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Linehan is encouraged by offense's improvement
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
For nearly two quarters Sunday in Arizona, the Rams scored on four straight possessions. Marc Bulger displayed his pinpoint accuracy of old. Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce ran loose in the Arizona secondary.
Now that's more like it. It looked as if all was well -- finally -- with the St. Louis offense.
But by the end of the day, the Rams had only 16 points to show for Bulger's first 300-yard passing day of the season. Three games into the season, the Rams have scored only two touchdowns and haven't scored more than 18 points in any game. Over the long haul, coach Scott Linehan knows that's no way to live.
"We certainly feel great about being 2-1 right now," Linehan said. "But there are going to be days when 16 points, 18 points, 13 points -- whatever it is -- isn't going to be good enough to win the game. We recognize that."
Similarly, it would be unrealistic to expect the Rams' current pace of takeaways to continue over a 16-game schedule. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's unit is on pace for 53 takeaways, which would be the most for any NFL team since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995. Without their 10 takeaways in three games, the Rams could very well be staring at 0-3 instead of 2-1.
But at least the sight of the passing game clicking against Arizona was encouraging to Linehan and his coaching staff.
"More than anything, I think we're just spending more time around each other," Linehan said. "I learn more and more about our team, and offensive players. What they do well. What they like. What we execute well. What fits them and the system we're running that will give us a better chance."
Linehan said the team spent so much time emphasizing the running game in the offseason and training camp that maybe the timing in the passing game suffered.
But he played down the notion that changing the verbiage of some pass plays to terminology used by Mike Martz jump-started the passing game against Arizona.
"I think we called a couple of things there a little bit the same (as the Martz system), just because it was easier," Linehan said. "You can sit down at a meeting and say, 'Marc, we can call this either way. Which way would you like to call it? OK, we'll call it this way.'
"It really has nothing to do with going back to the old way. We're running the 2006 Rams offense, and it comes from the 2006 Rams playbook."
Linehan's response may sound like a case of being sensitive to comparisons to Martz. But Rams offensive players frequently have said they appreciate Linehan's flexibility and the fact that he seeks their input on the offense. To a large degree, they didn't have that flexibility under Martz.
According to offensive coordinator Greg Olson, changing some of the verbiage "was kind of a decision that Scott made last week on just a few plays."
And looking back on the 16-14 victory over Arizona, Olson said some of the Rams' biggest pass plays did not even come on plays where the verbiage was changed.
"But maybe it was just an overall comfort feeling," Olson said. "That hey, we're going to do this on a couple plays here and take some of the thinking out of it."
More than anything, the fact that Arizona chose to play a lot of man-to-man coverage, frequently sticking an extra man in the box to defend the run, gave Holt and Bruce breathing room on pass routes.
"I think that allowed us to push the ball down the field a little bit more, and throw the ball," Olson said.
The Rams saw more zone defense against Denver and San Francisco, making it easier to run the football, but tougher to throw down field.
Whether it's against zone or man defense, whether the Rams are running or passing, they still need to do a better job of finishing drives. They scored only one touchdown in three red-zone drives in Arizona. For the season, the Rams rank 31st in the NFL in red-zone scoring, with a 20 percent success rate (two TDs in 10 trips).
As usual, Linehan chooses to accentuate the positive.
"I feel very good about the fact that our quarterback hasn't thrown an interception," Linehan said. "He's getting better and better every week."
Sunday's home game with Detroit is approaching sell-out status. As of Tuesday afternoon, fewer than 500 tickets remained, according to Rams vice president of ticket operations Michael Naughton.
Free agent Torrin Tucker, who played in 36 games with 24 starts for Dallas from 2003-2005, visited Rams Park on Tuesday. Most of Tucker's playing time with Dallas came at offensive tackle.
Re: Linehan is encouraged by offense's improvement
I'm glad to read the Linehan recognizes the obvious. We need to score more points the TO well won't continue for ever or will it ?