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First-half rahs, second-half blahs
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Friday, Dec. 07 2007
For much of this season, the Rams didn't know what it was like to have a lead.
Now they've got to learn how to play with one.
In their first seven games, the Rams never led by more than seven points. In
fact, they never led period — not for one second — in road losses to Tampa Bay,
Dallas, Baltimore and Seattle.
But over the past five games, the Rams have had double-digit leads against
Cleveland, New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle (at home) and Atlanta. In all
five cases, the Rams either squandered or nearly squandered those leads in the
"If we could just not come in the locker room at halftime, I think that'd be
great," quarterback Gus Frerotte quipped. "Maybe we could just stay in the
corner (of the field), like they used to do in the old days."
Because something's not the same once the Rams come back for the second half.
To a large degree, it has been a season-long problem. Over the course of 12
games, St. Louis has been outscored 192-66 in the second half.
But the disparity has been much more noticeable — and much more dumbfounding —
over the past five weeks, a period during which the team has played noticeably
"We just can't get complacent when we get a lead," cornerback Tye Hill said.
"That's basically our biggest thing now. When we get up big, we've got to find
a way to put teams away. Play through the last whistle."
The numbers are all but reversed in looking at the Rams' first- and second-half
offensive production over the past five contests.
— Points: The Rams have scored 84 points in the first half but only 33 in the
— Yards: The Rams have gained 995 in the first half, 689 in the second.
— Third-down conversions: 52.5 percent in the first half, 27.3 in the second.
— First downs: 63 in the first half, 38 in the second.
— Giveaways: One in the first half, four in the second.
"I think it's execution; it starts there," coach Scott Linehan said. "You look
at everything. What we are doing, (play) calling, how we are preparing through
the week. All of that."
But if there were an easy answer to what has gone wrong in the second half, it
wouldn't keep happening.
Are opposing coaches making better in-game and halftime adjustments? Are the
players simply letting down a bit with the lead? Are the Rams tiring down the
stretch because of a lack of conditioning?
In-game injuries have been a factor. Against Cleveland, the Rams lost Pro Bowl
running back Steven Jackson to back problems. Against Seattle, Pro Bowl
quarterback Marc Bulger went down with a concussion. Both injuries occurred in
the first quarter.
To some degree, Linehan's play-calling has become more conservative with a
lead. But at least in terms of the Atlanta game, Linehan denies that was the
In the second half against the Falcons, "We threw more with the lead than you
would if you normally had a 21-point lead" Linehan said. "We threw the ball 17
times and ran it 12 times. ... I looked at every call I made, and it was much
more (aggressive) than it feels. We still have to execute."
While the offensive meltdowns in the second half have gotten most of the
scrutiny recently, Linehan pointed out that it has been a team effort.
"For the inadequacies, or the lack of execution, that we've been having on
offense, it has been equally concerning the amount of yards or points we've
given up defensively in the fourth quarter," he said.
The statistical differences are just as glaring when comparing the Rams'
first-half and second-half performances defensively over the past five contests.
— Scoring: The Rams have allowed 34 points in the first half, 71 in the second.
— Yards: The Rams have allowed 585 yards in the first half, 1,072 in the second.
— Third-down conversions: 38.1 percent in the first half; 43.2 in the second.
— First downs: 36 in the first half, 60 in the second.
— Takeaways: Six in the first half, three in the second.
Although the numbers strongly suggest otherwise, defensive coordinator Jim
Haslett doesn't feel his unit has played badly in the second half. He said a
lot of factors are involved, adding, "Teams do score in this league."
No matter. Linehan wants the entire team to do a better job of finishing what
"I don't know if you want to call it a killer instinct sitting here at 3-9, but
I think that is the way you have to be," Linehan said. "Somewhere we are
letting up, and we have to get that fixed."
Linehan made a big point of emphasizing that at halftime of the Atlanta game.
He told the team to treat the second half as if the score were 0-0. Of course,
he made those remarks in the locker room at the Edward Jones Dome.
Perhaps he should've gone with Frerotte's idea and just stayed on the field at
halftime. Because the Rams do seem to leave something in the locker room lately.
Re: First-half rahs, second-half blahs
Well, the defense does have some soul searching about their second half performances. Letting a QB who really hadn't played all that much bring a downtrodden Falcon and whiner team back to almost taking a lead late in the second half after a big lead by the Rams is disturbing.
And that has nothing to do with the offensive play calling.
Re: First-half rahs, second-half blahs
I agree- I know the offense has struggled, but so has the defense. Even when they stop opponents from scoring, they still give up field position, which is not helping an offense that is racked with injuries. It's not a good thing when Gus Ferrote has to lead us 90 yds for a score every drive. We aren't getting turnovers in the second half either- if you take away the Atogwe ints at the end of games when teams are about to score and take the lead, we really haven't gotten anything. I think part of it is execution, but I think a lot of it is playcalling and inability to adjust to what the opposing offenses are doing. I just don't buy the argument that our players forget how to execute at the half every game or that they're more tired than the opposing teams. If that's true, then it falls on the coaching staff with strength and conditioning. Maybe the players are expecting to blow the lead and it's just a atomsphere of no confidence under this regime- who knows?
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