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Rams board the right train for ugly victory
By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Oct. 23 2005
This surprising and rather unsightly thing of beauty was finally over, so in a
far corner of the Rams locker room late Sunday afternoon, Anthony Hargrove did
the only appropriate thing a grown man should do at a moment like this: He
broke out in a dizzy little victory dance.
"Ooooooh, baby," cooed the big ol' defensive end, showing off a few cool spin
moves and smooth gyrations. "Ohhhh, man, I feel good."
There was plenty to laugh about, dance about and feel good about in the Rams'
locker room after this totally unexpected 28-17 victory over the New Orleans
Saints. The three-game losing streak is over, and miraculously there is still
hope that their season won't be crashing into a ball of flames (at least not
this week) because the Rams have been hit with so much bad luck and devastating
Quickly now, a show of hands for everyone out there who was convinced the Rams
would beat the Saints without their Pro Bowl quarterback, two Pro Bowl
receivers, the Pro Bowl defensive end hundreds of miles away at a funeral, and
the head coach on sick leave?
The Rams were in such a dark, dangerous place heading into this game, even they
had their heads spinning. "I'm not going to lie to you," admitted linebacker
Pisa Tinoisamoa. "It was even hard for me to show up here today and not think
about all the bad stuff that was happening to us. ... Ooooooh, man, this was
about as tough as it gets. But you know this team has a lot of good guys. And
Joe (Vitt, the interim head coach) talks about it all the time. Good guys
always show character. Today we showed a lot of that."
For much of this game, the Rams played with all the aesthetic appeal of a
swollen lip. The Saints jumped to a 14-0 lead only 10 minutes into the game.
The Rams' defense looked lost, and their stand-in quarterback, Jamie Martin,
kept flinging passes either way behind his receivers' backs or way over their
But ultimately, the Rams did figure out a way to win an unwinnable ballgame,
and let's hope they've stumbled upon the formula that will make watching the
remainder of this rather daunting schedule a bit more palatable. Until Marc
Bulger, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce are back from their respective shoulder,
knee and toe injuries, there can be no better plan for survival for the Rams
than the one we saw unveiled against New Orleans:
Perhaps you've heard this one before, albeit with a slight bit of editing?
Give the ball to Steven Jackson.
With no reliable passing game to speak of, the Rams wisely rode Jackson all
game long (20 carries, 97 yards rushing, two receptions for 19 yards, two
touchdowns scored and the perfect decoy on the game-winning score). But it
wasn't just Jackson. It was also an aggressive, attacking, opportunistic style
of defense that forced timely turnovers and kept the Saints out of the end zone
for the final 50 minutes that led to this victory.
The Rams may not win another game this season, particularly with so many
suddenly challenging opponents lurking like Jacksonville (4-2), Seattle (5-2),
Washington (4-2), Dallas (4-3) and Philadelphia (4-2), but if they are going to
make the rest of this season remotely interesting, every game should resemble
this victory over New Orleans, which is to say, turning Jackson into a fiendish
"Yeah, he got his 20 touches," laughed Vitt, "but he's probably mad at me
because I didn't get him 30 touches."
The good news is Jackson got the touches at the most important time of this
ballgame. It was midway through the fourth quarter, and the Rams had already
rallied to be down only 17-14. They got the ball right back when Tyoka Jackson
and Dexter Coakley forced a fumble that Adam Archuleta recovered on the New
Jackson touched the ball on the next five plays, including a 19-yard gallop
that was full of power, speed and elusiveness that gave the Rams a first down
on the New Orleans 5-yard line.
Now the Saints defense understood what was going on. The Rams were riding the
Big Train express, and on first and goal, as Jackson took the handoff and
rolled toward the left corner of the end zone, the entire New Orleans defense
was in hot pursuit. But Jackson slapped the ball right into wide receiver Kevin
Curtis' gut on a reverse, and in a flash the speedy Curtis was diving into the
end zone on the other side of the field to give the Rams their first lead of
the game at 21-17.
It wasn't exactly the high-octane, bombs-away stuff we're used to seeing around
here. Still, I don't know about you, but what could be prettier than the sight
of that 230-pound train slamming into the line of scrimmage behind smash-mouth,
Neanderthal lead blocks?
In desperate times like these, there is so much more to be said for winning
ugly than losing pretty.