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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Better days are ahead as the Rams make strides

    By Bernie Miklasz

    MINNEAPOLIS Just a hunch, but I suspect a couple of playoff-bound NFC teams were pleased to learn that the Rams won't be joining them for some fun and games in January.

    I mean, if you had your choice of first-round playoff opponents, would you really want to spend a good part of three hours trying to tackle Steven Jackson, trying to cover Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, or trying to rattle the cool-headed Marc Bulger?

    Sure, you'd get to punish the Rams defense a bit and turn your running backs loose on that Rams D, but eventually the Rams will have the ball. And with your postseason hopes and dreams on the line, would you really want to corral Jackson as he gallops to the end zone with all the power and speed of Secretariat at the 1973 Belmont?

    I didn't think so.

    With so many teams going in reverse and making messes late in the season, the Rams reached peak form. We saw that during a triumphant afternoon at the Metrodome, when the Rams won 41-21 after opening a 41-7 lead in a thorough beatdown of the Minnesota Vikings.

    The Rams' rush came too late to claim a playoff spot, but this should road-grade the way to better days in 2007. At 8-8, the 2006 Rams will have to be content for now to close out the schedule with three consecutive wins, part of a 4-2 finish. On this final day of the old year, the Rams were clearly the best NFC team to miss the playoffs, which means that they're already looking forward to the new year.

    "Extremely," coach Scott Linehan said when asked if he felt optimistic about 2007. "Our future is very bright based on the things we were able to get done this year from start to finish. And we overcame a tough, adverse time like the middle of the year. There was a lot of character to this team."

    Still, the Rams left some goodies on the table. And they know it. Better efforts and performances in losses to Carolina and Arizona cost them. There's a potential benefit to that.

    "We're a hungry team, and we'd like to pick up where we left off as soon as we can," Linehan said. "It is a strange feeling because right now the biggest disappointment is that we're not teeing up next week."

    Some in the reading audience will see an 8-8 record and react with a shrug. What's the big deal? It isn't. But please allow me to borrow and edit the famous question asked by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential debates: Do you feel your football team is better off than it was a year ago today?

    In December 2005, the Rams were in disarray when they visited Minnesota and lost by two touchdowns en route to a 6-10 record. I'm lousy at math, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe 8-8 is better than 6-10. And that 8-8 is more handsome considering that the Rams survived a disastrous 1-7 stretch. Teams don't stay the same in the NFL. Change is inevitable, and it can be dramatic. A team is either going the wrong way or moving ahead. And the 2006 Rams showed unmistakable signs of progress.

    "I feel very optimistic about the future," said the most senior Ram, wide receiver Isaac Bruce. "I look at the fact that we were in this very same locker room a year ago and we had a very bad taste in our mouths. We finished better than we did last year, and I believe we'll finish better next year. It usually comes in installments. That means playoffs, and deep into the playoffs."

    By the end of the season, Linehan had the offense he wanted. Over their last six games, the Rams averaged 27.5 points and 404 yards behind Jackson, Bulger, play-caller Greg Olson and the younger, meaner, nasty-boy offensive line. And if you still doubt that the Rams were accelerating at the end, then you apparently missed the steam coming from the ear holes of No. 39, Mr. Jackson a living, rollicking and imposing symbol of the team's momentum.

    Jackson's emergence as one of the league's top running backs was profound. Sunday he bashed the Vikings' No. 1-ranked rush defense for 142 yards rushing, including three touchdowns, and added a fourth TD as a receiver. Jackson finished with 1,528 yards rushing; only Eric Dickerson has had more in a season in Rams history. Jackson added 806 yards receiving for a yards-from-scrimmage total of 2,334. That was fewer than 100 yards shy of Marshall Faulk's team, and NFL, record (2,429).

    With Orlando Pace returning to left tackle, the offense is in terrific shape for 2007, but there's a need for a bigger and more physical wideout. Elsewhere there's a lot of work to do. The Rams must revise (again) their special teams approach. More than anything, the Rams defense must muscle up, and it starts by finding an aircraft carrier to anchor the interior defensive line.

    The situation on defense isn't hopeless; late in the season you could see young defensive backs Tye Hill, Ron Bartell and O.J. Atogwe take flight. The Rams certainly need a few good men for the defense, and the next few months will be critical. This organization can't afford draft-day blunders or free-agent fiascoes.

    But as 2006 closed, a train was coming down the tracks, picking up speed. Unless they stunt the momentum with goofy and ineffective personnel moves in the offseason, the Rams should arrive in the playoffs in 2007.

  2. #2
    jkramsfan Guest

    Re: Better days are ahead as the Rams make strides

    it really is dissappointing missing the playoffs,this team could have done some real damage,i like our chances against any playoff team the NFC has to offer,but i guess we have to wait our turn,look out next year.

  3. #3
    Varg6's Avatar
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    Re: Better days are ahead as the Rams make strides

    I seriously think the title of the post says it all. I truly believe we got one hell of a team...especially on offense, which is awesome to say the least. Working on the defense and special teams during the off-season is something I think I can trust Linehan and Haslett to do this year. They were aggressive with the free-agency signing(s) and the draft; I loved it. It is a fun time to be a Rams fan as far as I'm concerned.
    Always and Forever a fan of the St. Louis Rams

  4. #4
    81~BIG-GAME's Avatar
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    Re: Better days are ahead as the Rams make strides

    Yeah i like the way we our headed.This time last year we had very few positives,but we have definitely improved this year(still a lot of hard work to do)..We are on the right track,agree that the offence is looking good.. Bulger has made great strides with Linehan's system this year and we ended the season regulary scoring TD's in the red zone rather than ssettling for FG's which we culdn't do early in the year..So progress has been made and think it should continue in 07'..:l

  5. #5
    Country Guest

    Re: Better days are ahead as the Rams make strides

    He said it this is a huge offseason as the Rams could be a contender witha good draft and some key Free Agents.

  6. #6
    RamFan_Til_I_Die's Avatar
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    Re: Better days are ahead as the Rams make strides

    I feel so positive about next season, but so disappointed we aren't in the playoffs at the same time. I wanted a rematch with the Bears so badly.


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