Rams Looking Ahead
Monday, October 27, 2008
By Nick Wagoner
The difference was immediately palpable in the Rams locker room following Sunday’s disappointing 23-16 loss to New England.
By all accounts, it was a game the Rams could have won. Some might go so far as to say it was a game they should have won.
But missed opportunities created by defensive takeaways, a fourth down stop and a successful onsides kick resulted in just six points. Quarterback Marc Bulger and the offense simply couldn’t adjust to the Patriots’ defensive adjustments, missing some scoring chances that could have put the game away.
And the Patriots dominated the field position game in the fourth quarter, taking command of a game tied at 16 by winning the special teams battle.
Despite those miscues adding up to one missed opportunity and a loss that drops the Rams to 2-5 on the season, there was nary a head hanging or a tear shed.
No, these Rams are different. While it will take another week to see how they truly respond to their first loss under coach Jim Haslett’s watch, all indications from the losing locker room pointed toward a quick rebound and re-focus.
“I sense a big difference,” running back Antonio Pittman said. “After a hard fought game like this, a while ago we probably would have tanked it, held our heads down. But we are looking forward to being at home and going against Arizona.”
Almost to a man, various Rams repeated that mantra again and again. It was a scene that in no way resembled the one after losses to Philadelphia, New York, Seattle or Buffalo.
Since he was named head coach on Sept. 29, Haslett has repeatedly told his team that there will come a time when adversity must be faced head on.
That adversity has revealed itself time and again in games. And almost every time, the Rams have responded in a positive fashion and overcome it on the way to a win.
Even during those comments, though, Haslett always made sure to warn that success can be fleeting and that the Rams wouldn’t win every game.
The true measure of the team, then, would come when they are responding from the ultimate form of adversity in the NFL: a loss.
“We are not going to win them all,” Haslett said. “Not too many people do in this league.”
While Sunday’s loss was discouraging for a number of reasons, not the least of which were four golden opportunities in the third quarter to put the Patriots away only to come up with a pair of field goals, Haslett was extremely pleased with the team’s effort.
A month ago, Sunday’s loss might have been a rousing moral victory for the Rams. But this is a different Rams team and the attitude in the locker room, while disappointed, was far from bleak.
“I thought they were disappointed,” Haslett said. “They thought we could go out there and win this game. We didn’t do it and now they get another challenge ahead. Come back Wednesday, get your head on straight and go to work. Let’s load up and see what happens.”
What happens this week is an immediate opportunity for the Rams to forcefully elbow their way back into the NFC West Division race.
A win against New England would have put the Rams in position to play Arizona this week for first place. While that didn’t happen, the Cardinals did lose to Carolina on the road.
Arizona travels to St. Louis this week to play the Rams, a benefit Haslett would like to take advantage of considering the Cardinals’ 1-3 performance on the road.
“The team we are playing this week is a good football team,” Haslett said. We have our work cut out for us. The good thing is it’s a division game, it’s at home, obviously we will need our crowd and we can take advantage of that because they’ve had some struggles on the road. I’m disappointed we lost yesterday; I thought we played well enough that we could have won the game. We didn’t play well enough in the fourth quarter to win the game but I’m excited about the opportunity to play this team and I think our players will be ready to play.”
Getting ready to play and being upbeat about where they stand doesn’t seem like it will be a problem for the Rams.
Despite the disappointing loss to New England, all things are still possible for the Rams.
Looking through any NFL schedule and trying to mark wins and losses along the way is an exercise in futility but a glance at what the Rams have left leaves plenty of hope for optimism.
In the next nine games, the Rams will play five division games (three at home), five total home games and face nine opponents with a combined record of 23-27.
“I like that we have this opportunity to play teams in our division and I think the next five or six weeks will tell us where we are going to be,” Haslett said. “I told you when I took over that we will try to do whatever we have got to do to win games. If it’s go for it on fourth and one, if it’s doing onside kick, it’s whatever we have got to do to try to win the game. We will do whatever we have got to do. That kind of holds true for the rest of the year so we’ll see what happens.”
Three games into his run as the head coach; Haslett’s attitude is clearly being embraced by his team.
“In our division, if we take care of business we can still get to where we need to be,” Bulger said. “We are not there now but we dug that hole at the beginning. Having all those teams in the division still coming up is big.”
The first chance to handle that business comes Sunday.
Re: Rams Looking Ahead
They had their opportunities. They could have won that game. It was killing me seeing Steven Jackson on the sidelines when we really needed him. I wonder whether it was the right decision to sit him for this game.
I guess it is good the we play in the division that we do and that the cards lost also.
Re: Rams Looking Ahead
I thought the thing that hurt us the most was not having Carriker and Little.
Allowing the Patriots to score 23 points with Cassel at the helm along with their 4th string runningback is sickening.