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Rams close down Jones Dome circus
By HAL PILGER
Published Tuesday, September 12, 2006
ST. LOUIS - One game does not a season make, and you can never be too certain of anything after only four quarters of football against one opponent.
But two observations seemed obvious after the St. Louis Rams’ 18-10 season-opening victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday in a sold-out Edward Jones Dome.
One, this Rams team has the possibility of playing rock-solid defense for the first time since the club moved to St. Louis in 1995.
Two, the zany, freewheeling, risk-taking offensive schemes of previous coach Mike Martz are long gone.
Some key pieces remain from Mad Mike’s “Greatest Show on Turf” circus that featured a stretch of three consecutive 500-point seasons from 1999-2001, but those pieces and all the new ones apparently will be utilized in a much more conservative fashion under new coach Scott Linehan.
The Rams, 3½-point underdogs, beat the Broncos by eight on Sunday without scoring a touchdown. They failed to reach the end zone on four excellent red zone opportunities and a couple of other good chances, settling for a team-record six field goals by Jeff Wilkins to account for all of their scoring.
On Sunday, against a solid Broncos contingent, it produced a victory.
“A win’s a win,” quarterback Marc Bulger recited. “You can use any cliche you want, but Denver’s a good football team. They were in the AFC championship (game, losing to Pittsburgh) last year.
“Our defense definitely won it for us today. At the same time, we didn’t turn the ball over.”
That’s something the Broncos did five times to go with four Rams sacks.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be, but our defense bailed us out,” Bulger said. “I know one thing’s for sure - we have a defense. Now I know it’s just one game, but that’s a really good (Denver) offense, and the way they (the defense) played today, we’re really excited.”
Should anyone get excited about the Rams’ offensive capabilities? Everyone - players included - just need to give it a little time, Bulger said. This new system, with Scott “Steady As She Goes” Linehan at the helm, will take a while to perfect after what the Rams were used to doing.
“Yeah, you know, you get frustrated,” Bulger said. “Coach Linehan’s philosophy . . . if we can take care of the ball . . . There’s probably a couple more risks you can take here and there, and you get frustrated.
“You’re so used to pressing, and you want touchdowns because you know that those opportunities when the defense gets a turnover aren’t going to come that often. So you want to convert them to touchdowns.
“But as the game went on you kind of felt as long as we can keep getting three (points) - sure, we wanted seven - that our defense was going to bail us out, and they did.”
This new setup is so different Bulger stated, “I just feel like I’m almost playing in a different division. Growing up (in the Pittsburgh area) I always refer back to watching Steelers games. This game reminds me more of that. Field position, taking care of the ball, punting’s not a bad thing.
“I’m used to winging it before. If it doesn’t work today, we might be sitting here saying something different, but I like it. If we can protect the ball, and our defense can keep making huge plays, we’ll be in good shape.
“There’s a different way we’re going to approach the games now, and it’s going to be careful. Safe. Err on the side of caution. Hopefully it will work.”
It’s not as though the Rams were without an offense on Sunday. They totaled 320 net yards - 195 through the air as Bulger completed 18 of 34 passes for 217 yards with no interceptions and three sacks for a loss of 22 yards. A couple times he simply held on to the ball too long.
One big plus regarding the new offense, as far as Bulger was concerned, was the protection he received on Sunday.
“It’s nice; I took a lot less hits,” Bulger said. “We still have a long way to go, that’s evident.
“I’m just proud of the way, in the last couple minutes when we needed first downs, we knew we were going to run the ball; they knew we were going to run the ball. I’ve been here the last couple of years, and we haven’t been able to finish a game. To be able to finish it like that, with a backup center in there, too (Larry Turner, after Andy McCollum injured his left knee) is a testament to our line.”
Running back Steven Jackson, to the surprise of no one, is a big early advocate of the new system, which promises to utilize his talents more consistently than the old system. On Sunday he rushed 22 times for 121 yards as the Rams totaled 28 runs for 125 yards. Jackson also caught four passes for 19 yards.
“Hats off to coach Linehan and the offensive coordinator (Greg Olson), man, they stuck with the run,” Jackson said. “Something you’re not used to around here. And they were the best run-defense in the league.
“We all want to make big plays. We still have to get used to this offense. But coach Linehan is known for his explosive offense, so that’s not going to change. We’ve got 81 and 80 (wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce) on the outside. With the running game looking the way it is, I think we have a chance to be one of the most explosive offenses in the league.
“It’s scary good. We just have to tie some things down in the red zone. But I think we have a scary future on our hands.”
Just how scary remains to be seen.
Re: Rams close down Jones Dome circus
Every article containing Bulger statements that I've read lead me to believe Bulger is under more pressure than before. MM wanted Bulger to take chances and not to worry about the turnovers. SL is just the opposite as Bulger has stated several times. Sounds like Linehan is not going to tolerate the Ints and fumbles. This is a huge adjustment for Bulger. As he says it will work itself out in time. Again it's only been 1 awesome game by the defense but if the D can continue to play solid and Bulger gains the confidence we will have an awfully good team with the sky being the limit.
Re: Rams close down Jones Dome circusOne, this Rams team has the possibility of playing rock-solid defense for the first time since the club moved to St. Louis in 1995.LET'S GO DODGERS