defense improved a half-ton with the additions of Sam Adams and John Parella. Look for the Ram o-line to lose the battle in the trenches again, unless somebody gets smart and calls for quicker throws and quicker-developing run plays. With Charles Woodson injured, the Raider secondary is more vulnerable, although rookie Philip Buchanon has made some big plays. The Raiders have given up a lot of points and yards the last couple of weeks. The Ram offense of 2001 could have won a shootout. Remains to be seen if the 2002 offense will show up next week with any bullets.