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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Rams Enjoying Turnover Turnaround

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Like clockwork, the turnover battle in the NFL has become such an oft-cited statistic in determining winners and losers that it’s almost become cliché. Yet, at the end of every week of games in the NFL, the old alibi of turning the ball over less than the opponent still rings true when it comes to winning and losing.

    Simply put, win the turnover battle and, more often than not, you win games. The Rams are 2-1 after Sunday’s wild 16-14 victory against Arizona and it’s no coincidence that in their two victories, they have forced their opponent to put the ball on the ground or in their hands.

    “The game is about having the ball and turnover ratio and time of possession and things like that,” linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. “I think that’s why we are so successful right now because we are getting that ball and giving our team more opportunities to make big plays.”

    Indeed. Soon after the hiring of Scott Linehan as head coach, Linehan made it clear he wanted to have a defensive team capable of attacking and creating chances and an offense that could make big plays but protect the ball.

    Offensively, the Rams have made great strides in that area this season. With the exception of a pair of fumbles by quarterback Marc Bulger and one from receiver Shaun McDonald, the Rams’ offense has ended every drive this season with some sort of kick, be it an extra point, field goal or punt.

    Bulger has been especially good with ball security as he has not thrown an interception in any of the three games. Dating to last season, Bulger has gone four straight games without throwing an interception, something that hasn’t been done by a Ram since Chris Miller opened the season that way in 1995, the team’s first year in St. Louis.

    As an offshoot of that ball control, the Rams are sixth in the league in time of possession, averaging 32 minutes and 31 seconds of ball ownership per game. In other words, even when Bulger is misfiring he’s doing it in a way that prevents the opponent from making a big defensive play. In turn, the Rams keep the ball and can continue to feed running back Steven Jackson.

    “I feel very good about the fact that our quarterback hasn’t thrown any interceptions in three games,” Linehan said. “He’s getting better and better every week. This week was his best week. He’s managing our running game and that’s one reason I think our running game has been very efficient and effective.”

    On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams have been searching for an answer to their lack of turnovers and aggressiveness since the departure of former coordinator Lovie Smith to Chicago after the 2003 season.

    Enter Jim Haslett, the former head coach in New Orleans with a reputation for feisty, aggressive, ball hawking defenses. With plenty of support from management in the form of contracts doled out to the likes of Will Witherspoon, Fakhir Brown, La’Roi Glover and Corey Chavous, the Rams set out to create the type of defense that could wreak havoc and put Linehan’s offense in position to put up points.

    Haslett’s system is predicated on getting after the quarterback and forcing him to make bad decisions that result in turnovers or hanging on to the ball and ending up on his back.

    So far, so good.

    “I think we are pleased,” Haslett said. “That’s kind of how this defense is built. We do a lot of different things and are kind of aggressive. We give up some big plays once in a while but we get some, too. Our defense has done a good job of getting interceptions and I think there are more opportunities for fumbles if we concentrate a little more on stripping the ball but we have done a good job of that so far.”

    Leave it to Haslett to not be totally satisfied with a defense that so far has wrestled 10 takeaways, six on interceptions and four by way of fumble recoveries. Sure, sometimes it takes just being in the right place at the right time as linebacker Dexter Coakley was on his interception in the end zone on Sunday, but a lot of it is the product of Haslett and his defensive staff putting those players in a position to make the plays and those players following through and converting the opportunities into plays.

    Nowhere is that more evident than in the red zone. While the offense hasn’t yet clicked inside the opponent’s 20, the defense seems to have found something that works. Four of the Rams’ 10 takeaways have come inside their own 20.

    Haslett said after the five-takeaway display against Denver that the defense rarely gets to work on red zone defense, but for whatever reason, his unit continues to tighten up at the most important of times.

    “We have a great group of guys that are on the same page and I think in the red zone that is what it comes down to,” Tinoisamoa said. “Everyone is playing their position and playing their role and good things are happening. Everyone is on the same page and clicking.”

    With the takeaways piling up and the turnovers kept to a minimum, the Rams are first in the NFC and second in the league in turnover ratio at plus-seven. That is the type of performance that will directly correlate to wins.

    In the season opener against Denver, the Rams were plus-five and won 18-10. Against San Francisco in week two, they were even and lost. Against Arizona on Sunday they were plus-two and came away with a 16-14 win.

    Maybe the turnover formula isn’t an exact science when it comes to translation to wins and losses, but it’s about as close as you can get to an average indicator of what could happen on the field every week.

    “Every game…we talk about it as coaches all the time about how hard it is to win games in the NFL,” Linehan said. “It’s hard to win. Sometimes we make it hard on ourselves, but it’s amazing how close, really, the games are, regardless of records or who’s playing who. Every game comes down to some critical play.

    “They were able to create turnovers and that certainly gave us a chance to win this week by winning the turnover battle,” Linehan said. “That’s the case every week.”


  2. #2
    bruce4life's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Enjoying Turnover Turnaround

    more times than not when a team in the nfl wins the turnover battle they are going to a productive ball club

  3. #3
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    Re: Rams Enjoying Turnover Turnaround

    Nowhere is that more evident than in the red zone. While the offense hasn’t yet clicked inside the opponent’s 20, the defense seems to have found something that works. Four of the Rams’ 10 takeaways have come inside their own 20.
    This comment says it all, and why the Rams are 2-1, and not 0-3. Four "steals" inside your own redzone in three games is absolutely huge. That's a potential 28 points the Rams turned away, and when you win your games by a total of 10 points, well, I'm sure you get the picture....

    Until the Rams get their offense together, we need to keep the heat up. ...and when the offense starts to really click, we need to turn it up even more.
    Faithful Rams fan since 1968

  4. #4
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    Re: Rams Enjoying Turnover Turnaround

    So what does it sound like when the offense starts to click?

    Does it sound like the clicking of a gas stove getting ready to light?

    Is it steady like a clock ticking?

    I can't get the clicking out of my head now.....
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  5. #5
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    Re: Rams Enjoying Turnover Turnaround

    Quote Originally Posted by UtterBlitz View Post
    So what does it sound like when the offense starts to click?
    You'll know it when you hear it.

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    Re: Rams Enjoying Turnover Turnaround

    Quote Originally Posted by UtterBlitz View Post
    So what does it sound like when the offense starts to click?

    I think it's the sound of the ceiling fan beating against my hands as I jump with my hands in the air due to another touchdown...

    (Done it before. Surprised I haven't had to replace it yet. Or broken a finger...)

    This space for rent...

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    Re: Rams Enjoying Turnover Turnaround

    The concerning thing for me is that the law of averages usually raises it's ugly head. We have won 2 close games with a nice advantage in the TO dept..
    We lost to the Whiners with the TO's being even.

    I'll take the W's anyway we can get them, however I would like to see a convincing win. Hopefully this Sunday while I'm at the Dome vs. Lions.

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