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    Rams show comeback potential ..


    ARLINGTON, TEXAS • When the Atlanta Falcons zoomed to a 24-3 lead over the flabbergasted Rams last Sunday, I could sum up my feelings in one word: ballgame.

    As in, “Game Over.”

    The attitude of resignation formed over several years of watching a mostly hopeless team that couldn’t score, couldn’t prevent scores, couldn’t fight back, couldn’t come back.

    Between 2007 and 2011, the Rams played 80 regular-season games and won only 15. That’s the worst five-year record by a team in NFL history. I’m sorry to bring up harsh memories, but I’ll make it all better in a little while.

    During those dreadful years of absorbing so many Sunday smackdowns, the 15-65 Rams trailed at halftime in 46 games.

    They lost 45 of them.


    The 2007-2011 Rams had a 1-45 record when losing at halftime.

    If the Rams were down at the half, you could have left the stadium and gone home, or clicked the remote to another game. Or you could have cried or thrown a shoe at the TV set.

    But if you were hoping for a comeback, it was a lost cause.

    Now here’s the good news: that’s all changing under head coach Jeff Fisher. He’s bringing the Rams back as a franchise. He’s also bringing them back in games.

    The surprising Rams made it interesting last week at the Georgia Dome but ultimately came up short, losing 31-24. There are no moral victories. But with Fisher, there are comeback victories. And that’s something new.

    The Rams were losing at the half in 11 of Fisher’s first 18 games as head coach. But they’ve manage to rally and win four of the 11.

    The Rams have trailed at the end of the third quarter 12 times in 18 games but came back to win four of the 12, including the 27-24 victory over Arizona in the 2013 opener.

    So when the Rams and Dallas Cowboys kick off Sunday and the visiting team gets off to a slow or dysfunctional start, do not break the flat screen TV, do not be grumpy with family members, and do not lose hope.

    The comebacks don’t mean that the Rams are a Super Bowl contender or that Fisher’s work is done. They’re still trying to get over .500; Fisher is 8-9-1 since taking over in 2012.

    The comebacks do represent an obvious sign of progress, especially considering that the Rams have the NFL’s youngest team for the second consecutive season.

    And the Rams offense — loaded with skill-position players ages 25 or younger — is looking capable of putting up a flurry of points when the team falls behind.

    It’s a small sample, but the Rams are averaging 25.5 points per game. Their 51 points through the first two contests is the most by a Rams team in the opening two games since 2000.

    The Rams’ average of 19 points in the second half ranks fourth in the NFL. Their fourth-quarter scoring average (14 points) is third among the 32 teams. Sam Bradford’s fourth-quarter passer rating (113.6) places him fourth among NFL quarterbacks.

    The Rams began to show their comeback-kid tendencies last season, with Bradford being credited with leading four fourth-quarter comebacks and three game-winning drives.

    “I think it carried over,” second-year wide receiver Chris Givens said. “Guys in our (offense) room were used to being in that position, so it isn’t a surprise to us. We’re confident in our abilities as an offense as a whole. No matter what the situation we’re just going to go out and try to execute.”

    There’s an obvious downside to the comebacks: the Rams are pokey in the beginning. It takes them a while to figure things out, and they’re getting down too early, too often. I asked Bradford why it happens.

    “I don’t know to be honest, and it’s something that we need to figure out because you’re not going to win in this league if you continue to put yourself in holes the way we’ve done the first two weeks,” Bradford said. “Obviously, we came back the first week and were able to get a win. Last week, we put ourselves in a hole and weren’t able to climb out of it. It’d be nice for us to come out and establish a lead and let our guys on defense really pin their ears back and go to work.”

    Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis seconded the emotion.

    “I feel good about the way our offense has responded, but I don’t like being behind that early,” Laurinaitis said. “Especially when you’re playing a good team like Atlanta last week or Dallas this weekend. You get behind in the first quarter and you’re at a huge disadvantage. It’s one thing to be at home, but you can’t be on the road and do that.

    “We have to find a way to start faster. How do we do that? And that’s all three phases of the game, the offense, defense and special teams. We have to get out there and go. Because when we’ve shown that we can kind of turn it on in the second half of games, it’s been pretty good. We have to fix that inconsistency.”

    In Fisher’s 18 games the Rams have been outscored by 35 points in the first quarter, and 37 in the second quarter. They have a minus-11 point differential in the third quarter, but have outscored opponents 131-104 in the feisty fourth.

    We can think of a few things that would get the Rams rolling more quickly, and help them avoid second-quarter lulls:

    • Cut down on the stupid penalties.

    • Fix the kickoff-punt return game and get better field position. It continues to be a significant burden. Based on average starting point of an offensive possession, the Rams had the worst field position in the NFL last year and are ranked 25th so far this season.

    • Defensive takeaways boost that field position, too. The Rams need to come up with the ball more often. With Fisher as coach they’re 5-0 when the defense forces at least one turnover in a game, and 3-9-1 when there are no takeaways.

    • The Rams defense has been horrendous on third downs this season. They’ve allowed a conversion rate of 51 percent, the worst in the league through two games.

    • More big plays from the offense. The deeper passes and breakout runs that create instant energy and confidence.

    Given the Rams’ tenacity in rallying and rushing back, we can only wonder what this young team would do with faster, cleaner jumps from the starting gate. Even the great racehorse Secretariat had to learn how to do that before galloping his way to the winner’s circle.

  2. #2
    GroundChuck's Avatar
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    Re: Rams show comeback potential ..

    What do the Rams need to do to not fall behind early in the game? Come out with the no-huddle, fast paced game that they showed in last weeks second half. Sammy is fantastic in the spread, so go with it early and maybe the Rams will be ahead by halftime, not trying to play catch-up.

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