Bernie: Time For A Quality Win
Bernie: Time for a quality win
BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
Monday, September 19, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. • After a surprising 7-9 season in 2010, the Rams were tagged as a young, ascending team and installed as the preseason favorite in the NFC West.
At some point, they have to deliver.
The Rams' future may be bright, but you may have noticed a few clouds overhead. It's nice to win the approval of NFL pundits, it's nice to win prediction polls, it's nice to have people tout your potential. But the Rams need to win football games.
The Rams' quest to match performance with expectations resumes tonight at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants in an important contest for two battered, anxious teams.
The Rams and Giants are 0-1, and since the NFL went to a 12-team postseason format in 1990, only 12 of 177 teams have reached the playoffs after losing the first two games of the season. The mediocre NFC West figures to be more forgving to slow-starting teams but that shouldn't lessen the Rams' urgency.
With an upcoming menu of games against Baltimore, Washington, Green Bay, Dallas and New Orleans, the Rams are already in the survival mode. Yes, it's a little early for that. But no NFL team can afford to open a season by losing five or six consecutive games. Not even a team that competes in the NFC West.
"To me the biggest thing is, you've got to get that first win as early as you possibly can," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "That's really what it comes down to. Can't do anything about injuries. Can't do anything about the schedule. You can't use excuses. We have to go ahead and play the game and see how we respond to everything that's happened."
Chat with Gordo tonight during the game on the Post-Dispatch iPad app or on our free mobile app, Rams Football 2011.
After a 14-point loss at Washington in the opener, the Giants and their fans are restless. A loss would push the Giants to 0-2, with Philadelphia next on the schedule.
The job security of head coach Tom Coughlin is a routine subject for discussion in the tabloids and on the talk shows. The Rams figure to encounter an angry gang in blue. And make no mistake, the Giants will be attacking Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. The Rams have been preparing for that all week.
The Rams should be just as desperate as the Giants. For all of the happy talk, the Rams have failed to come up big in their few shots at winning a pressure game. It's becoming a trend.
Last season the Rams moved to 6-6 with a victory over the Cardinals on Dec. 5 in Arizona, and the NFC West title seemed in reach. But the Rams went 1-3 in their remaining four games, beating only San Francisco at home. And with a division championship on the line the Rams were jumpy, disjointed and ineffective during a horrible season-ending loss at Seattle.
The 2011 season began much like the last one, with the Rams unable to seize an anticipated opportunity, getting wiped out 31-13 by Philadelphia in the opener.
The Rams are 1-4 since reaching .500 in that win at Arizona. No this isn't the same team; 20 current players weren't on the Rams' 53-man roster in 2010. But the Rams' core remains mostly intact. And we're still waiting to see a team personality emerge.
I don't know what to expect from the Rams against the Giants. But we're about to learn something about them. The head coach agrees.
"It will be interesting," Spagnuolo said. "I don't think I can sit here and say, 'No problem.' Or go the other way around. This will be one of the educational experiences for me about this football team. I really believe that. We'll see."
Injuries to cornerback Ron Bartell, slot receiver Danny Amendola and running back Steven Jackson have complicated the assignment. But the Rams really can't use injuries as an excuse.
Not with so many key NFL players going down all over the league. Not when the Giants have more than a dozen players on IR or unable to play tonight. Not with the Giants operating with a thin secondary.
And it's not as if the Giants are invincible. The proud franchise hasn't made the playoffs since 2008 and hasn't won a postseason game since the 2007 team won the Super Bowl. Giants quarterback Eli Manning is 30-22 in home games as a starter, including a 19-17 record in the last 36 played at the Meadowlands. And no NFL quarterback has been intercepted more times (26) than Manning since the beginning of last season.
So this is, by all means, a winnable game for the Rams. The did some good things in the loss to Philly. They averaged more than six yards per rush and had three drives that lasted 10 plays or more. They had a quick-strike touchdown on a 47-yard run. They had 16 plays gain 10 or more yards. They ran 31 plays in Philadelphia territory. The Rams defense sacked Michael Vick three times, hit him eight times and had him under pressure on 24 of the 43 times he dropped back to pass.
The Rams couldn't finish. They broke down because of dropped passes, poor pass protection, dumb penalties, missed tackles and a destructive lost fumble returned for a Philadelphia TD. This can't go on. The Rams must defeat the Giants to avoid a losing streak, but it's also imperative to develop consistency and confidence.
"We're going to be a great football team going forward," Bradford said Wednesday at Rams Park.
Bradford's boldness is healthy, going into a charged environment. The Rams will have to deal with New York, a loud stadium, "Monday Night Football," the ESPN noise machine.
It's a showcase game. A statement game. A football nation will be tuning in to check out Bradford and the Rams to see if this team is worthy of the fuss.
Re: Bernie: Time For A Quality Win
I felt a bit like this the week after the Titan beatdown. Im really not 100% sure in what the Rams will be able to do against the Giants tonight.? The Rams came back well the last time they got it took to them, but that was only preseason game three, v the Chiefs.! The Giants on MNF is a good test, we will know a good bit more about about this team afterwards, and which players have what it takes.?
Re: Bernie: Time For A Quality Win
Sam Bradford to quit smiling and put on his Stone Cold Blooded Killer face and carve this team up like lambs at a slaughter. Push the ball down field and put the ball where it needs to be. If that means a back shoulder in tight coverage, then get it done.
J Smith and R Saffold to pass protect like their moma's lives depended on it.
Salas, DX & Kendricks to hang onto the friggin ball. Pluck that sucker.
This is a winable game.