DESPITE CONCUSSION, NINERS BACK SAYS THE HIT WAS `SOFT'
By Daniel Brown
ST. LOUIS -- Linebacker Robert Thomas hit the ***** running back so hard that Kevan Barlow suffered a concussion that could keep him off the field next week.
Barlow's response: Is that all you've got?
``It was a good hit, but when you have a clear shot like that he should have knocked me out,'' said Barlow, who several times referred to the hit as ``soft.''
The hit came on a third-and-three in the third quarter of the St. Louis Rams' 16-6 victory Sunday. Barlow said he saw daylight and headed up the middle, but Thomas leveled him inches short of the first down.
Barlow popped up quickly -- ``I'm not going to show him he beat me,'' he said -- and stayed in the game. Later, however, reality set in and so did the effects of the concussion that the ***** say makes him questionable next Sunday against Arizona.
Barlow said things were a little hazy, but he mostly seemed fine after the game. He talked about his future career as a rapper, and joked that he would follow the lead of Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest and ask for time off from his day job to work on a CD.
Before that, he had a private conversation with Coach Dennis Erickson, who has been critical of the running game in recent weeks.
``What was said was between us,'' Barlow said. ``It was all good, though. It was kind of tough with the loss, but he just said some positive things and to keep my head up.''
Barlow rushed 19 times for 48 yards and caught three passes for 21 yards. His longest run was 9 yards. Still, Erickson said there were signs of progress. Barlow ran more decisively than in recent weeks, especially when the team needed yards. Of the *****' nine first downs, six came on running plays.
``Overall, that's as well as he's run all year,'' Erickson said.
The problem is that the running game came with a price. Offensive coordinator Ted Tollner said the ***** frequently operated with their short-yardage group.
``It was productive, and it should be,'' Tollner said, ``but it's hard to make big plays, and somewhere in there you have to make some plays downfield.''
Playing it safe
The ***** again played conservatively, even though their 1-11 season would seem to give them license to roll the dice from time to time.
Midway through the second quarter, the ***** had a fourth-and-one from the Rams' 38. Rather than go for it against the NFL's 28th-ranked defense, Erickson dispatched punter Andy Lee.
``We wanted to create some field position,'' said Erickson, who said he didn't second-guess the call for an instant. ``The thing you need to understand about the Rams' offense is that you don't want to give them too much. You want to make them earn it, and that was our plan.''
The Rams earned it. After Lee's punt, St. Louis drove 81 yards in four plays to take a 10-3 lead. Torry Holt capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown catch.
***** free safety Ronnie Heard, one of the vocal leaders of the defense, took the blame for Holt's touchdown catch. He thought the Rams were going to run, so he shifted linebacker Jeff Ulbrich so that he could help linebacker Derek Smith if the run came outside.
Instead, Holt fooled the ***** with a post route.
``I checked us to a coverage and I shouldn't have,'' Heard said. ``That wasn't anybody's fault but mine.''
• Rams running back Steven Jackson filled in for Marshall Faulk (knee) and did a reasonable imitation of the future Hall of Famer. Jackson, the 24th overall draft selection, rushed 26 times for 119 yards. It was his first 100-yard game, and it came in his third start.
``That was a goal of mine all week,'' said Jackson, who played for Erickson at Oregon State. ``I knew early that I was getting the start, and I challenged myself to go over 100 yards.''
Jackson had eight carries on the opening drive.
• Maybe the Rams could save some money in their scouting department. Defensive end Leonard Little said St. Louis learned plenty from the Internet.
``We did some research in some of the Bay Area papers and they said that they were going to try to run the ball on us,'' he said. ``We came out to force them to pass the ball by stopping the run.''
The ***** averaged only 2.3 yards in 27 carries.
• For the fourth time, the ***** did not score a touchdown. Their points came off field goals of 51 and 40 yards by Todd Peterson.
``I tell you what, he's kicking them,'' Erickson said. ``He's the only offense we've got right now.''
• Outside linebacker Brandon Moore suffered a high-ankle sprain and is listed as doubtful for the Arizona game. Defensive tackle Anthony Adams suffered a back sprain during warm-ups but was able to play.
• Rams quarterback Chris Chandler is, like Erickson, a native of Everett, Wash. ``He's the second-best athlete ever to come out of there,'' Erickson quipped.