By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
10/01/2007

Marc Bulger is still the Rams starting quarterback. Running back Steven Jackson is still sidelined by his partially torn groin muscle.

Guard Richie Incognito is expected to start his first game at right guard . . . but right tackle Adam Goldberg will miss at least a month with his sprained knee. Brandon Gorin or Milford Brown will start in his place and Andy McCollum will continue seeing more work at guard.

Cornerback Fakhir Brown will return to the starting lineup coming back from his NFL suspension and Lenny Walls will move to the bench.

“He’s been working very hard during his suspension,” Rams coach Scott Linehan said of Brown. “He’s been able to train here.”

Receiver Dane Looker will definitely miss the Cardinals game with a thigh contusion and Isaac Bruce is iffy with his hamstring strain. Also, the status of safety Corey Chavous and defensive end James Hall (pectoral muscle injuries) is unknown.

That was the news Monday at Rams Park. Here is what the coaches had to say about the state of the team:


LINEHAN

On the state of the team: “There is an old saying, ‘it is what it is.’ I guess that’s where we’re at right now. There’s not a whole lot to say other than relive and rehash the last four weeks as to how we got here. There are a lot of things that go away from us, especially in the second half of games. We’ve got that get that changed if we expect to win.

“Today is the first day of October, right. It’s a new month. It’s a new quarter of the season. We do have Game 5 of the season coming up. Things do change drastically in this league by just putting it all together. Once you do that, you get rid of that bad taste in your mouth.”

On refusing to bench the battered Bulger: “The decision was made based on whether he was capable of doing his job. Last year he played with a very similar injury and he played his best football. He’s our quarterback. So if he’s not in the game, we feel we’ve not given ourselves the best chance to win.

“He was feeling better. He had a much better week of practice last week . . . we’ve got to get him playing good again. That’s a big part of what we’ve to do. And he’s getting healthier, so hopefully that will happen. We’ve got to pick up the pieces. That guy has won a lot of games for us, played extremely well for us last year. We haven’t gotten him off and running yet this year. I take responsibility for that.

“Last year he threw 21 touchdown passes in the red zone without an interceptions. This year we’ve already had a couple of turnovers down there. We’ve got to get back to that. We have not changed play types . . . we have not changed anything. We have to change our execution. It all comes down to that.”

On Bulger’s red-zone interception: “Probably forced that one, from my vantage point. Trying to make something that isn’t there happen and that’s what we can’t do. Sometimes you don’t see the picture clearly.”

On getting away from the shotgun formation against the Cowboys: “We use shotgun. That will always be a big part of what we do in our third downs and two-minute (drill). Some of that had a lot more to do with how they were attacking our protections.”

On his ill-fated replay challenge: “They had seen the replay in the booth, but they had not seen the ball come out. They saw him go down . . . and then the next replay showed the ball coming out. You can mark that one on me.”

On Jeff Wilkins’ slump: “You coach him and encourage him. You can’t assume 14-year vets or guys that have been to Pro Bowls . . . are not human. First quarter of the season has been a struggle in a number of things. The one I never would have thought . . . would be at that position. You just have to coach him and encourage him. You have to stick by your convictions with players at every position.”

On whether he was happy with Greg Olson’s playcalling: “I’m happy with how hard Greg and our offensive staff are working. Our results are not there. It’s pretty obvious to everybody. We have to continue to find the right buttons and we have not done that. We fell way, way, way short of our expectations. The thing I’ll tell you about Greg, he is a very accountable person who is really, really disappointed with how things have gone on offense . . . we talk about it hourly, daily. We’ve got to make some adjustments as far as how we get our guys ready to go. I think we start with great intensity. We just aren’t able to maintain anything. We get to the second half and we’re a non factor.”

On his team’s conditioning and injury trouble: “I think we’re in very good condition. For some reason, we haven’t been able to stay healthy . . . you know, the injuries are all different. If we were having a bunch of soft tissue injuries and leg injuries and calves and things like that, I’d be very concerned about it. But we’ve had the most bizarre difference of injuries I’ve seen.”

On the kick return success: “There really wasn’t a whole lot of change. We just didn’t have the one guy turning the one guy loose, which makes it look like everybody else is coming unblocked.”

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JIM HASLETT

On the return of Fakhir Brown: “It’ll be good to have him back. He’s been around working out. He’s in pretty good shape. He’s a big guy with good speed, toughness, knows the system. He is big guy who can bring people down. He’ll be a little raw because he hasn’t done much. With three or four practices, he should be fine.”

