Sunday, December 11, 2005

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

MINNEAPOLIS – For the better part of the season, the Rams’ offense has found itself in difficult situations with large portions of the field to cover in order to score. But Sunday was a different story.

The Rams had plenty of opportunities with excellent field position against the Vikings in a 27-13 loss at the Metrodome. But, even with those opportunities in hand, St. Louis was unable to convert the chances into points.

“We talked coming into this week about creating field position to give ourselves an opportunity to score points in this ball game,” receiver Torry Holt said. “That opportunity came today. What did we do with it? We didn’t do much. It’s disheartening to us. We have to figure out why we didn’t take advantage of the field position, why we didn’t score points. I’m sure coaches will break that down and have an answer for us. We as players have to be accountable and recognize that and do something about it. Today, we didn’t do that. Our defense did a fabulous job of giving us the short field. We as an offense didn’t take advantage of it.”

Overall, the Rams had 16 possessions in the game. Of those 16, they started at their own 43 yard line or better eight times. St. Louis started in Minnesota territory on four of those occasions.

Of the team’s 13 points scored, the Rams managed their only touchdown on a drive that started at Minnesota’s 49 and Jeff Wilkins’ pair of field goals came on drives that started at the St. Louis 48 and 25, respectively.

In other words, easy scoring opportunities went by the wayside whether by way of turnovers or missed chances.

“When you get field position like that, you really have to capitalize,” left tackle Orlando Pace said. “We didn’t do that today. That’s the frustrating part about it. We need to go back and look at the film and see where we need to get better.”

More often than not this year, the Rams have been forced to start deep in their territory because of special teams’ struggles or the problems of the defense. But Sunday’s loss can’t be blamed on the defense too much.

St. Louis held the Vikings to 259 total yards and just 3.9 yards per carry. Aside from a pair of big plays, the defense had one of its best games of the season.

“We were just trying to control the game defensively and get three and outs to shorten the field for our offense a little bit,” middle linebacker Trev Faulk said. “We did that some early on and some late.”

A big part of the reason for the defensive success was a more aggressive approach to attacking quarterback Brad Johnson. Time and again the Rams came with blitzes from all angles.

“We were more aggressive, we weren’t in the same spot all the time where they can come out and block us,” defensive end Leonard Little said. “We were aggressive today and that’s the type of defense we need to play from here on out.”

If the Rams can combine that with an offense that converts the chances provided, maybe they can finish the season on a winning note.

RECEIVER DUO MAKING HISTORY: Receivers Holt and Isaac Bruce have already done plenty to etch their names into NFL and Rams’ record books and Sunday provided the pair a chance to make a little history in the same game.

Bruce hit the 800-catch mark while Holt hit 600 grabs for his career. Bruce also reached the top 10 all time in receiving yards.

Holt passed Henry Ellard for second on the team’s all-time receptions list, putting him behind, who else, Bruce. Holt liked the sound of his latest milestone, but said it was somewhat bittersweet.

“It sounds good,” Holt said. “It’s another milestone I have set for myself personally in my career. I’ll enjoy it. It’s tough to really relish in that when the team is suffering the way we’re suffering. It’s a situation I haven’t gotten quite used to. I’m used to winning around here and having a lot of fun. I’ll enjoy it. I have to credit my teammates and coaching staff and quarterbacks always, like I have always done for giving me the opportunity to be out there and play and for them to look for me and to catch the ball.”

Making the day more special for Holt was the chance to grab a slice of history with his mentor and friend Bruce.

“Anytime I can go over any milestone with Isaac is something I will cherish for the rest of my life,” Holt said. “I thought he fought out there today. He’s a warrior. He’s the epitome of a professional athlete, a guy that comes in week in and week out and prepares himself to go out and play hard to help this football team win ball games. Anytime I can do anything with him is something I will always cherish.”

Holt finished the day with 10 catches for 95 yards. Bruce added five grabs for 66 yards.

INJURY REPORT: Compared to some of the games the Rams have played lately, they came out of the Metrodome relatively injury free.

Only Pace and cornerback Ron Bartell had any sort of injury problems. Bartell suffered what was thought to be a groin injury and was replaced by Chris Johnson.

Pace suffered a groin injury, another in an ever-expanding list of injury problems Pace seems to be accumulating.

“I don’t know if I did something to my groin or not, but I had to leave a little bit at the end of the first half,” Pace said. “I came back. It doesn’t feel that bad, but we’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”

Pace has also struggled with hamstring and hip problems that have nearly kept him out of action in the past two weeks.

BULGER’S RETURN UNCERTAIN: Considering the struggles of rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, many Rams fans are left wondering about the status of starter Marc Bulger.

Bulger spoke briefly about his possible return after Sunday’s game, but had no real update on where he is in regards to a return.

“I’m not sure,” Bulger said. “It’s 50/50. When I am back to 100 percent I’ll be back, but I want to do the right thing.”

Bulger, of course, is recovering from a right shoulder injury that has plagued him for the bulk of the season.

GOING FOR SIX: The Rams made a curious choice in the second quarter after driving deep into Minnesota territory.

On a fourth-and-2 at Minnesota’s 8, St. Louis went for it, handing the ball to running back Steven Jackson.

Jackson was stuffed short and the Rams came away with no points and still trailing 7-0. Vitt said the move was a result of what he perceived to be a necessity of scoring plenty of points.

“I didn’t know how many times we were going to be down there,” Vitt said. “I’m trying to spark our football team. We came here to win a football game, not to tie it and we needed points.”

The defense promptly got a three and out and the Rams wound up with a field goal anyway