Rams face tough road but vow to let loss go

BY JIM THOMAS
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

After each of the Rams' initial three road losses this season, they responded with a victory at home the following Sunday. Doing it a fourth time won't be easy given the fact that the opponent this week in the Edward Jones Dome is Atlanta, which has the best record in the NFC (7-2) and one of the best offenses in the NFL.

And after that one-week "break" at home? It's back on the road for three straight Sundays. Unless something changes on the road, a doomsday sequence could unfold that has the Rams staring at 4-9 by mid-December.

The road losses have become so numbing, could there be a danger of them becoming a mental thing with the players?

"No, not if we don't let it," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I don't think our guys (will). They just go out and play."

Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe doesn't think what happened in Tampa Bay or Oakland, or even Detroit had any impact on what happened Sunday in San Francisco, a 23-20 overtime loss.

"I don't believe it was a mental thing because we fought down to the wire," Atogwe said. "We believed we were going to win. It didn't happen that way."

And he doesn't believe what happened in San Francisco will affect what happens at Denver (Nov. 28), at Arizona (Dec. 5), at New Orleans (Dec. 12) or at Seattle (Jan. 2) in the four remaining road games of the season.

"The same fight that was in us (against San Francisco) will be the same fight in us for the rest of the season home or away," Atogwe said. "And we'll get our wins because that's the stuff that makes champions."

Similarly, defensive end Chris Long said the San Francisco loss may have hurt the Rams in the NFC West standings but did nothing to diminish the team's confidence.

"Defensively we had two opportunities to win this game," Long said, in apparent reference to the final two San Francisco possessions of the game. "That's why I believe that loss rests a lot of it on our shoulders. We've got some standup guys in that (defensive) room. And we'll sit there and we'll look each other in the eye and we'll see what we've got to get better at."

And then go out and try to do just that get better despite another disheartening loss.

"Nobody in here's going to go nuts on it," Long said. "It's a long football season. I believe we're a good team. We've got a ways to go. We've got a big game coming up next Sunday against a great (Atlanta) team.

"So if we're busy going crazy and feeling sorry for ourselves, we're going to get our butts kicked. But if we prepare like we're capable of preparing, we can compete in that game. ... We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves."

Like many coaches, Spagnuolo has a "24-hour"rule. Think about the game that just took place, think about what happened in that game, good or bad, for the next day. Then it's over. It's on to the next task and the next opponent. However, it will be interesting to see how the players respond this week after a loss in the Rams' most meaningful game in years.

Will there be a ***** hangover? Or will the team dive headlong into Falcons preparations?

"I'm going to continue to work hard, continue to use a baseball analogy just keep swinging away," Steven Jackson said. "Hopefully we connect on one. That's all you really can do. I just always try to lead by example. Always try to run hard. Always try to execute each and every play and leave everything out there on the field."

As for the team as a whole, Jackson said there's only one course of action.

"Stick together," he said. "Everyone stick together. Everyone trust what we're trying to get done, what we're trying to establish here. We've got seven games to go. Although this is a tough one to swallow, we've still got to go out there and play hard. We're still in the middle of things."

Left tackle Rodger Saffold said: "We're getting so close. I think once we get this (first victory) on the road, we're going to explode."

But to do that, the Rams must learn how to finish.

"I think it goes on each man," Atogwe said. "Each man during the crunch time when the game's on the line, just doing what they do, but finding a way to do it better. Sometimes just the little things a step here, a step there, having better eyes on this play, reading your key on that play can change the outcome of a game."