On James Hall and Leonard Little failing to sack Tony Romo on his runaway center snap: “James took a bad angle originally on the ball and knocked Leonard off. Then Tony pump faked and Raonall (Smith) missed a tackle. Really, you have to give Tony Romo a lot of credit . . . I thought it was a great play on his part and poor decision by our ends not getting him down off the bat. We really had him cuffed. It’s one of those times . . . we don’t practice that play. Put it on me.”

On using Adam Carriker more at defensive tackle and less at nose tackle: “Cliff (Ryan) is really a true, true nose tackle and Adam in the long run will be a better “three” technique. Ultimately, someday, hopefully it will be those two guys will be in there. It will be their jobs.”

On the overall defensive effort: “If you would tell me at the end of the game that they had 502 yards offense and (Terrell Owens) had 33 and neither back had over 50, I’d say you’re crazy. So obviously we didn’t do a good job on the quarterback and we didn’t do a very good job on the other players they had around him. I thought we did a good job on T.O and we did a pretty job on (Jason) Witten . . . and then the running game, going in at halftime and they had 34, 38 yards rushing and the quarterback had 24 of them.

“If they are going to beat you, you try to make them beat you without their great players, their main players, the T.O.s, the Romos, the Wittens, those type of guys. And they did, which is disappointing.”

On LennyWalls missing an open-field tackle on Patrick Crayton: “We’re playing ‘zero’ coverage. We’ve got a blitz on. Quarterback steps up and he throws an eight-yard curl on third-and-10 and we miss the tackle and the guy runs for a touchdown. Obviously, you can’t miss a tackle on zero coverage because there is no one left. Poor decision, poor tackle.”

On the progress of rookie cornerback Jonathan Wade: “He is getting better. With Tye (Hill) and Fakhir being out . . . we didn’t have plans to play Jon this early. But Jonathan getting all this work and Ron (Bartell) getting all this work, it’s going to make them better in the long run. They getting a lot of experience a little bit before you want them to get experience, they’ll be good players in the long run for it.”

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR SCOTT OLSON

On his unit’s struggle: “Everybody is searching for answers, I think players and coaches alike. We’re all in the business of solving problems. We’ve got to do a better job of solving problems here. We’ve to do better in our preparations, do better in our execution and find a way to score points.

“I would be disappointed if they weren’t frustrated, if they weren’t disappointed right now with our inability to score points. In that room right there, I feel good about my relationship with the players. As I explained to them today, there are a lot of same guys in the room there that finished up last season. We’ve just got to put it together, come together as unit and I’ve got to put him in better position to be successful and being able to score points.”

On not yanking Bulger sooner: “You’ve to believe Marc Bulger and Marc’s been honest with us. There is no reason not to believe Marc. Marc says ‘hey I can go.’ I believe in Marc Bulger. I believe his word. As you go back and review the tape, often times there is not a lot of time for him. Healthy ribs or not, we have to protect him better.”

On getting Bulger going again: “We’ve got to help him out. We have to protect Marc Bulger. He’s at his best . . . he is a true pocket passer. He’s not a real creative-type quarterback in terms of movement in the pocket. He’s at his best when he is able to sit in the pocket and pick defenses apart. No. 1, when you are game-planning for Marc, you have to find the best way you can to protect him so he has a chance to throw the football and see the field. We have to get better at that, where he doesn’t feel rushed in the pocket.

“We just have to protect him better. I wouldn’t use the word skittish. There’s times we’ve had protection breakdowns where he’s had to make quicker decisions than maybe he’s had to in the past.”

On doing this with a makeshift line: “We have no other options right now. We’re going to play with what we have. There’s different ways to do that. We’ve just got to find the best way to keep him protected.”

On Drew Bennett running the wrong route on a key play: “There is no excuse for that . . . so we’ve got to straighten that out.”

On Brian Leonard’s play: “He did probably . . . above-average grade . . . kind of gave us what we expected. Missed a couple of cuts, a couple of checkdowns he could have been better on. For the most part, a rookie starting his first full game at tailback, we kind of got what we through we’d get out of him.”

On the possibility on using Antonio Pittman more: “We got him some reps last week in practice. There was a time there during the game where we felt we may have to use him. Yesterday Brian (Leonard) stiffened up a little and there was a chance he may have to go. That ended up not being the case. We’re trying to get him up to speed. We’ll see where that leads.”