<
>

2011 Rams Week 3: Five observations

Five things I noticed while watching the St. Louis Rams' 37-7 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3:

  • No one blocked Terrell Suggs. The Rams got cute early with an end-around to rookie tight end Lance Kendricks. Nobody blocked Suggs, one of the Ravens' best players, on the play. How could this happen? The play established two dynamics early. One, the Rams weren't feeling great about their conventional running game even though Steve Jackson was active. Two, they weren't going to fool this veteran Ravens defense, either. Even if Suggs had missed Kendricks, linebacker Jameel McClain was also rushing toward the play unblocked. Losing 8 yards on second down ruined the Rams' opening drive. Later, with the Rams facing third-and-6 while trailing 7-0, they failed to block Suggs coming from the other side of the formation. Again, how can this happen? The Rams had six blockers for six pass-rushers, only to leave the very best rusher of them all, Suggs, completely unblocked. It is possible quarterback Sam Bradford was supposed to account for Suggs after the snap or by setting the protection a certain way, but that was not my inclination. The Rams would be better off punting on third down than allowing Suggs a clear path toward their franchise QB.

  • Flacco had a perfect pocket. The Rams had no shot at pressuring Joe Flacco when the Ravens' quarterback found Torrey Smith for a 74-yard touchdown. Right defensive end James Hall dropped into coverage. Left defensive end Chris Long lined up wide enough to jam Ravens tight end Ed Dickson at the line. Long was at the Baltimore 25-yard line just inside the yard-line numbers and well outside right tackle Michael Oher when Flacco was setting up in the pocket at his own 20 on the hash nearest Long. Running back Ray Rice picked up blitzing linebacker Ben Leber. Flacco delivered the ball before the Rams could do anything about it. Smith's speed on the play was startling. He was at the Baltimore 35 when Flacco released the ball. He covered an additional 21 yards before catching it at the St. Louis 44. Aenaes Williams might not have been able to defend this one. Of the three scoring passes Smith caught, the second one was the truly regrettable one from a Rams standpoint, with safety Darian Stewart getting caught peeking into the backfield.

  • The Jason Smith complaints are overblown. Coach Steve Spagnuolo had seen enough in the second half after Smith, the Rams' right tackle, gave up pressure more than once during a tough stretch. Spagnuolo benched Smith, but singling out Smith for the Rams' problems on the line would be unfair. The rest of the line also struggled once the Rams fell behind. I considered it progress when Smith got into a brief altercation with Lewis, drawing a 15-yard penalty. The Rams need not revisit the Richie Incognito era, but they need their linemen to play with an edge. Smith came to the Rams out of college with a tough-guy reputation that proved misleading. He missed half his rookie season to injuries and has hardly been an enforcer type, one reason guard Harvey Dahl appealed to the Rams in free agency. Smith has played through the ankle injury, first thought to be a high sprain, that he suffered in the regular-season opener. Now, he's scrapping with Lewis.

  • Bradford cannot find anyone open. Bradford scrambled effectively for the Rams early in the game, but only because none of his receivers appeared open. Bradford also paid a price. The Ravens' Haloti Ngata and Ray Lewis buried him following a scramble on the Rams' second possession. Could anyone come up with a worse scenario for the Rams than one pitting Bradford alone in the ring against the tag-team combination of Ngata and Lewis? Not likely. Bradford got up limping. This was surely the play when he suffered the sprained toe that is bother him this week. Ngata, listed at 350 pounds, rolled across Bradford's lower legs after right after Lewis made the tackle. Don't blame the offensive line for this injury. Bradford actually had time to throw very early in the game, but life changed for him once the team fell behind.

  • The Rams have no chance playing from behind. That might change a little once Jackson and top receiver Danny Amendola return to health. For now, though, the Rams just need to survive their rough first-half schedule while hoping their division rivals falter. The final eight games feature six NFC West opponents, plus Cincinnati and Cleveland. Life will get worse before it gets better. Getting Bradford to Week 9 in one piece must be the priority.

We'll find out Wednesday whether Jackson is a full participant in practice. The Rams have a bye in Week 5, but if Jackson is ready to play a bigger role this week, the Rams have at least a chance against Washington on a short week for the Redskins.