Bartell launches Rams' fast start
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
MINNEAPOLIS — Just three snaps into Sunday's game at the Metrodome, Vikings rookie quarterback Tavaris Jackson tossed a short pass toward the right sideline.
The intended target was wideout Billy McMullen. But the eager recipient was Rams cornerback Ron Bartell, who only had to hang on to the ball and avoid tripping on an uncontested jaunt to the end zone.
"Easiest touchdown I ever had," said Bartell, whose 38-yard score sent the Rams winging toward a 41-21 season-ending victory. "It's nice to get my first one in the NFL."
And nice for the Rams to finally get off to a quick start. They had produced just one first-quarter TD in their last seven games. "You can't start faster than that on defense," coach Scott Linehan said. "It just set the tempo for the game."
Another Bartell interception, early in the second period, gave the offense a short field. Six plays and 53 yards later, running back Steven Jackson bulled in from 4 yards, and the Rams boosted their lead to 17-7.
Later, the 6-foot-1, 208-pound Bartell sprinted across the field and hauled down speedy Bethel Johnson, preventing a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. "I'm just trying to make plays," Bartell said. "It feels good to be able to give the team a spark."
Bartell, a second-round draft choice in 2005, had been limited to mostly special-teams work this year after starting the final seven games at cornerback last season. He'd worked at cornerback and safety and recently was assigned to cover the slot receiver as the fifth defensive back in passing situations. He snagged his first career interception two weeks ago at Oakland.
"He's been making plays like that all year in practice," free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe said. "Ronnie's a phenomenal athlete; it just took awhile for him to figure out the (nickel) position. He's going to be an asset for this team for years to come."
Bartell, who never had played nickel back, said his confidence grew over the final few weeks. "I'm a lot more comfortable," he said. "It's definitely gotten easier for me."
A large part of his progress, Bartell stressed, is owed to the tutoring of veteran strong safety Corey Chavous. "Corey's been like a big brother to me, a big influence," Bartell said.
"He's a guy with a lot of ability who takes well to the coaching, and he adds some flavor to his game in terms of how to mix it up," Chavous said. "I'm very proud of him."
Re: Bartell launches Rams' fast start
Good going Bartell. 2 interceptions and a TD. I am glad that he is got some playing time this year. Too bad they did not put him in earlier this season. We could have used a few plays from him in some of those close games to change them into wins.