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Thread: Close, but no victory
Close, but no victory
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Oct. 08 2007
Was it or was it not a fumble by Arizona running back Edgerrin James late in
the second quarter?
Was it or was it not a case of Rams players intentionally kicking the ball
later in the same quarter, preventing Arizona from getting a play off before
the half ended?
Like everything else these days, both of those disputed calls went against the
Rams. The result was two touchdowns for Arizona in its 34-31 victory over St.
Louis on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
Debate those calls all you want, but there's no debating this: The Rams remain
winless five games into the 2007 season and simply can't find a way to end
their run of bad luck, bad play and bad health.
"I've never been a part of anything like this on any level as far as not being
able to get a win," wide receiver-return man Dante Hall said. "Not getting a
call. Not making the plays consistently. I couldn't tell you what it is, or put
my finger on it. I don't think anyone can. We just can't get a win. It's
unbelievable what's happening to this team."
With coach Scott Linehan calling the plays and Gus Frerotte starting at
quarterback in place of the injured Marc Bulger, the Rams nearly matched their
point total of the previous four games in one afternoon. Touted offseason
pickups Drew Bennett and Randy McMichael
caught their first TD passes of the season as the Rams showed new energy with
frequent use of the no-huddle offense.
Rookie running back Brian Leonard, subbing again for the injured Steven
Jackson, rushed for 102 yards and averaged 5.7 yards a carry. Kicker Jeff
Wilkins snapped out of his field-goal funk with kicks of 46, 35 and 31 yards.
But it wasn't enough.
On defense, the Rams played with more intensity than they have displayed all
season. Cornerback Fakhir Brown, his four-game NFL suspension over, made his
presence felt with two interceptions.
But it wasn't enough.
For the third time this season, the Rams had a lead in the third quarter. For
the fourth time this season, they were locked up in a "one score" game in the
But once again, the Rams couldn't finish.
"If things were going for us, we wouldn't be here talking about things going
against us," Linehan said. "Eventually, if we keep our heads about us, the game
does turn around."
It hasn't yet. In fact, it swung dramatically in Arizona's favor late in the
second quarter. The Rams were leading 10-3 with under four minutes to play in
the half when James headed up the middle on a second-and-goal play from the
Rams' 6. But the ball squirted loose as James went down at the 1. Four Rams
raced into the end zone after the ball, with rookie cornerback Jonathan Wade
falling on it for an apparent touchback.
Or not. Arizona left guard Reggie Wells made it over to Wade in the end zone
and came out of a pile with the football. After some discussion, the play was
ruled a touchdown for Wells and Arizona. Not a touchback. That led to an
unsuccessful replay challenge by Linehan.
Referee Gerald Austin told a pool reporter that replays never showed
conclusively whether James was down before the ball popped out or not. So that
part of the call stood that it was a fumble. Now, what about the Wade or
make that Wells recovery?
"The ruling on the field was that the defensive player (Wade) had not gained
full control of the ball before being hit by the offensive player (Wells), who
came up with the ball," Austin said. "The ruling was a touchdown.
"We didn't have any shots in replay that would give us visual evidence to
change it, so we had to stay with the call on the field. My understanding is
that later (television) had a shot that showed his elbow was down, but we never
had that in replay."
It was not clear whether Austin meant James' elbow, which would've meant no
fumble. Or Wade's elbow, which would've meant a Rams recovery in the end zone
and a touchback.
In any event, the ruling hit the Rams like a sucker punch.
"At that moment, I'm sure everyone is thinking the same thing," Hall said. "'Oh
my God, can we just get a break?' You almost want to get on your knees and ask
But no prayers were answered. Not then, and not at the very end of the half,
when it looked as if time had expired after James carried to the 1. With
Arizona frantically trying to get off another play before the half expired,
Austin's crew ruled that a Rams player purposely kicked the football at the
line of scrimmage before Arizona could snap it, leading to a delay-of-game
The teams were ordered back onto the field even though time had expired on the
scoreboard clock. Former Rams Super Bowl hero Kurt Warner scored on a
quarterback sneak on the next play, giving Arizona a 17-13 lead and putting the
Rams another step closer to 0-5.
"We're going to win don't get me wrong," defensive end Leonard Little said.
He just didn't say when.
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