I was at the game on Saturday and also ended up watching the replay on TV. There were some things that really stood out to me. Some were good, some were bad, and some were plain ugly to watch.
Edit by Chris: I promoted this to the front page and adjusted the formatting a tiny bit.
- Our Coverage. Combined, the Rams QBs threw for only 115 yards with 3.7 ypa, 41% completion, and a 61 QB Rating. Brown and Ward both made nice plays to save TDs and both had good games. Elam was also solid.
- Haden/Wright. I mention them specifically, because they were particularly good in coverage and contributed in other areas. Wright was extremely good in coverage and really made a statement today. both he and Haden also had some nice plays against the run. Haden also returned kicks and showed he could be effective in this department, reducing the need to have a guy like Lawson on the roster purely for returns.
- Peyton Hillis. Hillis was a beast and would not go down when carrying the ball. He kept his feet moving and kept dragging tacklers with him. he did what a North-South runner is supposed to do; not lose yardage. I don't believe he had negative yardage on any of his runs. He also had a couple of nice catches.
- Jake Delhomme. Delhomme had a great game throwing for 127 yards and a 118.5 QB rating. I liked what I saw out of him. the thing i liked the best is he generally made the right decisions. He looked poised and always seemed to know what to do. Most of his incompletions were just throws that were a bit off the mark and a couple that were tipped at the line (which is more of a credit to good D, including one tip by Laurinitis and another by Chris Long).
- Red Zone D. Although we let them get good field position WAY too much, our D was able to hold them well to just getting mostly field goals. They only had one TD in 4 red zone attempts (most of which were all inside the 10).
- Linebackers. I felt the LBs were able to get good pressure in the game and force Bradford to make decisions quicker. I also liked how Fujita and Gocong played at LB especially, against the run and the pass. Both were solid in coverage and made some nice plays there. Both were able to step up and play against the run too. Both were effective in coverage, against the run, and blitzing. Roth also had a decent game.
- Reggie Hodges. Hodges was hitting some booming punts with very good consistency. every one of his punts looked great tonight.
- Watson & Stuckey. Both of these guys were key in the passing game and made some clutch catches. I liked what I saw from Watson and am excited to have a legitimate receiving option at TE again. Stuckey came up with some nice plays and looks very comfortable in the slot role.
- The Right side of the line. Even more so than in the first game, everything to the left of Mack looked Horrific. St. Clair was bad as usual, but we now had Yates in because Lauvao and Womack were out. Its hard to throw as a QB when 2 defenders are coming at you because your RG and RT can't block to save their life. Once St. Clair was gone, and the backups were in, that side looked better. However, Yates still wasn't that good
- Josh Cribbs as a WR. Yes, Cribbs had 5 catches. However, he still doesn't look like a legitimate WR in the NFL. He had only 30 yards in those 5 catches with a long of 15. Cribbs never seemed to be open when going deeper. This may be a sign that he really can't stretch the field and is only good for short passes. His hands looked good, but he was getting a lot of the easy, short throws. Seeing him there makes me long for MoMass back so he and Robo can start.
- Lack of plays on D. The d was solid last night and held the rams to 1.2 yards per carry and 8.2 yards per reception. However, this was a D in lacking key plays. We knocked some balls down and got in the QBs face, but never made the big sack or INT. it is those key plays that change the momentum of a drive or game that separate the good defenses from the great ones. We have had only one sack and one INT in the first 2 games, which would be averaging 8 of each over a 16 game season. you NEED to make more plays than that on D. Period.
- Eric Barton. Speaking of making plays, where was Eric Barton? I was at the game but found out later that he started. I think I remember seeing him, but he never seemed to have made a play. I just don't know if he has it anymore to be a starter in the NFL.
- Ratliff and his roster spot. Yes, he only threw 4 throws, but one WAS a pick. As it stands, he probably was on the outside looking in before the game if they had to make the 53 man roster then. It is becoming more of a guarantee to me that he doesn't make the team, and might not even be put on the PS.
- Our Backups on D. Keith Null was terrible. However, somehow he led the rams to victory by getting field goals on 2 straight drives and 92 combined yards on those drives. Our backups on D just couldn't stop them. Outside of the drives where they were obviously going to run it to eat out the clock, they were getting positive yardage on every play (except incompletions).
- Careless/Undisciplined football. We had 7 penalties and 5 turnovers. Mangini is obviously not going to be happy. If you have to point to one reason why we lost, it is clearly here. We dominated the rams in every area except this. the turnovers especially hurt us in other areas too, like clock management. We couldn't hold onto the ball so we lost the time of possession battle.
- The Penalties/Refereeing. Just like its preseason for the Browns, its also preseason for the Refs. There were quite a few calls that were very questionable that went against the browns (including PI calls where the receiver may not have even been touched). However, the browns still looked undisciplined and had their fair share of stupid penalties.
- Ball Security. The ball security may have been a product of the weather, but the amount of turnovers is still inexcusable. even in the worst weather, 5 turnovers is ridiculous...and it could have been more. We fumbled the ball 5 times but got it back twice. One of the biggest problems with ball security may have been on punts (which is often an issue) because 2 of the 3 fumbles lost were on punt returns.
- Syndric Steptoe. The only positive I can say is at least he wasn't also playing WR. Steptoe was our main punt returner and he was flat out awful. most of his problem that I saw was more mental aspects. He doesn't seem to know when to call a fair catch. He did call one fair catch, but on at least 3 others, he easily should have called it (and there was better coverage than on his one FC) but he didn't. One of those that he didn't FC directly led to his fumble. I thought he had only an outside shot to make it before this game, but I would be SHOCKED if he makes the roster now.
- Weather. OK, the weather was ugly. Mark Nolan (I believe he was the sideline Meteorologist) lied. He said the rain was about to stop and would during the game. It never did...I didn't have a poncho...
- Special Teams. Overall, I thought our special teams (outside of the kicking) was pretty ugly. the return game was not particularly good (even with Cribbs) and there were turnovers and mental mistakes galore. We didn't seem to give our returners a lot of room to work and the blocking didn't seem to be very good on returns. they also burned us badly on some returns and our punt and kick coverage teams looked pretty bad at times.
- Brandon McDonald. Overall, this game made me want BMac off the team. He was bad in every facet of the game. he was not good in coverage and gave up some plays he shouldn't have (including a TD where he just got beat). McDonald played on special teams on Punt coverage (gunner). He wasn't any more successful here. he missed a couple tackles while playing gunner and took bad angles more than once to get to the returner.
There was one play where he had the guy in his sights, took a bad angle, and then instead tried to tackle a blocker (who was about 4-5 feet away from the returner) and MISSED. To me, this epitomized the McDonald experience. McDonald made no plays in coverage and his only blip on the stat sheet was on tackle (where the guy literally laid down for him).
- (continued) I also didn't like the play where the ball bounced in the dirt in front of him and he high stepped it to the end zone. This pissed me off because there were only 2 reasons I could see him doing that:
1. He legitimately thought that it hadn't hit the ground, or that it wasn't a forward pass.
2. He saw it hit the ground, but wanted to pick it up and dance to the end zone.
If it was the former, that is a testament to his intelligence (or lack thereof at times) on D that he didn't pay attention. If it is the latter, it is a testament to his character and how he is maybe starting to be a headcase. Personally, I am inclined to think it was the latter. You can make a legitimate argument for keeping a headcase on your team when he is producing (like Edwards was in 2007) but its hard to make a case for keeping a guy when he is your 4th CB and isn't that good.