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    Rams fall short

    Rams fall short
    By Jim Thomas

    Rams quarterback Marc Bulger (10) is sacked for an 11-yard loss by Marques Douglas (center) in the fourth quarter of the Rams' 17-16 loss to San Francisco at the Edward Jones Dome.
    (David Carson/P-D)

    The wheels didn't fall off Sunday, but they were wobbly. Very wobbly. For the second week in a row, the Rams' "drive" to the playoffs veered dangerously off course.

    This time, a 17-16 loss to San Francisco left the Rams in an 0-2 ditch, and about to engage in a stretch of six road contests over the next eight games. For those keeping score, only four of the past 60 teams to start a season 0-2 have reached the postseason. And only one of those four ó the 2003 Philadelphia Eagles ó lost their first two home games as the Rams have done. What now?

    "Like anybody else, you've got to go home, feel the pain, look at the tape, and then decide what you want to do," place-kicker Jeff Wilkins said.

    Do you start pointing fingers, and give in to frustration? Or ... Advertisement

    "Do we want to turn it around and get it going, which I know these guys in the locker room want to do," Wilkins said.

    One of the game's best kickers over the past decade, and one of the best long-distance kickers in NFL history, Wilkins barely fell short of what would have been a game-winning, 56-yard field goal with 1 minute to play.

    Before that miss, Wilkins had made an astounding 24 of 33 field goals from 50 yards or longer, including a 53-yarder Sunday to give the Rams a 16-14 lead with 10 minutes, 4 seconds to play.

    At this stage of his career, Wilkins' maximum range usually is 53, 54 yards. But on fourth-and-3 from the San Francisco 38, coach Scott Linehan decided on trying the 56-yarder instead of attempting to gain another first down.

    "I knew I was at the end of my rope as they say," Wilkins said. "But I was hoping the adrenaline would kick in and give me another yard or two (of distance)."

    Wilkins meant to say "end of his range," and not "end of his rope." Truth be told, Linehan was near the end of his rope after another wrenching defeat.

    "We haven't finished two weeks in a row," Linehan said. "That falls on the head coach. We've got to find ways, when we've got a lead to sustain it and finish off games. It's my responsibility. It's on my shoulders.

    "We will stay positive. We will work hard daily, like I always tell you. Right? We will continue to work on solutions to problems and not focus on the negative. Because there's going to be a lot of negative, and deservedly so. We're 0-2. We expect that. It comes with the territory."

    Known for his cool, even-keeled demeanor, Linehan answered questions afterward with jaw clenched and right leg tapping nervously as he stood at the podium. But Linehan didn't stand there for long. Less than 4 minutes into his postgame news conference, when asked about the frustration of moving the ball but not punching it in for touchdowns, Linehan answered thusly:

    "I'm frustrated because we're losing. Punching it in is part of it. We've got to score more points to win. So if you want to ask me how frustrating it is ... it sucks."

    With that, Linehan walked out of the room. He left before anyone asked him why running back Steven Jackson was so angry at the end of the Rams' second-to-last offensive series in the fourth quarter.

    On third-and-7 from the Rams' 43 with 2:47 to play, quarterback Marc Bulger threw incomplete to Drew Bennett. Jackson apparently was open over the middle. Jackson came off the field, yelling at Linehan. He had to be restrained by a Rams assistant coach, and later tossed his helmet on the sidelines.

    Jackson left the locker room without answering questions from reporters. Similarly, wide receiver Torry Holt, who lost a costly fumble after a 20-yard gain to the San Francisco 8 in the third quarter, left the locker room without speaking to reporters. Normally, both are available for questions, in good times and bad.

    But on the day in which the Rams more than doubled San Francisco's yardage total (392 to 186), and led 13-7 until late in the third quarter, the final score was a bitter pill.

    Before abruptly ending his news conference, Linehan blamed himself for instructing Bulger to spike the football on a first-and-10 from the San Francisco 45 three plays before Wilkins' missed 56-yarder. The Rams were out of timeouts, but there was still plenty of time remaining ó 1 minutes, 15 seconds ó when Bulger spiked.

    "I wish I had the down back now," Linehan said. "I felt in two plays we'd get the first down and keep driving, I did not want to rush it. If I had to do it all over again, I'd probably call a play."

    What Linehan didn't expect was a sack. After the spike, Bulger was dropped for a 7-yard loss by Bryant Young. It was the sixth sack of the day for the *****, who repeatedly assaulted the Rams' perimeter with extra pass rushers on blitzes.

    On third-and-17 following the sack, Bulger completed a 14-yard pass to Isaac Bruce, resulting in the fourth-and-3 dilemma, and the decision to send Wilkins out for the kick. But like the Rams' day as a whole, the kick was just short.
    Last edited by Rambos; -09-17-2007 at 02:06 PM.

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