Rams face Rob Ryan and Saints

Last January, St. Louis thought it had a new defensive coordinator.

Rob Ryan “committed” to the Rams and had everybody thinking his next job would be under the Arch in St. Louis. He attended a Blues game, was given a key to the Rams facility in Earth City and was present during an offseason staff meeting, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Suddenly, Ryan had a change of heart. Rather than joining a staff responsible for the NFL’s youngest roster, Ryan bolted for New Orleans.

“He made a commitment to us, but he didn’t sign a contract or anything,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “But he made a commitment to us.”

Ryan’s vow was nothing more than word of mouth.

With the Saints, Ryan has resurrected the league’s worst defense from a year ago into one of the most rugged units this season.

In 2012, the Saints defense ranked last in total yards allowed per game, rushing yards allowed, was 31st in points allowed per game and passing yards allowed per game, and were in the bottom tier with just 30 sacks.

This season, the Saints (10-3) rank in the top echelon of virtually every defensive category.

“He has done a great job,” Fisher said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “He is an outstanding coach. He has them playing well, and he has the pieces now. There are no holes in the defense. Everyone is playing well together.”

If such a hole existed, statistic point to the Saints run defense, which ranks 17th in the league, allowing over 114 yards per contest.

However, statistics are often misleading. On Nov. 10 against Dallas, the Saints held the Cowboys to just 89 yards rushing. A week later, they held San Francisco to just 81 yards on the ground.

Lacking physicality and edge a year ago, the Saints no longer need a boost in that department. They flock to the ball and wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks.

Defensive end Jordan Cameron heads the Saints defense with 11.5 sacks on the year, second in the NFC behind the Rams’ Robert Quinn.

On the other hand, the Rams have regressed from a year ago. They rank 19th in yards allowed per game, 23rd in pass defense and 14th in run defense this season.

To say the Saints will be an easy matchup come Sunday afternoon would be a drastic understatement.

“They’re talented everywhere,” quarterback Kellen Clemens said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “They get after the quarterback. Rob does a nice job of mixing coverages and pressures, and he does a really good job of making them look the same.

“So, sometimes it looks like they’re pressuring and they bail into coverage. Or it looks like they’re going to cover and they bring a lot of pressure. … They’re talented across the board. It’s going to be a great matchup for us.”

 

 

 

 

 

Rams steamrolling Texans 38-6 after three quarters

St. Louis took a 17-6 lead over Houston into halftime and opened the second half in thrilling fashion.

Up by 11 points, the Rams went for the jugular on their first possession of the second half by marching 80 yards. The drive was capped with a Sam Bradford 4-yard touchdown pass to Brian Quick to make the score 24-6 in favor of the visitors. The connection was Bradford’s third touchdown throw of the game.

Mere seconds later, the Rams struck again. This time via special teams.

Houston’s Keshawn Martin returned the ensuing kickoff up the middle but was hit by Rodney McLeod, who knocked the ball loose and Daren Bates scooped it up and dashed 11 yards for the touchdown to make it a 31-6 Rams lead.

Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub suffered a leg injury late in the quarter, and backup T.J. Yates took over. The Texans were threatening inside the Rams’ 5-yard line when Yates was intercepted by rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree, who sprinted 98 yards for the pick six.

The Rams lead the Texans 38-6 at the end of the third quarter.

Rams Lead Texans 17-6 at Halftime

A pair of touchdown passes and a field goal gave St. Louis a 17-6 lead over Houston at halftime.

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford tossed a 2-yard strike to reserve tight end Cory Harkey for an early 7-0 lead.

Greg Zuerlein added a 42-yard field goal to give the visitors a 10-0 advantage.

It appeared as if the Texans were going to trim the deficit on its ensuing possession, which featured a heavy dose of running back Arian Foster. Runs of 23 and 22 yards helped the Texans get inside the the Rams’ 5-yard line. But the Rams defense stood tall and held the Texans to a 20-yard field goal to make it a 10-3 game.

The Rams answered with rookie running back Zac Stacy, who darted 18 yards to the Texans’ 8-yard line before Bradford threw his second touchdown pass of the half, this time a 2-yard bullet to tight end Lance Kendricks. The score gave the Rams a 17-3 lead.

Another strong drive headed by Foster had the Rams on their heels once more. But the Rams didn’t fold, holding the Texans to their second field goal of the afternoon.

 

***

Houston was penalized seven times for 95 yards in the first half.

 

 

2013 NFL Draft: Rams, Vikings Pull Away with Stellar Picks in First Round

The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft was as unpredictable as the weather in the Midwest. If you like the unexpected, look no further than Radio City Music Hall, where the events of Day One were as erratic as ever.

Day One featured the St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings separating themselves from the rest of the pack.

