The St. Louis Rams were the better team last week, looking at numbers only. The Rams had 462 total yards to the Dolphin’s 192 yards. The Rams had 22 first downs. The Dolphins only had 12. The vaunted number-one-ranked run defense allowed 6 yards a carry and 162 total rushing yards. Not surprisingly, the Rams also lead in time of possession by almost seven minutes.
Nevertheless, the Rams lost the game. How? Well, the Rams also lead in turnovers with three fumbles with one actual turnover. They also lead in penalties. The Rams had 12 penalties for 94 yards, while the dolphins only had 5 penalties for 40 yards. The victory in penalties was surprising given the dolphins huge advantage with Incognito on their roster. Finally, the Dolphins capitalized on their opportunities, while the Rams squandered theirs.
The second quarter, in particular, exemplified the massive discrepancy in taking advantage of opportunities. The Dolphins had a miserable first drive with four penalties and no first downs. However, the Dolphins boomed a 63 yard punt, which negated any field position advantage the Rams may have earned. The Rams drove from their own 27 to the Dolphins 34, but missed the field goal. The Dolphins now had great field position, and took advantage of it with a touchdown. The Rams proceeded to fumble the next kickoff, giving the Dolphins amazing field position at the Rams 25. The Dolphins gained exactly 0 yards, but still kicked a field goal for another three points. On the next possession, the Rams had a 59 yard drive, but missed the field goal. Miami took advantage, while the Rams failed.
Let’s now take a look at the factors I suggested were important to a win and determine whether there was any validity.
Preview 1 - SCREEN TO RUN
With the meat the Dolphins have up the middle, I can see why they are good against the run. Furthermore, Jared Odrick at left defensive end isn’t small at 6’5” 305 lbs. As you will see with point 2, the Rams still need to try to run, but I think the Rams can have success with the screen. Let’s make the big guys run around and see how that works for them. In particular, throwing a screen on Cameron Wake’s side would have the added benefit of slowing him down in the pass rush. I want to see 4 called screens to the running backs in the first half. This has not been a strength of the Rams to date, but I think it is time to try.
REVIEW – The Rams not only attempted several screens, they also changed their general running philosophy. Almost everything was towards the tackles or outside the tackles. Clearly, the Rams saw a strength and coached around it. The game plan was marvelous. The Rams dominated the Dolphins in the running game gaining 100 yards more than the Dolphins normally allow.
Preview 2 - IF AT FIRST, YOU DON’T SUCCEED ….
I hope that Steven Jackson can have success in this game, but the numbers suggests this might be an arduous task. At the same time, he is still Steven Jackson, and they can’t ignore him. The more we try to run, the more they respect the run, which allows play action. I will be happy with 15 to 20 attempts for 60 to 70 yards. With Cameron Wake coming at Bradford, we can’t get one-dimensional in this game.
REVIEW – Dead wrong. The Rams had early success, middle success and success in the end with the running game. There was no need for patience. The rams could run at will. It was also interesting to see that Steven Jackson shared time. Will this continue, or was this a game specific strategy? Only time will tell.
Preview 3 - LIFE WITHOUT DANNY
The loss of Danny Amendola was devastating last year because we had nothing better behind him. I don’t know if we have anyone better, but we have potential. It is time to find out whether that potential will be fulfilled. I was upset with the Austin Pettis pick when he was drafted because he is a larger Danny Amendola. Well, now that doesn’t look so bad. Also, Steve Smith had his best success in this league in the slot. Moreover, Brian Quick could look really good in the slot. Think Anquan Boldin.
REVIEW - No one other than Brandon Gibson stepped up, but he is not a replacement for Danny Amendola. Givens flashes skill, but lacks consistency. Pettis, Smith and Quick were barely noticeable. It is becoming painfully obvious why the Rams have trouble in the red zone. The opposing team stacks to stop the run, and our wide receivers can’t get open when pressed on a short field. Given’s speed does very little for us in the red zone. In three years, Gibson has shown very little ability to get open in this situation. Therefore, someone else must step up.
Preview 4 - I SEE NOTHING
There is nothing in the Miami offense that scares me. Yes, they have an impressive offensive line, but does that really scare you. The QB is a rookie. Reggie Bush has never proven himself to be a number one running back. They have one wide receiver showing star potential (Brian Hartline), but we have three excellent cornerbacks. The Rams should have a tremendous advantage when Miami tries to throw.
Miami has three running backs, and the Rams have some poor numbers defending the run. Thus, it is fairly obvious that the Dolphins plan to come in here and run over the Rams. I don’t think they can.
Reggie Bush is a great change of pace back, but he is now the pace. Daniel Thomas is their big back, but I don’t see him pulling a Lynch and running over our guys. Additionally, it is tough for Daniel Thomas to get significant carries because Miami also brings in Lamar Miller, who is Reggie Bush II. If we focus on the run with eight men in the box, these running backs should not kill us. Reggie Bush may break one or two longer runs, but he should not consistently get thee to four yards. I want many rushes for two or less yards and more than one rush for negative yards. This will force Miami to try to beat us with the pass, which plays to the Rams’ strength.
If we keep the Miami offense stagnant, the home field advantage becomes less and less as the game goes on. In my mind, we need to keep Miami to less than 300 total yards in this game.
REVIEW – I could not have been more correct with this assessment. The Miami offense needs work. The rookie quarterback had a nice quarterback rating, but he is given very little rope. Their wide receivers? Well, Brian Hartline could not find any space. The one trick pony was exposed in this game when he faced talented cornerbacks. No one else gained over 50 yards in the game. Additionally, Miami wants to rely on a running game, but there is one fundamental flaw. Reggie Bush simply is not a premier running back. The poor Dolphins ran out to sign Reggie Bush, while the Rams drafted their Reggie Bush in the seventh round. The Dolphins’ running game was an embarrassment against the previously struggling Rams run defense. They ran 18 times for 19 yards. There is nothing to fear with the Dolphins offense.
Preview 5 - WIN IT IN THE FOURTH
Given the advantages I believe we have in this game, if we keep the game close through three quarters, we should win it in the fourth quarter. I do not know if special teams, our defense, or a surprise deep pass on offense wins this game, but I have to believe that Fisher will have his team ready to win late. If our team has watched any film, it is obvious that Hartline likes the double move. He sets people up for this move throughout the game. I trust that Fisher has our team ready for this in the fourth quarter. Without that, Miami has no way to go deep. I have Faith in Fisher. The Rams will do something in the fourth quarter to win this game.
REVIEW – I could attempt to gloat that I predicted this game would come down to the fourth quarter and it did. However, gloating over that prediction is similar to predicting your wife will cheat on you and being correct. In this case, the game came down to the fourth quarter, but the Rams were unable to win it. Thus, my prediction was wrong. Moreover, an argument can certainly be made that Philbin outcoached Fisher in this game, which led to his team’s victory. Discipline is part of coaching. The Rams were not disciplined in this game. Additionally, Philbin’s call for a fake punt was gutsy and, more importantly, worked. The Rams needed the ball back with as much time as they could get. Philbin’s called fake took away two minutes and 34 seconds of vital time from the Rams. Maybe the Rams did not have the superior coach in this game.