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Thread: Bernie: Rams show real progress

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    Bernie: Rams show real progress

    Bernie: Rams show real progress
    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ bjmiklasz@post-dispatch.com11

    During much of Sunday’s 2013 season opener at the Edward Jones Dome, we witnessed many examples of the Rams’ young and restless ways. It didn’t take long to tell that we’re in for a wild adventure this season, so keep the medication handy.
    There were dumb penalties and mistakes, and we can’t blame all of that on the kids. Some of the older guys, especially cornerback Cortland Finnegan, engaged in harmful foolishness.

    There were misfires, missed chances and two hazardous mishaps. Rams tight end Jared Cook was stripped of the ball while galloping to what should have been an easy, breezy touchdown. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford had a pass tipped, intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

    The coaches were off their game, too. Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer went through stretches of inexplicably bland play-calling, unwilling to break in the new gadgets provided by GM Les Snead.

    New defensive coordinator Tim Walton had the Rams playing a pliable zone defense, with the defensive backs covering Arizona’s receivers by lining up several blocks away from the stadium. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer played an easy game of pitch and catch with his receivers.

    Not surprisingly, the Arizona Cardinals helped themselves to a comfortable 24-13 lead after three quarters. The Rams were in the process of killing their own preseason buzz, deflating the Dome and getting the season off to a depressing start.

    But unlike some sorry Rams squads of the past, there was no dog on this team. Only doggedness. There was no disbelief when they looked at the scoreboard. The Rams believed, right until the end, when they pulled out a 27-24 victory.

    “I just think we’re a tough team,” defensive end Chris Long said. “We just beared down. We were talking on the sideline and we said, ‘Hey, if we can’t overcome this adversity we’re not going to be worth much.’ So that was big for us to overcome that. And that’s a start.”

    The Rams held it together and fought back. The maturing Bradford led the way, backed by locomotive-breath pass rusher Robert Quinn and the Rams’ defense in shutting out the Cardinals 14-0 in the fourth quarter.

    The NFL’s youngest team recovered from the growing pains and did some growing up during the thrilling closing minutes.

    This is why Rams fans should love this win: The Rams didn’t play anything close to their best game on offense and still scored 27 points. They were loose on defense but still blanked Arizona over the final 16 minutes, 47 seconds.

    Let me ask you something: Do you think the 2010, 2011 or 2012 Rams win this game? Down 11 points and stalled out, going into the fourth quarter?

    Forget about it.

    Ah, but these Rams didn’t blink.

    I think this was an important win for two reasons: (1) the Cardinals were a beatable team, and a visiting team, and the Rams can’t lose in this situation; (2) a young team won’t evolve into a winning team unless it learns how to close out games.

    Nine days ago, I sat with Snead, the GM, and heard him talk about the process. He was encouraged by the Rams’ progress and 7-8-1 record in 2012, but the new year meant starting all over again. Assume nothing. Earn everything.

    “When your team really doesn’t believe they can win, it’s ‘Let’s see how this goes. We’re in it. Maybe we can pull it off.’ But they aren’t sure,” Snead told me. “Now if you can get past that part, that’s a psychological thing that you can put in a bottle. We started to learn how to win (in 2012) but we’ve got to re-learn how to win again. We’re such a young team. And when we put ourselves in a position to win, we have to go win it. We have to finish it off.”

    Snead’s analysis was timely, yes? On Sunday we saw exactly what he was talking about.

    The Rams found a way to win.

    “I think it says a lot about the guys in this locker room,” Bradford said. “For a young team to endure some of the things we did today, I’m so proud of those guys. No one ever lost their cool.”

    Bradford, a team leader at age 25, was a big reason for that. In the fourth quarter he completed eight of 10 passes for 76 yards, a touchdown and a 131.7 passer rating.

    Bradford conducted an eight-play, 80-yard TD drive that ended in a 1-yard pass to Cook, followed by Bradford’s swift run for a 2-point conversion. The Rams had launched their comeback, down 24-21.