Rams Trade Up, Land West Virginia’s Austin

Entering the draft boasting two first-round picks (No. 16 and No. 22), the Rams traded their No. 16 pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for their second-round pick (No. 46), and their seventh-round pick (No. 222). The Rams also swapped third-round picks with the Bills, moving up seven spots to No. 71. The trade allowed the Rams to leapfrog into the No. 8 spot in the first round (ahead of the New York Jets), where they snagged West Virginia speedster Tavon Austin.

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead were under the impression Austin’s draft stock was rising as the clock continued to tick, essentially meaning the Rams would have to go up and get him.

“We had a feeling interest was increasing,” Fisher said, courtesy of Yahoo!Sports. “We felt a few days ago that we were probably going to have to go up and get him.”

The Rams were familiar with Austin. A week before the draft, the Rams held a private workout with Austin in Morgantown W.Va., where they caught a glimpse of what the speedster can do with the ball in his hands.

 

“Me and the coaches just clicked,” Austin said, courtesy of Yahoo!Sports. “I had a good feeling just off the vibe they were giving. It was all smiles and everything when I was there.”

This was a stellar move by GM Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher. Austin is an all-around baller. He can line up in the slot, or in the backfield. He can return kickoffs, punts. You name it, Austin can do it. His lightning-like 4.34 speed in the 40-yard dash is dazzling. Moreover, Austin is just 5’8”, 174 pounds.

Though undersized, Austin’s game speaks for itself. Last season, Austin caught 114 balls for 1,289 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He ran the ball for 643 yards and three touchdowns on 72 attempts. Not to mention, Austin returned both a kickoff and punt for a touchdown. When it was all said and done, Austin finished last season with the most receptions in the Big 12 (114) and the most yards from scrimmage (1,932).

It was the first time the Rams took a receiver in the first round since selecting Torry Holt sixth overall in 1999.

“I would have to say we’re very excited, to say the least,” Fisher said, according to Yahoo!Sports. “It was a scenario we had been discussing for several days. We got two very explosive, talented young players that are going to help us right away.”

The second player Fisher referred to is Alec Ogletree, the Georgia linebacker taken No. 30 overall after the Rams made their second trade of the first round, getting two picks from Atlanta for the rights to Ogletree.

The Rams were in desperate need of an outside linebacker–one responsible for wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks and offensive linemen. Now, they have their man in Ogletree.

Ogletree was, perhaps, still on the board after a four-game in-season suspension and DUI arrest one week before the combine. But Ogletree has put his prior complications behind him.

“I was just happy to hear my name called,” Ogletree said, according to Yahoo!Sports. “I was dumb. I made a mistake and i just want to move forward.”

Fisher doesn’t mind dealing with Ogletree’s extensive college transcript. He’s dealt with similar situations before. (See Janoris Jenkins).

“We had Alec way up there,” Fisher said, courtesy of Yahoo!Sports. “People are going to make mistakes. This was a maturity issue.”

Vikings Land 3 Players in First Round

Minnesota began Day One of the draft with the No. 23 and No. 25 overall picks. However, when word spread that New England was shopping their first-round selection, Vikings GM Rick Spielman was bewildered at such an opportunity. The result had Spielman working the phones. After a few minutes, a deal was in place. The Vikings shipped a second-, third-, fourth-, and a seventh-round pick in exchange for the Patriots’ first-round spot. Stockpiled with picks, the Vikings took Florida defensive tackle Sherrif Floyd at No. 23, Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes at No. 25, and Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson with the 29th overall pick.

“I don’t know if it could have worked out any better,” Spielman said, courtesy of the Pioneer Press. “with the caliber of players we got with all three of those kids coming into our program.”

It was the first time the Vikings boasted three first-round picks since 1967. Ironically, the Vikings made their first Super Bowl appearance two years later.

 

Spagnuolo and Devaney to be fired

Its 34-27 loss to division rival San Francisco appears to have been the final straw for St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney. According to Chris Mortenson of ESPN, the Rams are expected to fire Spagnuolo and Devaney as early as Monday.

Spagnuolo crafted a mark of 10-38 in three seasons as the Rams coach, which perhaps made owner Stan Kroenke’s decision of whether to retain the current regime or opt to go in a new direction, much easier.

The Rams finished the season with a record of 2-14, tying the Indianapolis Colts for the worst record in the National Football League. Due to the Colts having an easier schedule, the Rams will get the second overall pick in April’s Draft.

Packard earns 50th career win; Rams eliminated from NFC West contention

Good evening. Witnessing the Ball State women’s basketball team secure its first victory of the season was a sight to see, and after watching an abysmal offensive effort from the Rams today, I thought I’d share some thoughts from today’s game and the rest of the season.

