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Thread: Rams get rundown feeling
Rams get rundown feeling
BY JIM THOMAS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
One of the most encouraging parts of last week's Rams victory over the New York Jets was a strong run defense and a strong running attack on offense. Apparently, those parts of the Rams' game were left back in the Meadowlands, possibly buried in the New Jersey swamps somewhere near Jimmy Hoffa.
What the fans in a half-filled Edward Jones Dome saw Friday night looked suspiciously like the 2-14 product that led to a massive offseason housecleaning in Earth City. That was particularly true on defense, where the Rams couldn't stop the run against Atlanta in a 20-13 exhibition loss to the Falcons — at least not when Michael Turner was in the game.
When it comes to the Rams and Falcons, not much has changed since last December. In other words, the St. Louis defense still wants no part of Turner
When the teams met in the 2008 regular-season finale, Turner scorched the Rams for 208 yards rushing in a 31-27 Atlanta victory in the Georgia Dome. Largely because of Turner's efforts that day, the Rams ended '08 not-so-proud possessors of a single-season franchise record for most rushing yards allowed.
Turner looked right at home against the Rams. He carried seven times for 65 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, and then called it a night. On the second play from scrimmage, Turner ran through a gaping hole off right tackle for 43 yards to the St. Louis 34.
Seven plays and two first downs later, Turner scored from a yard out against token resistance from the Rams' defense. After a good outing last week against the Jets, it was not the kind of run defense that coach Steve Spagnuolo wanted.
"We've got a proud group of guys," Spagnuolo said of the defense. "No matter where the holes were, I'm going to give Atlanta some credit, No. 1. But I do think our guys will tell you that they would've liked to have tackled better. That's just defensive football, and you've got to tackle."
All in all, Friday's game looked much more like preseason football than the Rams' 23-20 victory over the Jets last week.
There were more penalties, more turnovers, and just more sloppy play.
"Like I said to the team, we would've liked to have started the game a lot better," Spagnuolo said. "I think they realize that. We all realize that. But that's a good football team. When you play a good football team like that, well-coached and with good football players, you've got to come out and take it to them, and we didn't really do that."
With two starters out on the offensive line because of injury, the Rams got nothing going in the running game. Samkon Gado got the start based on his strong outing against the Jets, but could get nothing going. After another cameo appearance by Steven Jackson (three carries for 10 yards), Gado took over in the backfield for the rest of the half. But he managed only five yards on 12 carries, a far cry from his 93-yard effort last week.
Atlanta had no such problems moving the ball, by land or air. With speedy Jerious Norwood taking over for Turner for the rest of the first half, the Falcons had 101 yards rushing by halftime, just one yard less than St. Louis allowed in the entire preseason opener against the Jets.
"Their whole stable of backs complement each other really well," Rams defensive tackle Clifton Ryan said. "Turner has the combination of speed, power and quickness. You bring in Jerious Norwood, who's a change-of-pace back, likes to get to the outside and cut it up.
"There's a reason why they went to the playoffs last year and won 11 games. They came out and showed it tonight. They were a great measuring stick for us."
The Falcons wasted little time getting more points on the board, driving a methodical 70 yards for another TD on their second possession. This time, Atlanta struck through the air, with quarterback Matt Ryan completing five of six passes for 69 yards. The touchdown came on a 14-yard pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez, the longtime Kansas City Chief. Gonzalez, who's 6 feet 5, was mismatched against 5-10 Rams cornerback Tye Hill on the play.
That score made it 14-0 Falcons, and sent Ryan to the bench with a stellar 148.4 passer rating after two series and seven completions in eight attempts.
With Kyle Boller starting in place of the injured Marc Bulger at quarterback, the Rams managed only a 43-yard field goal by Josh Brown in the first half. The Rams reached Atlanta territory four times in five series in the half, but reached the red zone only once. And that trip ended in the Rams' first turnover of the preseason on a Gado fumble.
The Rams scored their only TD of the night on a 20-yard pass from Brock Berlin to Derek Stanley to start the third quarter. The Rams had a chance to tie in the closing minute of the game, but rookie quarterback Keith Null's pass to Sean Walker in the end zone was intercepted.:ramlogo:
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Re: Rams get rundown feeling
The Rams are sure to endure their share of struggles- a team doesn't come off a 2-14 campaign, clean house and immediately become contenders. They have a number of weaknesses and holes to address on both sides of the ball. The one thing that always drives me nuts is when guys don't tackle, and yesterday the Rams did a very poor job in this area. This won't sit well with Spagnuolo for any length of time.
They'll get better. Success must be measured in feet, not miles.
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