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    Rams Are Off To Faster Start

    Rams are off to faster starts

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    It wasn't long ago that the Rams began games like the tortoise against the hare. Only in this football fable, the tortoise didn't rally at the end.

    In five of the previous six seasons, the Rams were outscored overall in the first quarter. Playing from behind became a way of life, and on more than one occasion quarterback Marc Bulger talked about needing a few possessions on offense to figure things out.

    Trouble was, by that time the Rams might be down by seven, 10 or 14 points. Things were at their lopsided worst last season under rookie head coach Steve Spagnuolo.

    The Rams were outscored 87-16 in the opening quarter in 2009. They didn't even score a first-quarter point until Game 6 in Jacksonville and by season's end had only one touchdown and three field goals to show for 16 opening quarters.

    Things have changed in a big way this season. Instead of false starts, the Rams are now specializing in fast starts. Center Jason Brown says it's all a matter of "coming out and hitting our opponents square in the face and letting them know that we're here to play."

    Through six games in 2010, the Rams have outscored their opponents 34-3 in the first quarter, and the quick starts are a major reason for the team's early season return to respectability.

    "Playing from behind is tough," right guard Adam Goldberg said. "This game's a lot easier when you play with the lead. Your defense can be more aggressive. Was it a point of emphasis? No. But our playmakers are explosive. They come out and they make plays early. And there's the lead."

    As he reviewed what took place in 2009 at the start of last offseason, Spagnuolo said he did not make it a specific goal to do better in the opening quarter. After all, based on what happened during a 1-15 campaign, the first, second, third and fourth quarters all needed fixing.

    "I can honestly say that wasn't an emphasis," Spagnuolo said. "We do always talk about starting fast and having a mind-set coming out of the locker room. I just hope it continues."

    The 34 points scored in the first quarter is sixth best in the NFL this season. The Rams' three points allowed is second best in the league, trailing only the New York Jets, who have yet to allow a first-quarter point. And the Rams' point differential of plus-31 in the opening quarter is third best in the league, exceeded only by New Orleans (plus-40) and Green Bay (plus-34).

    "I know from the defensive standpoint, it's certainly easier to call a game when you're ahead," Spagnuolo said. "And you take a few more chances on offense, I know, when you're ahead. I think it makes everybody feel a little more confident."

    Were it not for an unsuccessful onside kick to open Game 5 against Detroit, the Rams might be right there with the Jets in terms of pitching six first-quarter shutouts. The Lions recovered at the St. Louis 41 and a couple of first downs later settled for a 30-yard field goal by Jason Hanson and a 3-0 lead.

    That's the only time the Rams have trailed in the first quarter this season. All of last season, they led only three times in the opening quarter against Jacksonville, Detroit and in their first game against Arizona.

    "I don't know if there is a reason for that," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "Obviously, it's a good thing for us when we do get out to leads. Any time that you can get up quick and start to put pressure on the other team, I think you're in a good situation."

    So far, Bradford has displayed a better knack for keeping drives alive and finishing drives than Bulger did at least the Bulger of his final three seasons in St. Louis. All teams script their opening sequence of plays, and it could be that offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has been doing a better job with that this season.

    Defensively, the Rams have come out of the gates aggressively. That was especially true against San Diego when Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked three times in the first quarter, twice by blitzers.

    "We didn't want him to feel comfortable, especially early in the game back there," safety Craig Dahl said.

    But there is no one reason for the faster starts. Dahl laughed when it was suggested that the Rams simply are chugging energy drinks during pregame.

    "Maybe we need to save a couple for halftime now and come out (strong) in the second half," Dahl said.

    That's one of the points of emphasis this week at Rams Park, avoiding those frequent sluggish starts in the third quarter.

    "I think that's kind of the thing that concerns us right now," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "You look at Arizona. You look at Oakland. You look at even this last week (against San Diego). Obviously, Detroit was bad all the way round."

    The Rams were outscored 27-0 in the third quarter of those four games.

    "So that's something we're focusing on is the second halves as a team," Laurinaitis said. "How do we get better?"

  2. #2
    Trevor's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Are Off To Faster Start

    So the question remains, is Spags too conservative in the 2nd half??

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