First-Place Rams Put First Things First
First-place Rams put first things first
BY JIM THOMAS
November 9, 2010 12:25 am
Steve Spagnuolo spent part of Sunday on a moped traversing through Forest Park with wife Maria.
"Had sunglasses on, so I stayed 'low,' " Spagnuolo said.
When asked if he was recognized, Spagnuolo joked, "I didn't stop. Never stopped. Nobody was waving."
Left tackle Rodger Saffold went back to Bloomington, Ind., and watched his Indiana Hoosiers play Iowa.
Wide receiver Brandon Gibson and left guard Jacob Bell spent a few days in sunny California.
Safeties Oshiomogho Atogwe and Craig Dahl just stayed home in St. Louis and relaxed.
After a long bye weekend, the Rams returned to work Monday to find themselves … in first place in the NFC West. No kidding. At 4-4, the Rams moved into first place without playing a game.
Seattle's 41-7 loss to the New York Giants dropped the Seahawks to 4-4. Arizona had a chance to make it a trio of 4-4 teams in the West, but the Cardinals squandered a 14-point lead, losing 27-24 in overtime at Minnesota to fall to 3-5.
If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Rams would be NFC West champs because they hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their 20-3 victory over the Seahawks on Oct. 3. Of course, the playoffs don't start tomorrow, something Spagnuolo is very aware of — and made sure his players were aware of on Monday.
"I just told the guys we're aware of the stats and standings," Spagnuolo said. "We acknowledge them both good and bad, but we don't focus on them. We just kind of move on. These guys know we've got a pretty tough game on Sunday."
Against the San Francisco *****, who have won eight of their last 10 against the Rams, including the last four in a row. The game is at Candlestick Park — yes, they're calling it Candlestick Park again — where the Rams are only 5-10 since the move to St. Louis in 1995.
As for being aware of the standings, some of the Rams had no idea until Monday.
When asked how it felt to be in first place, Atogwe replied: "I didn't know we were in first place."
Now, Atogwe is known to have a mischievous streak when it comes to dealing with the media, but he seemed convincing on this one.
"I haven't looked at the standings," he said. "I don't look at the standings till the end of the season. That's the only time when it counts."
Apparently, they don't let the defensive backs out of the meeting room much, because Dahl also was unaware that the Rams were in first place until Monday.
"I didn't even know," Dahl said. "I mean, 4-4, we're doing all right."
But first place? Snicker if you want, particularly because of the less-than-stellar state of the West. But it has been a while for the Rams.
The Rams haven't been in first place at any point in a season since at 23-20 victory at Green Bay on Oct. 8, 2006 gave them a 4-1 record in Scott Linehan's inaugural season.
And they haven't been in first place this late in a season since a 30-27 overtime victory at Arizona on Nov. 23, 2003 gave them an 8-3 record and moved them ahead of 7-4 Seattle in the standings. That '03 season marked the Rams' last division championship.
To date, Spagnuolo has done a commendable job keeping the Rams focused on the task at hand, maintaining the tunnel vision needed to survive the ups and downs of any NFL season.
"That's how you gotta do it," Dahl said. "The season's so long, you can't be focusing in on the end of the road when you've got so much more to go on the season. So it's just hammering away one game at a time."
"During the season, you can be first to last, last to first (quickly)," Atogwe said. "So we still got work to do. We've got San Francisco and that's the only thing you need to look at."
Even Saffold, just eight games into his rookie season, knows it's way too early to get carried away about first place.
"We don't want to get too excited about it at midseason," Saffold said. "You want to be excited about it at the end of the season. If you had that opportunity in late December, I'm telling you, I'd be doing back flips up in here."
Bell, in the midst of his seventh NFL season, had a similar perspective.
"If you said this to me in Week 12 or 13, I would say, 'Yeah, I'm excited. We have a chance,' " he said. "But right now, this doesn't mean anything."
Even so, Bell and the rest of the Rams know what a victory Sunday could do. It would give the Rams their first road triumph of the season, ending a six-game road losing streak dating back to midway through the 2009 season. And it would put a severe crimp in 2-6 San Francisco's attempt to get back into the race.
"This is our biggest game of the year," Bell said. "This is probably the biggest game I've been a part of since I've been here."
Re: First-Place Rams Put First Things First
I'm not buying Atogwe's not knowing the standings and us being in 1st place bo-log-nee. That's why you play these games, period!