Head coach Kelly Packard’s 50th career victory happened to be her teams’ first W of the season…The Cardinals defeated an undisciplined Murray State team 81-72 Saturday afternoon in John E. Worthen Arena, and now this young group is full of confidence as it heads into Monday night’s contest against Oakland City.

Sophomore forward Jazmin Hitchens has emerged as Packard’s go-to player. Though Hitchens has only played two games because of a two-game suspension to begin the season, the Cardinals are a completely different team when she’s in the lineup. Against Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and Murray State, the Cardinals have scored a combined 137 points, and Hitchens has chipped in with 36, or roughly 26-percent of Ball State’s points. A notable stat to say the least. Not only has Hitchens aided the offense, but she’s a force defensively. Of her nine total rebounds thus far, five have come on defense, making her an important piece to Packard’s scheme.

Freshman guard Brittany Carter continues shine. Carter is averaging 10 points and over three rebounds per game for the Cardinals and is shooting over 44-percent from beyond the arc. Her ability to sink the 3-ball is huge and is something the Cardinals haven’t sustained over the last few seasons.

Sophomore forward Katie Murphy has taken her game to the next level. She’s been extremely impressive in rebounding, where she led the Cardinals with eight against Murray State.

Moving on…

After 10 games and a 2-8 record to show for, the St. Louis Rams have (finally) been eliminated from the NFC West… and they haven’t even played the division-leading 49ers, who improved to 9-1 with a 23-7 win over Arizona today. The Rams will finish short of a winning record for the eighth consecutive season.

The offense, behind quarterback Sam Bradford was atrocious, aside from Bradford’s first-quarter 30-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd. The makeshift offensive line was woeful, letting the Seahawks’ D-line slip through their grasp on multiple occasions, getting Steven Jackson leveled.

Sure this team has been decimated with injuries, but offensively, this team is far from where it needs to be. False starts, holding and poor execution is what this team consists of. There’s no excuse for lousy football. None. It’s funny how the good teams in this league execute and take care of the little things. Funny how that works. Ask Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

With only six games remaining, the Rams will look to play spoiler. But, I don’t see how that’s possible, considering this team was blown out by the Seahawks, who entered today’s game with a mark of 2-7. Kudos to Pete Carroll and his staff for preparing his team.

Despite the poor offensive performance, the defense came to play. Chris Long is a beast and that’s an understatement. Long has recorded six sacks in his last four games for the Rams. The Rams came away with two first-quarter interceptions from Quintin Mikell and Chris Chamberlain, but could only muster a touchdown, which proved to hurt them. The Rams were swarming the ball for the entire game, but when the unit is on the field for the majority of the game, the fatigue sets in, and the opposition will cash in, like the Seahawks did.

Thanks for reading…

-Poz

Thoughts on Matheny, Rams, Blues and Ball State

Good morning and happy Friday…There’s been a circus of events taking place in the St. Louis sports world and here at Ball State, so let’s dive right in:

When the Cardinals announced the hiring of Mike Matheny as the successor to Tony La Russa, a few thoughts popped into my head. First, it was the right choice for a multitude of reasons. Secondly, Matheny has proven himself to the Cardinals, the fans and the organization.

Rooting against Matheny would be foolish. His interview with general manager John Mozeliak and chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. was thoroughly impressive and ultimately led to his hiring. Throughout his playing days in St. Louis, Matheny has earned the respect from current and former teammates, staff, fans, various media personnel and countless opponents. Matheny is an all-around leader.

Does this mean Matheny will be a successful manager? Absolutely not. Don’t forget that Matheny has zero coaching experience in the big leagues. He served as an instructor for the team over the last two seasons, but was Mozeliak’s and La Russa’s right-hand man. Matheny and La Russa spent countless days talking baseball in terms of philosophy and coaching among other things. When debating whether Matheny will be a good manager, the truth is simple: One can’t determine this outcome. There’s no evidence to base an opinion off of. Sure, Matheny possesses great leadership skills, which could carry over to his managerial days, but this job is one of the hardest in all of sports. Not to mention filling the shoes of TLR is a daunting task altogether. The pressure can be extreme and the expectations are higher than ever. As much as I hate to say this, there is no clear cut way of knowing how this will pan out. Sure, it’s a gamble and a huge one at that. Of course there were other options for Mozeliak and DeWitt Jr. to explore, but Matheny was the chosen one, which says a lot. Mozeliak is willing to take the risk, placing all of his marbles on Matheny’s potential. Of course, if it backfires, it’s all on Mozeliak.

Baseball analysts and other hardcore media experts will try jump to conclusions on Matheny’s hiring. That’s a given. The Cardinals will be ripped for hiring a guy who some say “took the easy route” into managing, leap-frogging over other potential managers who have waited years for this opportunity. I don’t buy that at all. It’s absurd. How can you be so quick to judge Matheny? There’s no track record to base an argument on. Like I said, it’s certainly a gamble, but I’ll go with Mozeliak and DeWitt Jr’s. decision here. There’s a chance they know more about the situation than I or any other  expert.

