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  1. #1
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    Rams Get Defensive in Opening Win

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Defense, Defense, Defense. As that foreign chant rained down from the 65,977 fans at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday, the oft-maligned unit of years past basked in the glow of a dominating performance that ultimately led to victory.

    After two years of relying on a high-powered offense to carry them to victory, the Rams turned to their newfound high-pressure, opportunity-creating defensive unit to carry them to an impressive 18-10 win against Denver on Sunday.

    With the win, the Rams’ won the first game of the Scott Linehan era and improved to 1-0. And, apparently, the Linehan era signifies a whole new type of football.

    “It’s big,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “I look back at three years ago; we led the league in takeaways. I certainly put us in some bad positions that year and they bailed me out. You need special teams, you need defense, you need offense to be a contender in this league. You don’t want to be overly excited with one game, but for Coach Linehan’s sake, I think we have put together with Coach (Jim) Haslett coming in, we have the defense and a marked improvement on special teams. I think we are going to be a lot more well rounded than years past.”

    For the Rams to be well-rounded, they will need to get a better performance from the offense, particularly in the red zone, but it has been a few years since Bulger has been able to say that a defense has bailed out a Rams team.

    And Sunday belonged to the defense and the special teams. The Rams held Denver’s offense, widely considered one of the best and most balanced in the league, to 259 yards. More important, though, was the fact that the defense was able to create five turnovers and come up with four sacks.

    Linehan has preached the virtues of winning the turnover battle basically since his arrival in St. Louis and it paid off Sunday.

    “I think these were some pretty interesting style points in how we won today,” Linehan said. “With the way our defense came out and pretty much dominated the game, when they had to dig down, they stopped them and got turnovers.”

    It has been said that there was no more important offseason acquisition for the Rams than the addition of Haslett. That would seem to be the case Sunday were it not for the numerous plays made by linebacker Will Witherspoon, cornerback Fakhir Brown, safety Corey Chavous, etc.

    Pretty much the entire defense showed up early and often with big plays. Defensive end Leonard Little disrupted the Broncos’ first drive with a 9-yard sack on third down. He followed that by really hampering Denver’s second drive with another sack. This time, he jarred the ball loose and after a mad scramble, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa came up with it at the Broncos’ 3.

    In other words, it didn’t take long for Little to get the rest of the defense ready for a big day.

    “Nobody on this planet gave us a chance to win this game, but we as a defense had to come together today and show people that we are going to be a defensive team that’s going to have to be reckoned with this year,” Little said.

    After the first quarter domination that left the Rams with a 3-0 lead, the defense only continued its impressive display. Whether it be a Tye Hill interception, a Fakhir Brown sack, an Anthony Hargrove sack, a Corey Chavous interception or whatever, the Rams defense continued to make big plays for the rest of the game.

    All in all, the Rams were able to keep the Broncos offense off balance and kept on coming strong through four quarters. Make no mistake, there were a couple of hiccups along the way including some long runs (the Broncos averaged 6.4 yards per carry), but the Rams came away making the type of statement they wanted to make.

    “It says a lot about us,” Hill said. “It says a lot about our personality, the way we are going to play. We have great chemistry here with the personnel brought in.”

    That defensive performance was especially important Sunday considering the continued struggles of the first-team offense. After a preseason in which the Rams first-team offense failed to score on any of its 11 opportunities, that unit continued its trend of being unable to find the end zone.

    The Rams ventured into the Broncos’ red zone five times and each time came away with a field goal attempt. At various times, the Rams struggled with penalties or gave up an untimely sack, but either way it wasn’t the way the unit hoped to execute in Denver’s territory.

    “You get frustrated when you are so used to punching it in,” Bulger said. “You want touchdowns. You know those opportunities when the defense gets turnovers aren’t going to come that often.”

    Fortunately for the offense, those opportunities came early and often enough to put it in excellent field position for Wilkins’ field goals. Wilkins hit from 26, 38, 29, 51, 48 and 24 yards and had another attempt hit the upright after a penalty nullified what would have been his second field goal of the game.

    Despite the struggles finding the end zone, the Rams did some things well offensively. As promised, they were balanced, throwing 34 times and running 28 with 125 yards on the ground and 195 in the air.

    Running back Steven Jackson rushed for 125 yards on 22 attempts. Even though the running game stalled at times, Linehan stuck with Jackson and he was able to break some important runs late in the game.

    “Hats off to Coach Linehan and the offensive coordinator (Greg Olson),” Jackson said. “They stuck with the run. That’s something we are not used to around here.”

    Jackson wasn’t the only running back to come up with a big play to help preserve the victory. Clinging to a 15-10 lead in the fourth quarter, the Rams were given a reprieve when, on fourth-and-11 at their 11, Denver linebacker Patrick Chukwurah was whistled for a 15-yard roughing the kicker penalty on P Matt Turk.

    On third-and-6 from the St. Louis 30, Bulger hit backup running back Tony Fisher on a screen. Fisher took the pass and raced down the field accompanied by a cadre of blockers to Denver’s 21 for a gain of 49 yards. That set up Wilkins’ final field goal, this time from 24 yards out for the final margin.

    With the game still in question and the Broncos driving, Jake Plummer threw a ball intended for Rod Smith that was tipped by a diving Witherspoon. Brown intercepted the ball and the Rams and Jackson were able to run out the clock for the victory.

    The new Rams defenders made a strong first impression. In unofficial pressbox statistics, Witherspoon had nine tackles, a fumble forced and a pass defended. Brown had four tackles with a sack and an interception. Glover had five tackles while getting in on a number of pass rushing opportunities and Chavous chipped in a big interception.

    And though it was just one strong performance, the Rams believe it will carry over to the rest of the season.

    “I would credit the entire defensive staff and the players as well,” Linehan said. “Jim (Haslett) did a great job of preparing (our guys). Our defensive players have embraced everything we are doing. Half the battle is believing and it paid dividends today.”

  2. #2
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    Re: Rams Get Defensive in Opening Win

    Will Witherspoon for "Pro Bowl"!!!!!!!!!I'm calling it out now!!!

  3. #3
    LA Rammer's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Get Defensive in Opening Win

    Tye Hill rookie of the year!


    It's Jim not Chris

  4. #4
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    Re: Rams Get Defensive in Opening Win

    If L. Little stays healthy, he's bound to make the ProBowl too! Playing like he did...


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