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Rams OT win is a sign of progress
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Dec. 26 2006
Just as Rams long snapper Chris Massey hiked the ball to punter Matt Turk,
Washington flooded the middle of the line. Redskins safety Vernon Fox got
through to block the punt.
It was only the third Rams punt blocked since the franchise moved to St. Louis
in 1995, and the first since 2000. Washington scored two plays later to tie the
game 14-14 with 6 minutes, 14 seconds left in the first half.
"That was a tough change of momentum there," coach Scott Linehan said.
Plays like that can deflate a team, and it looked as if that would be the case
Sunday for the Rams. Washington tacked on two more touchdowns, taking a
28-14 lead six minutes into the second half. But the Rams' defense righted
itself in the third quarter, the offense kept pushing, and the Rams had a 37-31
"The biggest thing I was impressed with was the team's resiliency," offensive
tackle Todd Steussie said. "When things turned bad, it would have been easy to
pack it away and say, 'You know what? The season's almost over anyway.' But we
did not do that. We just kept on coming after it."
The team has crumbled in the past under similar circumstances. But not this
time. Winners of three of their last five games since a 15-0 debacle in
Carolina on Nov. 19, the Rams just might be showing signs of maturing as a team.
"No question," Linehan said. "I think you see a team since we played Carolina
that's gone back to the drawing board. Really worked on the little things. Come
together. And is focused on what we need to do to win games.
"So we're improving. Is it too late, or whatever? I don't know. We'll figure
that out. But we're still alive and in the hunt. And if we win this (Minnesota)
football game, then maybe we'll see the dividends of it. But I'm very pleased
with their willingness to work and stick together."
The comeback began midway through the third quarter.
"On third down, I just went for a checkdown, and Steven (Jackson) takes it to
the house," quarterback Marc Bulger said.
Jackson caught the ball near the St. Louis 40, broke a tackle attempt by Fox at
midfield and then juked Redskins safety Sean Taylor — who didn't look eager to
tackle Jackson — en route to a 64-yard touchdown.
"It's nice to finally get those plays," Bulger said. "If we feed off each
other, we're a lot better team. I said a couple years ago, we're a lot better
team when we're having fun and playing loose. We haven't had a whole lot of
that this year."
Sunday, there were a lot of what Bulger called "those plays," particularly in
the fourth quarter and overtime:
— With the score tied 28-28, Bulger scrambled 29 yards on third and nine for a
first down at Washington's 29. The longest run of Bulger's career led to a
go-ahead field goal by Jeff Wilkins with 7:57 to play.
— Nearly six minutes later, with the game tied at 31, Washington running back
Ladell Betts broke the Rams' line and appeared headed for the end zone when
safety Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe chased him down and poked the ball loose. Corey
Chavous recovered for the Rams. Otherwise, the Redskins would have been in
position for at least a game-winning field goal with 2 minutes to play.
"I said, 'O.J., you know you won the game,'" Linehan said afterward. "Because
at that point, it didn't look so good. That was a big play. It gets kind of
lost in all the things that happened afterward. But if you go back to it, if
that doesn't happen, we wouldn't be having this discussion right now."
— In overtime, Washington running back T.J. Duckett headed right on third and
one from the Redskins 15 but was stopped for no gain.
"Dexter (Coakley) came in and got the initial hit, and everyone was like BBs to
the ball," linebacker Raonall Smith said. "I got him up high. Dexter stuck him
up in the chest, and I got on top of him and tried to drive him back."
— Washington punted on the next play. Shaun McDonald, whose four previous
returns Sunday netted minus-1 yards, broke loose for 33 yards, his longest
return of the season.
"It was actually a right return," McDonald said. "But I just saw a big hole (up
the middle), so I tried to hit it and got through, and made some people miss."
The Rams took over on their 39. Five plays later, Jackson was in the end zone
with his game-winning touchdown.
"Shaun had his best return of the year when we needed it," Linehan said. "I
think that just says a lot about how everybody hung in there offensively,
defensively and special teams. It was a great team win. I'm sorry that a lot of
people didn't get a chance to watch it here locally."
That's because the Rams' first home television blackout since moving to St.
Louis just happened to be the most exciting game of the season.
Re: Rams OT win is a sign of progress
That Washington game was awesome. Every group contributed.