Says it's just a matter of time
BY STEVE KORTE
News-Democrat
ST. LOUIS - St. Louis Rams coach Scott Linehan likened his offense's problems in the red zone to a baseball player going through a hitting slump.

"As a competitor, it weighs on you," Linehan said. "Willie Mays said it once about being in a slump. They asked, 'What do you do to get out of a slump.' He said, 'Keep swinging.' We're going to keep calling plays and try to get it into the end zone."

Jeff Wilkins booted a team-record six field goals as the Rams upset the Denver Broncos 18-10 Sunday to open the 2006 season.

The Rams won without scoring a touchdown for the first time since coming to St. Louis in 1995.

"It was a great effort by our football team to get our first win against a real top-notch opponent," Linehan said. "I'm sure it was one of those ones that probably raised some eyebrows when they saw the results of the game. We felt very fortunate to come out on the better end of it."

The Rams' offense went 0-for-5 in five trips inside the Broncos' 20-yard line.

"There's no style points in wins," said Linehan, whose team is an early three-point favorite against the San Francisco ***** (0-1) at 3:05 p.m. Sunday at Monster Park. "You either win or you lose, and the Rams won yesterday."

Linehan said the Rams' offense didn't score any touchdown, but it also didn't "wreck" the team's chances of losing with a turnover.

The Rams played turnover-free football for only the fourth time in the last five seasons. They currently lead the NFL in takeaway-giveaway ratio at plus-five.

"It's really hard to go through an NFL game and not turn the ball over," Linehan said. "The thing that was great was to be able to protect the football the way we did, and to hang in there even though it's frustrating to come away with 3's instead of 7's."

Linehan said the Rams had too negative plays in the red zone against the Broncos, pointing to a sequence in the late in the first quarter where they went from having first-and-goal at the Denver 3 to attempting a 44-yard field goal.

"W e have a mental error and turn a guy loose up the middle, then the quarterback is forced to throw the ball away and we get a (intentional) grounding penalty and lose the down," Linehan said. "That right there was the one that got us a little bit out of whack, and got us a little bit tight and tentative. I think that the natural tendency was to start pressing a little bit. There are no excuses. We have to do better. It's certainly something we can't shy away from. We've got to address it."

The Rams' first-string offense also failed to score a touchdown in 11 series in the preseason.

Linehan said the Rams spent extra time in practice last Thursday and Friday working on their red zone offense.

"We probably worked five times as much as normally do this week," Linehan said. "It's one of those bizarre things."

Linehan said he was confident that the Rams' red zone woes won't be an issue much longer.

"The minute we start clicking, it'll be quickly in our rear-view mirror, but we're going to have to do better," Linehan said.

The Rams' fifth unsuccessful trip into the red zone was a little deceiving since it ended with three kneel downs to run out of the clock.

The Rams had first-and-goal at the Denver 6 after a 37-yard run by Steven Jackson with 1:51 left to play.

Linehan opted to have quarterback Marc Bulger take a knee three times rather than go for the touchdown.

"The game was over," Linehan said. "The red zone success, or lack of it, had no bearing on it. The only way we lose that game is by trying to score down there."

If Linehan had gone for a field goal, Wilkins could have tied the NFL record for most field goals in a game.

"It's not about getting records," Linehan said. "It's about getting a win."