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    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Rams Riding Special Teams Roller-Coaster

    Rams riding special teams roller-coaster

    BY JIM THOMAS
    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    The amusement parks may be closed for the summer, but for thrills and spills there's no place like Rams special teams lately.

    _ Thrills: Robert Quinn blocks a punt late in the first half against New Orleans that rolls out of bounds at the Saints' 15. Two plays later, the Rams are in the end zone for a touchdown and off and running to a stunning 31-21 upset victory Oct. 30.

    _ Spills: Arizona blocks what would've been a game-winning field goal by Josh Brown as time expires in regulation. Less than two minutes into overtime, Patrick Peterson's 99-yard punt return for a TD gives the Cardinals a shocking 19-13 victory Nov. 6.

    _ Thrills: Hired by the Rams four days earlier, David Nixon strips Cleveland punt returner Joshua Cribbs of the football midway through the fourth quarter. Ben Leber recovers the fumble at the Browns' 27. Six plays later, Brown kicks what proves to be the game-winning field goal. Brown's kick holds up in a 13-12 victory Nov. 13 only because a bungled snap and a James Hall forearm cause Phil Dawson's 22-yard field goal to veer off course with 2:10 to play.

    No Rams coach has lived on the edge like special teams coordinator Tom McMahon has these past three Sundays. One point he doesn't need to stress much is that special teams play can make or break you. All he has to do is show the evidence in the film room: from Quinn's block, to Brown's blocked field goal, to Peterson's return, to Cribbs' fumble, to Dawson's botched field goal.

    "Every play is a big play," McMahon said. "There's five plays right there that have really changed the outcome of the games. Every single play counts."

    No doubt, the toughest special teams play to swallow this season was the Peterson punt return.

    "To see it on ESPN every day and that kind of crap," said fullback Brit Miller, one of the Rams' core special teams players. "Just to suffer that loss at that point in time, where we'd done such a great job against (Peterson), for him to go out and make a play like that, it was tough."

    "After the Arizona game. . .it was a difficult week for everybody," McMahon said.

    Then came Cleveland.

    "This last weekend was almost like the tables were turned, and we finished the game the right way," McMahon said. "It has been a roller coaster. But at the end of the day you've just got to try and keep it an even keel, and play through the last play and move on."

    Win or lose, triumph or tragedy, McMahon puts each game to rest once he hits the sack that night.

    "I won't go to bed any game, doesn't matter (how) we play, until I've seen the tape," he said.

    For away games, that means looking at that day's game film and grading it on the plane ride back to St. Louis. "But I bury it before I go to bed at night," he said.

    This Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome, veteran Seattle return man Leon Washington will trying to bury the Rams by taking their special teams roller-coaster into the crash and burn mode. Washington's numbers are solid but not great so far this season: he's averaging 12 yards per punt return and 23 yards per kickoff returns. For his career Washington has seven kickoff returns for touchdowns.

    "When there's nothing there he creates something," McMahon said. "It's that running back vision. The other thing is he's built so low to the ground, but he has the speed to run through tackles and break tackles."

    Washington is on the small side at 5-8, 203, but doesn't play small in the return game.

    "He has a low center of gravity," Miller said. "He's one of the tougher guys to tackle. We've got to take the game to him."

    After Peterson, the Rams get a "return match" with Peterson and the Cardinals on Thanksgiving weekend. Then it's off to San Francisco and the dangerous Ted Ginn on Dec. 4; then it's Leon Washington again in a Monday nighter Dec. 12 in Seattle. . .and so on.

    Yes, there are plenty of rides at this amusement park.


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    rNemesis's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Riding Special Teams Roller-Coaster

    I wanna ride on the roller coaster too....Man I remember that as a little child ( and to some extent even now lol) ...

    But seriously, ST is the X-Factor for ANY team. You can score 30 points on offense, and the other team scores 24, a return touchdown all of a sudden ties the game up, or good field position or whatever...its just the type of thing that can break the game WIDE open or keep it in check. Look at the *****-Seahawks game week 1. The game is tied 17-17, but yet Ted Ginn makes it a two score lead and seals the deal. ( 33-17 win) TWO RETURN TOUCHDOWNS, one on a punt. I

    It really changes the outcome of the game when big plays happen in special teams REGARDLESS of the offense' and defense's success.

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