With all decisions comes the question of political correctness. This topic is both amusing and frustrating. Critics will ask why Mozeliak gave the job to Matheny while passing on longtime third-base coach Jose Oquendo, who is a native of Puerto Rico. Mozeliak chose Matheny over five other candidates, four of which were white guys. So why did Mozeliak choose Matheny? To put it bluntly, Matheny was already an insider. A close ally, already a member of the Cardinal family. Enough with all of the PC garbage. It’s irrelevant to the situation.

Mozeliak is now the boss. When TLR retired, Mozeliak knew his first chance to gain sole power in the organization would come with his first hire. Other alterations within the organization will likely take place. Consider what Mozeliak has done this past season. He made the risky trades that became a huge factor in the Cardinals’ Cinderella-like run to their 11th World Series championship in franchise history.

Moving on…

Steve Spagnuolo deserves a lot of credit for coming away with a much-need victory over the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. This season has turned for the worst, and critics, including myself have constantly blasted Spags and his staff for the results of what once was thought to be a promising season.

Steven Jackson appears to be in full swing now that he is back in the lineup for the Rams. Over the last three weeks, SJ has racked up 417 yards on the ground. He’s rushed for more than 100-yards three weeks in a row and has been a huge relief for quarterback Sam Bradford, who has struggled with an ankle injury. Jackson has also taken pressure off the offensive line, who continues to have problems with pass protection.

The Seattle Seahawks come to town on Sunday and many will tune out to this one, but make no mistake, this is a huge game for the Rams. At 2-7, a victory would tie the Rams with the Seahawks in the NFC West and put them within reach of the virtually unbeatable 49ers, who have a commanding five-game lead in the division.

Moving on…

What a job Mike Hitchcock has done with the St. Louis Blues. When the Blues canned Davis Payne and lured Hitchcock away from Columbus, a new team has emerged from the dead. Let’s face it, prior to the Hitchcock hiring, the Blues were struggling in all facets of the game. They were 6-7 and falling fast under Payne. Many questioned why general manager Doug Armstrong was so quick to pull the plug on Payne, but the reality is simple; the Blues weren’t producing and Payne didn’t get the most out of the club. I will say this though; It’s sad that when everything goes wrong, the coach receives all of the blame. Shouldn’t the players be held accountable for playing lousy hockey? Just my opinion.

Anyway…Hitchcock, who is a no-nonsense coach, has transformed this team into a contender. At least for the team being. The Blues are 4-0-1 under Hitchcock, and are rolling on all cylinders. The Note have allowed just four goals and have received points in all four games. Against division rival Detroit, the Blues came away with a 2-1 victory at Scottrade Center, and Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers capped a noteworthy five-game home stand. When up against adversity, this club doesn’t back down like it used to. Rather, they stand together. Midway through the first period of Tuesday night’s game, forward Chris Stewart put a vicious hit on defenseman Niklas Kronwall, and received a game misconduct. The Blues were also dealt a five-minute major. Already down 1-0, it looked as if things were going to get ugly quick. But the PK unit stood their ground, blocking shots at will, killing off six penalties on the night.

Moving on…

The Ball State men’s basketball team came within minutes of pulling off a major upset in its season opener vs. No. 16 Arizona, but couldn’t seal the deal, losing in the final minutes of regulation…Kudos to head coach Billy Taylor for preparing his team. Not only did they hold their own, they could and very well should have won the game. Just 28 seconds into the second half, the Cardinals held an 11-point lead over the Wildcats, who clearly underestimated the underdog Cardinals. So what they didn’t win. Arizona is one heck of a basketball program, historically speaking and honestly, few thought the game would be close, much less witnessing the team from the Mid-American Conference dominate for the majority of the game. If anything, this game should serve as a reminder of what this team is capable of accomplishing this season. Heck, if they can nearly upset the No. 16 team in the country, what would they do to teams within the MAC?

Moving on…

Speaking of basketball, the women’s team is off to a slow start. The Cardinals have dropped three straight to open up the season. Dating back to last season, including the Mid-American Conference tournament, the Cardinals have lost 13 straight. The stat certainly doesn’t sit well with coach Kelly Packard, who is in the midst of her fourth season behind the bench for the Cardinals, and is one win shy of 50 for her career.

Youth has plagued the Cardinals and will most likely trouble them throughout the 2011-12 season. The departures of last season’s leading scorers Emily Maggert and Ty’Ronda Benning leave a huge hole in the offense. With eight underclassmen, Packard is still in search for a winning formula. The Cardinals return to John E. Worthen Arena for a brief two-game home stand, which begins Saturday night against Murray State.

Thanks for reading…

-Poz