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    Linehan stands by his call on 4th down

    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    11/14/2006


    By his own admission, Scott Linehan has gone "round and round" mulling over his controversial play call on fourth and 1 against Seattle. But he's not kicking himself over the call, just the fact that it didn't work.

    "I heard a long time ago that it doesn't mean that the play we called was a bad play," Linehan said Monday. "It just means that the play we called doesn't work and we didn't execute it. You've got to live with the consequences of it."

    For Linehan, one consequence is his first round of intense criticism as Rams head coach, both from the fans and the media.

    Another consequence is that it contributed to his team's 24-22 loss to the Seahawks, a defeat that left the Rams at 4-5 and on the outside looking in in the NFC West race.
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    The play in question occurred with 14½ minutes to go in the fourth quarter. On the previous play, Linehan threw down the red challenge flag just before Jeff Wilkins kicked a 35-yard field goal that would have given the Rams a 19-14 lead. It was three points the Rams could have used in what became a wrenching two-point defeat.

    Linehan was challenging whether a Marc Bulger pass to Kevin Curtis was a completion. Linehan won the challenge, meaning the original call of an incomplete pass was reversed. But the yardage gained by Curtis still left the Rams about 1½ yards short of a first down.

    Not only did Linehan go for it on fourth down, he threw into the end zone incomplete to tight end Joe Klopfenstein.

    "We're playing to win, and it didn't work out for us," Linehan said. "Hopefully, when we get in a situation like that again, we can have it (end) up better for us."

    The play was doomed from the start because fullback Paul Smith didn't hear the play call. Instead of calling a timeout to make sure, Smith assumed he should stay in to block. He guessed wrong.

    "That can't happen," Linehan said, referring to Smith's confusion on the play call. "If that happens out on the field, you've got to call timeout."

    Awkwardly, Smith and Steven Jackson blocked the same pass rusher. Smith was supposed to flare out to his right to be in position for a short swing pass.

    Once Smith was out on his route, Seattle cornerback Kelly Herndon would have been forced to make a decision: Either come up on Smith in the flat or follow Klopfenstein, who was running a corner route in the back of the end zone.

    If Herndon went with Klopfenstein, the ball goes to Smith. If Herndon took Smith, the ball goes to Klopfenstein. But Herndon didn't have a decision to make, because Smith stayed in to block.

    So Klopfenstein was well-covered on the play by Herndon. As a result, Bulger threw behind Klopfenstein, hoping he would turn back for the ball. Klopfenstein didn't, and Seattle took over on downs.

    (Tight end Aaron Walker and wide receiver Torry Holt were running routes on the other side of the field. But Holt was held up on his crossing route by linebacker Julian Peterson and never got open.)

    With Steven Jackson running effectively Sunday, why not hand the ball off on fourth down, rather than have a journeyman (Smith) and a rookie (Klopfenstein) as primary targets? Based on what was in the game plan, Linehan argued unconvincingly that he felt uncomfortable running the ball with 1½ yards needed for the first down.

    After the game, the occasionally outspoken Jackson had no problem with Linehan's decision.

    "Coach decided to make a gutsy call and my hat's off to him," Jackson said. "We have a whole bunch of playmakers. ... We were throwing to a key ballplayer. It didn't happen. I don't regret it. He doesn't regret it. We just came out on the short end."

    Bulger also backed Linehan.

    "It's hindsight," Bulger said. "You can say, 'Hey, you took the points off the board.' At the same time, if we go in there for seven, giving our defense more than a touchdown lead would have secured the game.

    "At the time, I honestly thought it was the right call. So I can't sit here and second-guess him."

    But in the home-team locker room at Qwest Field, a couple former Rams criticized Linehan's strategy.

    "You don't take points off the board," Seahawks defensive end Grant Wistrom told the Seattle Times. "That was kind of foolish, I thought."

    "That was bad coaching," Seahawks defensive end Bryce Fisher told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

    Unfortunately for Linehan and the Rams, that opinion isn't unique to the Pacific Northwest.


  2. #2
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    Re: Linehan stands by his call on 4th down

    "Coach decided to make a gutsy call and my hat's off to him," Jackson said. "We have a whole bunch of playmakers. ... We were throwing to a key ballplayer. It didn't happen. I don't regret it. He doesn't regret it. We just came out on the short end."
    Thats what I needed to hear from SJ.

  3. #3
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    Re: Linehan stands by his call on 4th down

    Nice to see SJ standing by his coach, but there is a disturbing pattern here. Two weeks ago, comments were made about the defense giving up big runs because players were in the wrong formation. Now, comments are being made about Smith blowing up the key 4th & 1 play.

    Sounds like, as between the coaching staff and the team, what we have here is a failure to communicate.

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    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Linehan stands by his call on 4th down

    Geez I wonder if Grant and Bryce would of made those same statements if they were still on the Rams? NOT!

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    Re: Linehan stands by his call on 4th down

    Same old same old ... Either you are the "hero" or the goat. When the play works everyone loves you -- when it doesn't you're the "goat". It didn't work--Smith couldn't hear the play .. whatever ... Next time hopefully Linny will be a hero and we will win. Tough game coming up next week and we desperately
    need a shot in the arm -- a win on the road at Carolina would provide that much needed shot! I haven't given up yet -- guess I am a glutton for punishment...

  6. #6
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    Re: Linehan stands by his call on 4th down

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    Sounds like, as between the coaching staff and the team, what we have here is a failure to communicate.
    Not at all where this play is concerned. Smith himself said hid didn't hear the play being called, so his screw up lies on his shoulders alone. Why he would let a play start not knowing what to do is beyond me.

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