    The tying field goal came after the berserk Quinn sacked Palmer for a fumble and turnover. After the Rams’ defense made another stop, Bradford set up at his 20-yard line with 1 minute, 45 seconds to go.

    Bradford calmly guided the Rams 45 yards in eight plays to put Greg Zuerlein in position to hit the winning 48-yard field goal. The money throw was a 25-yard connection with the long tall Cook, who pulled down seven catches for 141 yards and two TDs.

    This was just the latest fourth-quarter comeback by Bradford, who had four in 2012. And this was his latest game-winning drive after engineering three last season.

    “Sam did a great job,” said Cook, the Rams’ big free-agent catch of the season. “He kept his composure the whole time, and he put everybody on his back and on his shoulders and he carried us to victory.”

    Bradford completed 27 of 38 passes for 299 yards, two TDs and the one INT for a 100.7 passer rating. You could see the Rams’ enhanced speed and playmaking charisma. You can see why we’re in for some exciting days ahead.

    “It looks a lot of different out there, doesn’t it? Sam looked pretty happy,” Long said.

    Sunday’s victory was alternatively a lot of fun and very frustrating, and the Rams’ players were the first to volunteer that they need to clean up and play more efficiently.

    That’s a good sign. The standards have been raised. These players expect a lot from themselves.

    “I’ve been saying it all offseason, this could be a great team,” Cook said. “We’ve got something special going on in this locker room, and in this organization.”

    The Rams weren’t a great team Sunday. They were a winning team. And that’s the first step.

    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Bernie: Rams show real progress

    There were misfires, missed chances and two hazardous mishaps. Rams tight end Jared Cook was stripped of the ball while galloping to what should have been an easy, breezy touchdown. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford had a pass tipped, intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
    Just goes to show how every down is meaningful. Two less brain farts and that 27-24 nail-biter is a 34-17 Rams blowout.
    citr92 likes this.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Yes indeed Hubison. I was gritting my teeth at the points the rams gave away the whole game. We won this game and that is the first step but the difference between good and great teams are those plays right there....

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    Re: Bernie: Rams show real progress

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison View Post
    Just goes to show how every down is meaningful. Two less brain farts and that 27-24 nail-biter is a 34-17 Rams blowout.
    But here's the thing... those two brain farts would have been the cause for a 34-17 blowout the other way for us in past seasons. Now we're able to win the close, nail biter from behind.

    We're more mentally tough now, which is what this whole article was about. We're young, we're inexperienced. But we have talent and playmakers and leaders on this team(young leaders, none the less) who will make sure that the team as a whole mans up, and fights tooth and nail for every yard, every play to bring home a win.

    We're raw, we're unknown. But we have a will to win led by Dahl, Wells, Long, Long, Laurinaitis, Finnegan, and most of all Bradford. We have key leaders on both sides who will amp up our young guys and not let them drop. Can we win every game? No. Will we be in almost all of them till the end, I think so. And I'll take that.
    I believe!

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    Re: Bernie: Rams show real progress

    My concern before the season started was our offense. I have a lot of confidence in our defense. This game against the "much improved" Arizona Cardinals was a real nail biter. The defense was allowing the Carson Palmer lead cardinals to march up and down the field for the first 2 1/2 quarters.
    Then the "D" went into lock down mode....a little late for my liking but they did what I thought they were capable of doing.

    I thought the offense was solid all game against a pretty good Cardinal defense. Sam was the MAN when we needed him the most. Our offense is only going to get a lot better as the chemistry between Sam and his receivers continues to grow. Buckle your seatbelts it's going to be a wild ride.

    This was a great win against a Division foe from the NFL's best division.
    Rambos likes this.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams show real progress

    Any Divisional Win is a good win and makes a case, especially this being the toughest division in the Shield. Now on to the next game against a really good Atlanta team. I think they'll have problems because of our D, but we have got to tackle or Jackson will have a career day.

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